A very successful face to face Plant Marshal training session took place on 11th June for the Wessex Archaeology Sheffield team at our Leeds East Orbital Ring Road site. This was our first training session since the COVID-19 outbreak and very much represents a positive step forward in maintaining practical aspects of the professional development of our employees during these difficult times. 

A good proportion of our amazing fieldwork team have worked out on site on major infrastructure projects throughout the pandemic, and although it is difficult at times, they have all become well accustomed to the necessary COVID-19 safety considerations in terms of strict hygiene and social distancing. Needless to say, any training must also pay regard to these factors and is risk assessed in order to mitigate the risk to our staff and training providers.

Delivered by Simon Canning from Plant Testing Ltd under the grey Leeds skies, and with all safety procedures in place, small groups of Wessex staff participated in all aspects of the Plant Marshal training. Social distancing was not particularly difficult to implement in learning to safely direct heavy machinery, as having an awareness of both the machinery and people in its vicinity is an essential part of the training. The merits of outdoor training speak for themselves, as long as the weather stays dry! 

A safe 2m social distance was kept at all times between staff and the instructor, and the 360 tracked excavator driver was safely installed in his cab (with heated seats, apparently!). There was some discussion on how best to complete the necessary paperwork and written theory test, but this was easily dealt with on a one to one basis with the staff members in their respective vehicles, and the instructor delivering the necessary training at a distance through their open vehicle window. Where there is a will, there is a way! 

The practical part of the session, directing the excavator with hand signals, was expertly delivered under distanced guidance from the instructor. A safely distanced chat with the excavator driver was also extremely informative. It was good to hear his perspective, especially with regard to the view from his vehicle. It pulled the safety theory in line with the practical and gave participants some valuable additional insight. 

The three hour sessions with groups of three staff members at a time worked really well and was thoroughly enjoyable. All participants successfully completed both the written element and the practical signalling and awareness section of the course. Very well done to all involved! 

By Karen Austin, Archaeologist (Assistant Supervisor)