Reactec’s social distancing technology is supporting workers on London’s new super sewer during Covid-19 pandemic

Reactec’s SAFE-DISTANCE system, with proximity alarm watch, is helping to contribute towards the effective social distancing of a large workforce working through COVID-19 for the Costain, VINCI Construction Grands Projets & Bachy Soletanche joint venture (CVB) on London’s new £4.1bn, 25km super sewer project, the Thames Tideway Tunnel.

The new Tideway sewer under the River Thames will not replace London’s 150-year-old sewer system, but add to the city’s capacity created by Sir Joseph Bazalgette in the nineteenth century. Work is expected to be completed in 2025 with thousands of people currently working to help deliver the project.

The Reactec team developed its SAFE-DISTANCE technology in record-breaking time when the pandemic hit the nation in March 2020. A range of technologies, with a wide range of capabilities, entered the market following the first lockdown, to help employees get back to work. With 15 years of experience in monitoring workplace health risks, Reactec saw the need for a system which would efficiently inform how effective social distancing measures were in the workplace and to ensure employers could take smarter control of their employees behaviour. The system combines wrist worn technology to immediately alert the employee of unsafe proximity. It is a fully integrated, out of the box eco system, that delivers intuitive GDPR compliant analytics of unsafe interactions aligned with the NHS scoring system.  

Construction Manager Ba Dan Nguyen at CVB took advantage of Reactec’s offer to upgrade existing equipment used for monitoring exposure to harmful vibrations, without charge, to additionally monitor SAFE-DISTANCE proximity. After initial evaluations on a small number of employees comparing other technologies on the market, CVB JV choose to work with Reactec. A period of proactive collaboration followed, with Reactec developing and enhancing the functionality of the system to reflect the expanding use by CVB across a range of workplace environments.

CVB teams are now automatically informed on a regular basis of not just proximity events but patterns of social distancing behaviour, to proactively manage their workforce deployment. They are also able to act swiftly in the event of colleagues testing positive for C19 and to identify at-risk colleagues with comprehensive contact tracing data following the NHS gradings of risk.

The move to the SAFE-DISTANCE devices happened quickly due the digital leadership maturity of CVB’s Digital Working Group which realised the importance of this for employee safety. Employee safety is always a top priority for the CVB team but when the pandemic hit, it came into focus even more. Reactec’s SAFE-DISTANCE technology has since been introduced as part of a series of health and safety measures adopted by CVB in response to Covid-19.

Some 670 SAFE-DISTANCE watches have been deployed to support the CVB team’s social distancing efforts. Below, some of the team share their experiences of working with Reactec’s technologies.

“Our deployment of SAFE-DISTANCE is being held up as the exemplar of how to ensure social distancing.”

Beth Willoughby, Construction Director, CVB, said:

“The SAFE-DISTANCE technology has been absolutely imperative to be able to run our sites and minimise our productivity risk because of COVID.

“We realised there was no way of knowing who had been in contact with each other, other than to carry out interviews and that relied on everyone remembering who they’d been in contact with. We were faced with sending home whole teams. Over time, the cost of that would have easily gone into the millions.

“I was wondering how we might be able to demonstrate the cost benefit of using technology [like Reactec’s] but one incident justified the total cost of implementing it. Using SAFE-DISTANCE became a no-brainer.”

Reactec’s SAFE-DISTANCE application was repurposed from the company’s system for monitoring workers' exposure to Hand and Arm Vibration (HAV), suitably named, HAVwear, which enables employers to capture representative data of vibration risk exposure and provide actionable intelligence on how to reduce this risk in line with EU regulations and the HSE guidance on hand and arm vibration.

Building on the 6 years of field experience with a wrist worn HAVwear deployed to over 70,000 individuals, SAFE-DISTANCE is proven as industrial grade and ready for the ardours of the construction, rail and manufacturing environments.  SAFE-DISTANCE is however much more than just a monitoring technology. It is a fully integrated eco system that is readily deployed to assign devices daily to a potentially changing workforce and to collect all data automatically without reliance on third party devices or infrastructure. The hosted GDPR compliant data Analytics are intuitive, and as a consequence of CVB input, well designed to deliver effective contact tracing.

 

“Within ten minutes of a positive case being reported to us we can pinpoint who has been within two metres of that person for more than 15 minutes and the rest of the shift is able to continue without interruption.”

Beth Willoughby, Construction Director, CVB, continued:

“Initially we were worried about what people would think and whether they would think it was a bit ‘Big Brother’ with us watching everything they were doing, but, after one incident we were suddenly able to demonstrate how it would help everyone.

“We’ve now got full compliance. It means that within ten minutes of a positive case being reported to us we can pinpoint who has been within two metres of that person for more than 15 minutes and the rest of the shift is able to continue without interruption.

