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Highway Engineers – Creating Safer Highways

December 10, 2018

The topic this year for the Annual Seminar was chosen to update delegates on all the issues that affect all Highway Engineers in respect of safety and look at the broad spectrum of the subject. Safety affects a whole host of issues for us all from design, use, operation and the individuals involved in these aspects.

Taking the Chair this year was the IHE CEO Richard Hayes who emphasised the need for registrants at CEng, IEng and EngTech levels to keep up their CPD which is now a compulsory requirement by the Eng Council in order to retain their registration. Southern Branch IHE have a strong track record in providing CPD qualifying activities for members and this years’ seminar was no exception.

The day started with a return visit to the branch by Clare Foreshaw previously from HSE and presented to us in 2014 but is now a Partner with the Park Health and Safety Partnership. Clare’s presentation was titled ‘A remarriage of Health and Safety or the ‘Odd Couple’. When emphasised to us that safety has always been the emphasis in H&S it was time to redress the issue with regard to the ‘health’ of individuals since those in poor or deteriorating health will not be able to work safely. An important lesson for us all!

Next was Jim Morey, Director of Le Chat Noir, a small consultancy specialising in providing advice to those of us who need guidance on design and operation of highways in respect of people with disabilities. It is estimated that 12 million people or one sixth of the population in the UK have a long-term impairment or disability and therefore their needs for safer highways needs a more positive approach than is currently being experienced. Jim’s dedication and attention to detail in this subject is commendable. Jim is a keen member of Southern Branch and we were delighted to have him present this year.

Following the morning coffee break, Steve McGilchrist from WJ South West Ltd gave a detailed presentation of his company developments in safety working systems for operatives on the highway that have not only improved their safety but in turn have reduced operation time on site and hence hazard reduction for highway users. The innovative designs have been inspired and developed by their own operatives using a ‘bottom up’ approach technique by staff and hence those most vulnerable to danger have had detailed input into the development of innovation.

WJ are strong supporters of IHE and in turn the Institute is pleased to be able to assist them with the professional development of their staff.

To complete the morning session, Geoff Collins from Jenoptik Traffic Solutions UK explored the development of Average Speed Enforcement under the delightful title of ‘The Carrot Shaped Stick’. The message here is that if you control the motorist (gently) they will benefit by flowing freely and more safely. During the generation of average speed enforcement, it has been proved that speed can be controlled effectively to the benefit of not only the motorist but in the case of roadworks installations there is significant safety benefits to the workforce as well.

Following our excellent buffet lunch provided by the HCC Events Catering staff the afternoon began with a rather unusual but thought-provoking presentation from Stuart (Stu) Pollard, Head of Health, Safety, Security and Wellbeing for the Lower Thames Crossing Project. Under the somewhat confusing title of ‘Darwin to Arnie – Project 2041: A Will to Change’ Stu described how safety must evolve due to forward thinking based on experience and forethought and not rely on dated custom and practise as has been so often the case with previous designs. The date of 2041 is the target set to eliminate deaths and serious injuries on the road and this can only be achieved by advancement in design and use of technology which is now evolving at pace. Let us hope that this will not be claimed as dead before 2041 as Arnie was in 2015! This was indeed a presentation about the thinking behind the thinking that left us in no doubt that Arnie is still alive!

Returning to Southern Branch after a recent presentation at one of our branch meetings, Marc Begg from Navtech Radar Ltd gave a comprehensive overview of the advantages of radar detection on our highways. Radar has since WWII has been commonly used in both the air and at sea for positive detection but has been disappointingly slow within overland transportation. Thankfully this is now changing and with the introduction of SMART motorways and the need for better incident detection, Highways England have commenced a roll out on their network. Radar has distinct advantages over alternative detection equipment currently used such as CCTV and infrared cameras since it can produce a live and detailed picture of all that is happening within its 360 degrees field of vision. It can even detect through inclement weather which often defeats its competitors. It is to be hoped that it becomes the norm on all strategic highways in the near future.

The final two sessions of the day were devoted to the safety of the highway surface. First up for these was Ian Chattington, Managing Director of Power Plane Ltd to advise on the benefits of retexturing. Since the departure of Klaruw from the scene of highway maintenance, the scope of retexturing highway surfaces has lost a valuable contributor. Ian refreshed us on the importance of texture depth and stone abrasiveness to achieve surface skid resistance and the difference between macro and micro texture. There are several ways to restore texture depth on surfaces of both blacktop and concrete carriageways provided that the material is still sound in quality. Power Plane Ltd specialise as their name suggests in the planing method using a laterally mounted and multi head rotary cylinder which can be fitted with either tungsten or diamond cutting heads. Alternative methods are available such as high pressure water jet but it is essential to establish the right method for your particular surface condition before commencing.

Last but by no means least was Stephen Child, Director of Stephen Child Consultancy Ltd. Stephen is a long time supporter of Southern Branch and worked for Surrey CC for many years as a materials and asset management engineer. He gave an entertaining overview of the pothole predicament that so many highway engineers currently find themselves in together with the ‘rights and wrongs’ of approaching it. In summing up his concluding question was ‘What is our greatest hazard on the highway?’ His answer – not potholes but every motorist around you! He may well be right!

Another excellent day’s CPD covering the whole spectrum of highway safety and the Branch is indebted to all our speakers for their contributions.

We look forward to inviting you to our 28th seminar in 2019 – watch out for details on the IHE website.

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