On the 30th of September 2021, Wessex Archaeology joined the Balfour Beatty team at Viking Link, along with the other project subcontractors, in taking part in a health and safety stand down day.

The day was structured around the importance of Balfour Beatty’s 4 golden rules and took place in the large warehouse like compound of DMJ. With winter around the corner, and a change in weather likely to effect the working conditions on site, it seemed a good time to remind people of the importance of health and safety and the four golden rules.

Alongside Balfour Beatty, the subcontractors each took on one of the golden rules and planned a workshop based on previous site experiences and imaginative ideas in an attempt to engage the project workforce (no PowerPoint presentations allowed!). There were four individual ‘stations’ set up around the building, and people moved as teams between then making sure they covered all four rules.

Balfour Beatty Viking Link Health and Safety Stand Down Day

We were asked to take part in Golden Rule number 2 – Always Receive a Briefing Before Starting Work – along with the Balfour Beatty environmental team.

I, along with my team of supervisors (John Hirst, Jack Peverall and Otis Gilbert), and with a helping hand from our engagement team (Emma Carter) devised an activity which we hoped would emphasise the importance of having a briefing.

When the teams came to us, they were split in to three smaller teams and each shown to a table. The tables had a selection of items on. Spaghetti, paper, sellotape, and in some cases, an egg! Two of the teams received a briefing. ‘build the tallest tower you can that will support an egg’, ‘build the tallest tower you can without using spaghetti’, ‘build the tallest tower you can using only paper’ etc. The third team did not receive a briefing but were still expected to create something in an attempt to win the competition.

Balfour Beatty Viking Link Health and Safety Stand Down Day Balfour Beatty Viking Link Health and Safety Stand Down Day

Whilst the competition took place we asked the teams to think about how they felt about being fully briefed on the task, and how they felt without a briefing. Those who were fully briefed went into the activity confident that they understood what they needed to do, and happy that they had a fair chance at completing it. Those that did not receive a briefing were often confused, annoyed that they didn’t know what was going on and, if they did manage to produce a tower, it lacked the specifics to win the competition. At the end of the activity the teams came back together and discussed those feelings, and how they might translate to on site work. 

“We ran 8 workshops throughout the day engaging with 120 viking link team members. We had a lot of happy faces, and a few deliberately confused ones. The tallest tower was over 2 meters, while unbriefed teams made boats, a star, a plane, and in one notable occasion a portable spaghetti dispenser with egg boiler attachment.” (Otis Gilbert)

All of our teams had fun creating their towers and other masterpieces and went away with a better understanding of the importance of always receiving a briefing. 

The day itself was a wonderful example of teamwork on a major project and was a great success thanks to the substantial effort from all of the parties involved.

By Emily Eastwood, Archaeologist