“Using Reactec’s technology has been a positive reinforcer of behaviour and we now have an on-site competition which is reviewed at the start of every shift, with a leader board. It’s also helped us to underline that other measures we are taking to promote social distancing are being effective.”

“Our deployment of SAFE-DISTANCE is being held up as the exemplar of how to ensure social distancing and Reactec’s support has been super-great. The team have been very responsive. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship.”

 “We got our first COVID case. Within ten minutes we understood the risk for the whole site. We were able to tell a couple of guys to isolate and send them to get tested. Other than that, it was business as usual.”

Ba Dan Nguyen, Construction Manager of CVB said:

“Back in March, after lockdown, we were looking at how we would be able to go to work safely and efficiently. We intended to start with a small crew, then to increase production and we knew that would be difficult without the help of technology.

“I approached quite a lot of companies and Reactec was ready. We already used their HAVwear on site and I was able to borrow the devices from another site.

“We are a construction site, so the gear needs to be robust and we already knew that Reactec’s kit was compatible with a harsh working environment.

“A strength was the docking station so that people would remember to charge the [SAFE-DISTANCE] devices; they wouldn’t lose them or leave them at home; it was simple to operate.

“We started with six volunteers. Track and trace was a worry for people but by getting volunteers and making it anonymous we could show what we could get from the data.

“If someone had COVID you could still go home and be with your family because you knew you hadn’t had contact. So, we decided to purchase Reactec kit for the whole site. This was a joint decision with the whole workforce as we didn’t want to impose it.

“A few weeks later, we got our first COVID case. Within ten minutes we understood the risk for the whole site. We were able to tell a couple of guys to isolate and send them to get tested. Other than that, it was business as usual. A couple of weeks later at another site there was a similar incident and they had to close the whole site. Following that, the whole of CVB (East section of the deployment) had purchased Reactec’s devices.

“When we saw a trend for complacency in using the kit setting in, we discussed this with Reactec and how we needed to change our reporting. Reactec reviewed this and helped us change the way we report in three weeks. Now we have the technology that can be used to monitor HAVs too.”

“When there’s a COVID case we can identify if there’s been extended contact and instruct the co-worker to isolate and to get themselves tested. Previously our only option would have been to close down the site.”

Sophie Vicard, Project Manager, Geotech Works, Tideway-East, said:

“As part of the launch of using Reactec’s kit, we put in place a reminder for the team, highlighting the best and the worst on each shift for social distancing.

“What made a big difference was reconfiguring the device to only operate in vibration mode and that resulted in more compliance.

“We really appreciated Reactec’s responsiveness and their collaboration in helping to meet our needs. We really did work together to meet the needs of our workers.

“When there’s a COVID case, we can identify if there’s been extended contact and instruct the co-worker to isolate and to get themselves tested. Previously our only option would have been to close the site down.

“We are now using our communications channels to share information, combining data with on-site pictures to show what is happening on site.

“It has helped us to capture data. It also helped to identify and investigate exposure to vibration. It gives us the intelligence to help us make the right decisions.”

Reactec CEO, Jacqui McLaughlin, said:

“Despite the vaccine roll-out now taking place, we recognise that there are many employees that cannot work from home and are not likely to receive the vaccine for many months, therefore social distancing will remain in place for some time to come.

“Our SAFE-DISTANCE tech was developed to help employers keep their operations on track and to help protect their employees who are not in a position to work within the safety of their homes.

Our collaboration with CVB’s has led to our confidence in SAFE-DISTANCE as an effective tool for business continuity and employee care. CVB’s deployment showcases how our tech can be used at scale, but it can also be just as effective within smaller businesses too.”

 

Find out more about the Tideway project.  

Find out more about Reactec’s SAFE-DISTANCE technology application and wristwatch.

Find out more about Rectec’s HAVwear technology application and wristwatch.

For further information, please contact Reactec.

 

Testimonial:

BAM Nuttall - Roy Jackson, Senior Safety Advisor

“BAM Nuttall has always tried to stay on top of the issue of HAVS and ensure the safety of our workforce. In the past, we were trying to accurately estimate the amount of vibration that staff were exposed to ourselves, but this was a lengthy and time-consuming process and we knew that we needed a better system. “When we first introduced HAVmeters two years ago, we saw them as the best option to use to stay ahead of the game on vibration safety. The devices give us a valuable monitoring system that makes sure we know who is working with what machinery and for how long - and provides us with accurate, detailed records of what our teams are exposed to. “We now use HAVmeters in every project where our staff operate vibrating equipment and it is easily the best system on the market for monitoring HAV exposure. By using this equipment, we ensure that we not only keep our workforce safe from injury but also have a robust defence in place to protect ourselves from liability when it comes to vibration issues.”