The six year Thames Tideway Tunnel project is designed to help tackle the problem of pollution from overflows from the capital's Victorian sewers and protect the River Thames.
The east section of the tunnel is being built by CVB, a joint venture of Costain, Vinci Construction Grands Projects and Bachy Soletanche. With an emphasis on health and safety CVB brought in EEF to prepare the team with the skills to respond to and minimise the impact of an incident, should the worst case happen.
Using a ‘worst case scenario’ as the basis for the course EEF trained a cross-functional team of senior leaders in how to respond to an incident to keep the business running and to minimise its impact. Little did they know that within a week the training would be put to the test with a real life disaster.
Andrew Brown, Head of Safety and Wellbeing at CVB, recognised the need to ensure the business was prepared for the worst whilst studying for an MSc in Health, Safety and Environment with EEF. The MSc covers business continuity and emergency planning as part of the strategic and business risk management module and Andrew recognised the risks of a lack of preparation. Andrew realised that there was little planning within CVB and, with the support of his team, he immediately looked to organise training for them.
“Firstly we looked to replicate the helpful training I had received and relate across our projects”, said Andrew. “We then had a one-day on-site training course delivered by EEF for our senior management, site management team and environmental manager, community liaison manager, as well as senior engineers.”
What did the EEF training include?
EEF delivered a tailored Business Continuity and Emergency Planning course, which covers the steps, actions and processes needed to get back up and running as soon as possible in case of an incident. A key part of the training is a worst case scenario simulation of an incident and the many facets the business will need to tackle from injuries to the media and local community.
The simulation scenario for CVB involved the collapse of a crane into the river, causing a fatality, injury and got progressively more complex with a bus crashing on a local highway. The CVB team did very well in their response to the event, handling spontaneous media interviews and setting out an emergency plan
Little did EEF and CVB know that reality was about to imitate art as a week after CVB completed their training by EEF, a very similar incident occurred; a jack up barge carrying a 130 tonne crane had a power failure, resulting in two of the barge’s legs being unable to be lowered into position, and with outgoing tide the barge rose to unstable angles, tilted and there was a credible risk of the barge overturning into residential apartments and causing major river contamination.
The CVB team’s training kicked into action, working with the emergency services they evacuated 40 residential apartments, booked hotels for 66 residents, provided hot meals for residents, mobilised spill containment companies, organised structural engineers, and liaised with all emergency services.
Thankfully the barge did not overturn and was successfully re-floated and secured the following day. At 2pm the same day residents were allowed back into their apartments. Just over a week later CVB were back working again. CVB’s Project Director has said that the successful way in which he dealt with the incident was a direct result of the training that EEF had delivered.
“Having carried out the BCM and Emergency Planning Training the need and the value of being prepared at all times to deal with an emergency was highlighted”, said CVB’s Project Director Francois Pogu. “As the incident unfolded, the lessons I and the other team members learned from the training demonstrated just how important training like this is, I’m sure that the incident would not have been handled as smoothly and effectively if it wasn’t for the training we received”.
The process CVB went through during the BCE Planning training was exactly the same process they went through during the actual event. The training the team did with EEF was key to the way they were able to manage the situation and all their actions were the same as the actions taken in the emergency training just a week before. CVB have had correspondence from the fire brigade commending them on their actions and response.
“The day after the training our project director said it was fantastic and asked for it to be rolled out across all our management teams and for every one of our five construction sites”, said Andrew. “This way we can make sure all of our teams are well trained for emergency situations and to be able to maintain business continuity.”
About CVB JV
CVB JV (a joint venture of Costain, Vinci Construction Grands Projects and Bachy Soletanche) are the delivery partners for East section Main Works of the Thames Tideway Tunnel, a 22 kilometre tunnel under the river on behalf of Thames Waters. The tunnel, intended to protect the Thames from increasing sewage pollution, will take the sewage from Acton in the West of London to Beckton in the East. Work is anticipated to be completed by 2024.