To keep the country moving and the roads open and maintained, Highways England have developed several innovative methods to ensure the government guidance on COVID-19 is followed while continuing to carry out essential maintenance and progress with major schemes.
According to a , to make sure workers are protected and can adhere to the pandemic restrictions, teams have developed some creative ways to maintain social distancing, including waistband proximity alarms that alert the wearer to anyone within a 2-metre distance.
Highways England Executive Director, Commercial and Procurement Malcolm Dare explained that maintaining a safe road network while ensuring the safety of workers was a priority.
“Project teams across the country, from both Highways England and our supply chains, have taken up that challenge and developed creative and innovative ways to get essential roadworks done without compromising the safety of workers,” he said.
In the South West, workers have been wearing a reprogrammed radio transponder on a waistband that sends an alert to a buzzer in the worker’s safety helmet should anyone get too close, allowing a protective bubble around the wearer.
This technology has been adapted from similar systems in place to alert workers when heavy machinery was moving nearby on site. The adapted technology is now being used on barrier replacement schemes on the M4, M5, and M32.
Meanwhile, a bridge lifting operation in Manchester nearly had to be postponed, when a key member of the team was unable to be on-site due to the coronavirus restrictions.
Repairs on the 800 tonnes, 200-metre long bridge that carries the M60 over the River Mersey and Palatine Road near the suburb of Didsbury managed to go ahead when Balfour Beatty’s permanent works designer Phil Davis was able to monitor the situation from his home using Microsoft Teams.
The bridge was required to be raised by 5mm so that the 15 concrete columns that support the M60 bridge could be repaired by a strengthening, refurbishment and protection specialist. The bridge was constructed in the 1970s using reinforced concrete, but now some of the steel inside the concrete has begun to rust.
Highways England have introduced strict measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus on-site, including daily briefings and updates, risk assessments, social distancing, as well as deep cleaning and pop-up handwashing stations.
The lockdown has meant that there has been an 85 per cent reduction in traffic on the roads, which has enabled work schemes across the UK to safely carry out work during the daytime, as well as giving teams a longer working window that they would have working overnight. This means works are completed quicker, and with less disturbance to residents during the evening.
In the South West, several projects have been brought forward and completed in April and May, including resurfacing schemes on the A30, A38, and M5, and the replacement of six-and-a-half miles of central reservation barrier along the M32, M5 and M4.
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