Irwin & Colton Take To The Tideway Tunnels

Tideway do it the RightWay!

On January 17th 2018, Irwin & Colton spent the morning with Thames Tideway at their Chambers Wharf Site, one of 3 main tunnel drive locations that will eventually connect an underground tunnel, helping to dispose of London’s sewage. The morning taught us the many ways in which Tideway addresses the underlying issues of the occupational health, hygiene and wellbeing of their 4,000 site workers, and their current and future plans, that focus wholly around making their sites a safe and healthy environment to work in.

Steve Crofts, Head of Health and Safety at Tideway kicked off the morning by outlining the aim of the project and how it would benefit the 8 million people currently living in London. The facts that follow, quite honestly, nearly blew me off my seat! The £4.2bn project started in 2016, and aims to be completed by 2023. The tunnel will run 30-60 metres underneath the River Thames for a whopping 25km, starting in Acton, running all the way to Abbey Mills. It aims to provide a solution to the sewage overflow in the Thames for the next 120 years. Crazy, right?

Jennie Armstrong, Head of Occupational Health and Wellbeing at Tideway, provided us with some incredible statistics that prove exactly why it is so important to sustain and improve the wellbeing of the workers. Last year in the UK construction industry, there were…

1.    30 on-site fatalities

2.    64,000 non-fatal injuries

3.    80,000 sufferers of ill health

And as if those facts weren’t enough to drop jaws, what I learnt next, was something that I could never predict. 454 construction workers committed suicide in 2016. The construction industry has the highest suicide rate in the world. At least one person, from the industry, commits suicide every day. Why? The list is endless. Construction workers have possibly one of the most physical and stressful jobs, above any other industry. They are responsible for so much of London’s incredible landscape. The Shard didn’t build itself. There are teams working away whilst we’re tucked up in bed, working double shifts and even spend months away from their families. And you think your 9-5 office job is a drain!

So what are Tideway doing to help?

Andrew Brown – Head of Safety for Tideway East, Chambers Wharf, explained how “the culture has been built in a way that site workers are proactive in reporting near misses”. Whether you are at the top of the corporate ladder, or quite literally at the top of a stepladder, everybody likes to be rewarded for their good practice. Which is why as part of Tideway’s creative ideas to implement the importance of health and safety, with every minor report, a 50p donation is made to charity, and for slightly more significant reports, a £5 donation is made. The Charities are chosen by the workers themselves, which incentivises them to be aware of all the possible health and safety issues around them. The app has so far raised and donated approximately £1300 to charity. He says it is just one of many methods they use to encourage people to be positive with their reports. Reports can be submitted using an App, which will alert the health and safety team immediately, and can be anonymous at the persons request. To ensure this process is accessible to everyone, the app can also be used via terminals in the canteen and communal areas, to avoid separating those that are not as fortunate to own a smartphone. The idea is designed to encourage those that are perhaps not as confident with their written skills. By having a digital alternative, it ensures that near misses can be confidently and accurately reported by those from different cultures and countries, whereby English is not their native language.

“the culture has been built in a way that site workers are proactive in reporting near misses”

One of the key highlights of the morning, was learning about the ways in which on-site facilities and training were available to both office and site workers, in order to create a healthy lifestyle across the various sites. Across the project, Tideway have provided clinical services, hygiene programmes, access to nurses, physio therapists and even dentists.

James Barnes, who specialises in occupational health risk identification and management, suggests that by having these resources on site, it ensures that the general health of workers is maintained, and they have almost immediate access to help when necessary. As previously mentioned, many on-site workers have travelled far from their own home, perhaps even abroad, and ultimately will not have regular access to their own doctors or nurses. Having an onsite team of health specialists allows people to adapt more easily and feel more comfortable in their new environment.

Samira Beckett, one of the nurses working on one of the central stations of the Tideway project, told us about their future plans to promote and encourage a healthy lifestyle. They recently ran a pilot 8 week bootcamp, that focused on all aspects of wellbeing, from healthy eating to financial planning and time management. The activities included smoothie-making, recipe planning, and cardio exercises, amongst many other exciting ideas to support the healthy living culture. The on-site canteen also does their part in providing healthy meal alternatives to all workers at a subsidised rate, allowing them to have access to a well-balanced diet, without breaking the bank. 

Our morning concluded with an amazing presentation by Ralph Ashwood, who is managing Health and Safety at the Tideway West section. He engaged us in a workshop, that focused on a combination of activities and information from the ‘Mates In Mind’ charity. His presentation outlined the importance of addressing mental health, how we can identify it and how we can improve it. Ralph explained how every person in the world sits somewhere on a mental health graph. We all have mental health.

In the construction industry, various factors could affect our mental health, including isolation, job security, fatigue, financial worries, cold and harsh environments, or even the struggle of immersing into a new culture or place.

“it is so important to start the conversation”.

We can never fully identify when a person is suffering from poor mental health, which is why Ralph identifies “it is so important to start the conversation”. Just asking someone how they are, can have a huge impact. This workshop was certainly thought-provoking for those in the audience, and will hopefully have the same encouraging affect on workers who attend in the future.

As the morning drew to a close, I reflected upon what I had learnt about Health and Safety as a general matter, but also how passionate Tideway really are about making their sites a positive, healthy and safe place to work.

I would like to thank Jennie Armstrong, Steve Crofts, James Barnes, Paul Mulligan, Andrew Brown, Ralph Ashwood, and the rest of the team for an enjoyable and informative site tour. The morning was certainly a huge success and we very much look forward to any future events.

Also thanks to Rhaynukaa Soni and the London Metropolitan Branch IOSH team, who supported the event.

Emily Dainton is a Consultant at Irwin & Colton, and specialises in recruiting Health, Safety and Environment professionals on a permanent and contract basis nationally across the UK. Contact on 01923 432634 or

Irwin & Colton are a specialist Health and Safety recruitment company, based in the South East of England we recruit across the UK.  We recruit all roles in the health and safety industry from Health and Safety Manager, Health and safety Director through to Health and Safety Advisor positions.





Posted on Wednesday Mar 28