Considerately maintaining the iconic Severn Bridge gateway to Wales – Laing O’Rourke Infrastructure

Laing O’Rourke Infrastructure is engaged in carrying out maintenance and inspection of the M48 Severn Bridge crossing, an ongoing project which originally commenced in 1996.

The project is performed under a concession agreement with the Secretary of State, until the Second Severn Crossing debt is concluded, which is indicated as being in 2018.

Until the agreement is fulfilled, Laing O’Rourke Infrastructure is responsible for maintaining the bridge and the surrounding concession areas around the M3, by performing major inspection and maintenance activities each year.

This challenging work involves working at height, with live traffic, above water and in areas of restricted access – all carried out by a dedicated and established team of experts and trades.

The Laing O’Rourke team has firmly embedded itself at the heart of the community during this essential work, forging mutually beneficial relationships.

Commenting on the project, Laing O’Rourke Project Leader Paul Ramshaw said:

“The high standards and values set should be used by any client or organisation that delivers or maintains a project within the community. In bringing all of our expertise, high standards and values together, this creates a great environment whilst building a project around a community.”

The inspection and maintenance teams involve many trades and specialist skills, primarily electricians, painters, slingers, mechanical fitters, welders, inspectors, abseilers, and traffic management operators.

The majority of the team have worked on the project for between 10 and 36 years, so are very accomplished tradesmen who know the bridges well. With such a loyal workforce, staff turnover on the project is minimal, giving Laing O’Rourke the opportunity to invest in building a highly competent team.

While the downstream side of Severn Bridge is part of the national Sustrans cycle network, the upstream side encounters pedestrian’s, cyclists and motorcycle users up to 50cc.

To compound this, the site team needed access to both sides of the bridge on foot and in vehicles, which could potentially be towing items of plant and equipment.

Here are some examples of best practice initiatives carried out by Laing O’Rourke Infrastructure:

  • An inspection programme was implemented to ensure that the workforce was suitably dressed, with highly branded PPE. 
  • Planning ahead and communicating operations well in advance to keep everybody aware and up to date with project schedules.
  • Car sharing was encouraged amongst the workforce to reduce the number of parked site vehicles.
  • ICE tags were provided for cyclists who cross the bridges and signposts were installed in partnership with the council, to direct cyclists and walkers.
  • Regular checks were completed to ensure that cameras and radios were not used and that mobile phones were only used in designated areas.
  • Community goodwill gestures included a joint effort with the British Army’s I Rifles Battalion, providing them with free escorted tours of the Severn Bridge Tower Tops in aid of the Rifles Charities ‘Care for Casualties’ fundraising drive.
  • Other goodwill gestures included assisting the Greenbank Chapel restoration project with its aim of transforming a redundant chapel into a vibrant community hub.
  • The site team also helped to organise the now customary annual half marathon across the bridge on August Bank Holiday.
  • The team participated in an erosion protection programme at the nearby Brecon Beacons National Park, with new techniques being trialled.
  • 50 new trees were planted at the central depot to replace those removed around the complex and 450 sea buckthorn shrubs were also planted to reinforce abutment strengthening works to the Aust Bridge.
  • An exclusion zone on the bridge was created to protect peregrine falcons during nesting season. This was supplemented by the introduction of a scheme to encourage the workforce to feed wild birds.
  • Rainwater was collected using a barrel to feed vegetable plots and for watering down.
  • Environmental company targets were set and the site recorded, measured and scored their environmental performance against these key performance indicators.
  • To tackle the issue of pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists using the bridge, the project team adopted a personal approach by speaking directly to members of the public. They also handed them a letter outlining their safety concerns and site objectives. The overwhelming response to the letter created a safer environment for all users.
  • The team also made contact with local cycling clubs in response to an increase in cycle clubs using the bridge for time trialling and racing. To overcome this hurdle, the site manager briefed them on the rules of the pathways, receiving a positive response.
  • A 15mph speed limit was implemented on pathways to keep users at a reasonable pace.
  • A trial was carried out on one section of the pathway, with 15mph bollards and additional repeater signs specifically targeting cyclists.
  • A speed and user survey was used to collect data relating to the number of users of the bridge and the various speeds of travel.
  • Daily activity briefings were used to frequently remind the workforce to be vigilant for their own, and other user’s safety. Instructions were given to demarcate the work zones and regularly check the environment for errant track users. Any member of the public found in breach of the speed limit was reported to senior management and the local police.
  • 25 suitably trained first aiders were appointed on site, together with suitable first aid equipment, including the training and use of a defibrillator.
  • Safety was at the forefront of all of the team’s operations, with regularly updated procedures and method statements in place which considered the safety of the workforce and the travelling public. 
  • New ‘dignity’ training was being rolled out to all members of the workforce, as well as anti-racism and anti-bribery training.
  • Offices, a separate drying room with lockers, canteen facilities with televisions and a shower, were all available, gender specific and regularly cleaned.
  • Workforce participation in sporting activities such as half marathons was encouraged.
  • Employment opportunities were provided on site via apprenticeships, work placements and careers advice at a number of careers fairs.
  • Team building was encouraged through monthly operatives meetings, an ‘open door’ policy and a monthly ‘Good Idea’ scheme which offered a £75 reward. 

Recently published