In this latest Insider Update, we continue our National Apprenticeship Week 2024 content and catch up with Health and Safety Advisor John Martin, who discusses his journey since joining the company as a piling apprentice nearly 10 years ago…..

I started as an apprentice with Bachy Soletanche in September 2014, nearly 10 years ago. The apprenticeship was an NVQ Level 2 in Piling Operations. When I first started, I knew nothing about piling; however, over the two-year course, I learnt everything from concrete cube testing to building tremie pipes and working in concrete gangs.

The apprenticeship gave me great overall knowledge of the industry, as well as the different ground engineering techniques. It was also really important for learning how to interact with people on site and it gave me opportunities to network with apprentices in other companies.

After my apprenticeship, I completed an improver year where I learnt how to construct bentonite plants, as well as how to manage the de-sanding process and test and treat the bentonite. I then moved on to polymer plants before becoming a concrete technician on the Thames Tideway Tunnel project where I worked for a year across various sites, testing concrete for diaphragm walls and LDA piles.

After five years working on site, I took the initiative of completing the NEBOSH (National Examination Board in Occupational Safety and Health) Certificate as I wanted to have a more direct influence on safety and act as a spokesperson for those on site.

Just four months after completing my NEBOSH, I was offered the role of health and safety advisor at Bachy Soletanche. I’ve been in the role for five years now; I enjoy the problem-solving element of my work and being a part of the team making positive changes to the health, safety and wellbeing of our employees.

Having worked on site, I understand the risks and which safety procedures are practical and achievable. I also have personal relationships with my colleagues on site so it’s easier to start an open conversation about safety. I always make it a two-way process, ensuring to ask their opinion on the potential effects of new safety procedures, since they’re the ones doing the work.

My day-to-day role involves supporting the site teams, developing Toolbox Talks, conducting risk assessments, advising on health and safety legislation, mentoring newer team members and maintaining industry body accreditations (such as ISO45001, RISQS and RoSPA) among other responsibilities.

With rapid advancements in technology, it’s an exciting time to be working in health and safety. We’re currently trialling a piece of tech, called Zonr, at one of our project sites in London. It’s essentially a monitoring device that alerts the team when restricted zones have been encroached. We’re also improving data collection on the Bachy Soletanche mobile application, BAC-App, which is a platform for submitting business improvement ideas and reporting any accidents, incidents, near misses or positive interventions.

As well as technology, Bachy Soletanche is investing in learning and development more than ever. I recently started my NVQ Level 6 in Occupational Health and Safety, which will take me to management level. When I’ve achieved this, I’ll be eligible to become a Certified Member (CertIOSH) of the IOSH (Institution of Occupational Safety and Health), which is a stepping stone to chartership.

I’m also currently acting as an interim health and safety manager to both Bachy Soletanche and Vibro Menard, something I see as a great challenge.

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