Reactec’s social distancing tech is supporting workers on London’s new super sewer during Covid-19 pandemic

Dylan MacdonaldReactec

Reactec’s SAFE-DISTANCE system, with proximity alarm watch, is helping to contribute towards the effective social distancing of a large labour force working through COVID-19 for the joint venture handling the eastern section of London’s new £4.1bn, 25km super sewer project, the Thames Tideway Tunnel.

The Reactec team developed its SAFE-DISTANCE technology in record-breaking time when the pandemic hit the nation in March 2020. With 15 years of experience in monitoring workplace health risks, Reactec saw the need for a system which would efficiently inform how effective social distancing measures were and to ensure employers could take smarter control of their employees’ behaviour.

Tideway took advantage of Reactec’s offer to upgrade existing equipment used for monitoring exposure to harmful vibrations to additionally monitor SAFE-DISTANCE proximity. The teams are now automatically informed on a regular basis of not just proximity events but patterns of social distancing behaviour, to proactively manage their workforce deployment. They are also able to act swiftly in the event of colleagues testing positive for COVID-19 and to identify at-risk colleagues with comprehensive contact tracing data following the NHS gradings of risk.

Beth Willoughby, Construction Director for the Costain, Vinci Grands Projets & Bachy Soletanche (CVB) joint venture delivering the eastern section, said: “The Reactec SAFE-DISTANCE technology has been absolutely imperative to be able to run our sites and minimise our productivity risk because of COVID. We realised there was no way of knowing who had been in contact with each other, other than to carry out interviews and that relied on everyone remembering who they’d been in contact with. We were faced with sending home whole teams. Over time, the cost of that would have easily gone into the millions. Now, within ten minutes of a positive case being reported to us we can pinpoint who has been within two metres of that person for more than 15 minutes and the rest of the shift is able to continue without interruption.”

The move to the SAFE-DISTANCE devices happened quickly due the digital leadership maturity of the team’s Digital Working Group which realised the importance of this for employee safety. Employee safety is always a top priority across Tideway but when the pandemic hit, it came into focus even more. The system combines wrist worn technology to immediately alert the employee of unsafe proximity. It is a fully integrated, out of the box eco system, that delivers intuitive GDPR compliant analytics of unsafe interactions aligned with the NHS scoring system.

Ba Dan Nguyen, Construction Manager of CVB said:  

“Back in March, after lockdown, we were looking at how we would be able to go to work safely and efficiently. We intended to start with a small crew, then to increase production and we knew that would be difficult without the help of technology.

“I approached quite a lot of companies and Reactec was ready. We already used their HAVwear on site and I was able to borrow the devices from another site.

“We are a construction site, so the gear needs to be robust and we already knew that Reactec’s kit was compatible with a harsh working environment.”

Reactec’s SAFE-DISTANCE technology has since been introduced as part of a series of health and safety measures adopted by Tideway in response to Covid-19. Some 670 SAFE-DISTANCE watches have been deployed to support the team’s social distancing efforts.

Reactec CEO, Jacqui McLaughlin, said:

“Despite the vaccine roll-out now well underway, we recognise that there are many employees that cannot work from home and are not likely to receive the vaccine for many months meaning social distancing will remain in place for some time to come.

“Our SAFE-DISTANCE tech was developed to help employers keep their operations on track and to help protect their employees who are not in a position to work within the safety of their homes.

“Our collaboration with the Tideway east team has led to our confidence in SAFE-DISTANCE as an effective tool for business continuity and employee care. This deployment showcases how our tech can be used at scale, but it can also be just as effective within smaller businesses too.”

Reactec’s SAFE-DISTANCE application was repurposed from the company’s system for monitoring workers’ exposure to Hand and Arm Vibration (HAV), suitably named, HAVwear, which enables employers to capture representative data of vibration risk exposure and provide actionable intelligence on how to reduce this risk in line with EU regulations and the HSE guidance on hand and arm vibration.

Building on the 6 years of field experience with a wrist worn HAVwear deployed to over 70,000 individuals, SAFE-DISTANCE is industrial grade and ready for the ardours of the construction, rail and manufacturing environments. SAFE-DISTANCE is however much more than just a monitoring technology. It is a fully integrated eco system that is readily deployed to assign devices daily to a potentially changing workforce and to collect all data automatically without reliance on third party devices or infrastructure. The hosted GDPR compliant data Analytics are intuitive and as a consequence of CVB input well designed to deliver effective contact tracing.

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