Thames Water creates a new platform for Health and Safety

ERIKS UK wins 'Innovation' award at Thames Water's Excellence in Health and Safety Awards 2011. Release courtesy of Thames Water.

A raft designed to float on raw sewage was one of the winning entries at the UK water sector's first-ever health and safety awards, staged in London today by the country's biggest water and sewerage company.

ERIKS Industrial Services made the floating work platform to improve safety for engineers cleaning out sewage settlement tanks at sewage works.

Until now they have had to drain down the tanks and set up scaffolds to carry out routine cleaning and maintenance.

The new floating platforms bring two benefits: Firstly, workers no longer have to run the risk of working at height in a drained-down tank. Secondly, the tanks no longer have to be fully emptied while being cleaned, which meaning less disruption to the sewage works' operation.

ERIKS's platform, together with a hand-railed ladder that fastens to the side of sewage tanks, won the šinnovation' category at Thames Water's Excellence in Health and Safety Awards 2011.

"The beauty of this idea is it's the simplicity and effectiveness with which it tackles one of the biggest operational hazards we face," said Martin Baggs, Thames Water's chief executive, who sat on the judging panel.

The competition was run for Thames Water's contractors, which are carrying out nearly £5bn of essential work to improve and maintain its water pipes, sewers and other facilities across London and the Thames Valley between 2010 and 2015.

Mr Baggs added: "We don't run annual awards for hitting financial goals or for meeting regulatory targets for water and wastewater.

"So why for health and safety? The answer is simple: health and safety matters more than anything else. It must be embedded in everything we do."

There were seven categories in all, including: best collaboration, young person of the year, best performance and biggest improvement.

Also on the judging panel were: Lesley Calladine, HSE director for Crossrail, occupational health and safety law specialist Professor Frank Wright, and Nick Edwards, editor of Construction News.

Innovation in health and safety - finalists

Runner-up - MVB
Cleaning off cement residue by hand from a mixer chute doesn't do your skin much good. But without a piece of kit to do it, this skin-damaging practice was commonplace at MVB sites - until they came up with their cement-removal gadget.

Runner-up - Optimise
Cable-avoidance tools (CATs) can save potentially life-threatening injuries, customer disruption and financial cost - but not if they're held at the wrong angle. Optimise developed a gizmo to attach to CATs to ensure operatives use them correctly.

Winner - ERIKS Industrial Services
To avoid falls from height while cleaning or maintaining tanks at sewage works, ERIKS created a steel, hand-railed ladder that fixes to the side of a tank. It also made a floating work platform, avoiding the need both to work at height and to fully drain down tanks.

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