Safety during the pandemic

We adapt and continue to work safely.

This is how Ballast Nedam continues to work safely during the tightened COVID-19 measures

THE CHALLENGE | "Work at home, unless there really is no other option," was Prime Minister Rutte's appeal on Monday 28 September, 2020. What effect does this measure have on construction sites, where time is ticking and the work cannot stop? Ballast Nedam further refined its own basic plan, so that the final sprint of the A9 Gaasperdammertunnel in Amsterdam Zuidoost could proceed safely.

"We are organizing it with great precision," says executive director Martijn Smitt, who heads the COVID-19 crisis team within Ballast Nedam. "We do this primarily so that our people do not get sick and secondly to ensure that our operational activities can continue."
Customisation in times of crisis

Ballast Nedam's COVID-19 crisis team can switch quickly because it has built up a large communication network. In addition, the team has translated the measures taken by the government into a model that can be applied to all construction sites. In the meantime, we work in permanent teams, the number of external visitors is limited and the importance of keeping your distance and washing hands is frequently repeated. Yet a gray area remains inevitable, Martijn Smitt explains: "There are always activities where you think: how are we going to solve this with these new rules? That is why we have written a protocol for twenty common activities, which systematically indicates how the corona measures can be applied. We apply customization to all activities that remain and form a gray area."

We have written a protocol for twenty common activities
Martijn Smitt Executive Director Ballast Nedam
The work on the A9 Gaasperdammerweg, in which Ballast Nedam participates within the IXAS collective (a construction consortium of Ballast Nedam, Heijmans, Fluor and 3i), is also related to the aforementioned customization. HSE manager Wilfried Lips: "We want to keep working, but in a corona-safe way. The activities that we carry out here can all be done within 1.5 meters. If there is no other option, mouth masks are used and colleagues work back to back. For example, if someone has to hold something in a cherry picker and a colleague has to operate the cherry picker. But this is really an extreme case."

IXAS follows the corona policy of the "mothers", including Ballast Nedam, but has also started additional measures. Wilfried Lips: "With the work we carry out, there is no excuse for not complying with the rules." He has emphasized a number of measures on this project from the policy of Ballast Nedam and RIVM. "For example, we speak to each other if colleagues do not keep a distance of five feet. Corridors have been made in the corridors of the construction chain so that people wait when they encounter oncoming traffic and finally, mouth masks are worn when two or more people are in one car."

Working together

The work on the A9 Gaasperdammerweg is part of the Schiphol-Amsterdam-Almere (SAA) road expansion. Just after the announcement of the extra measures, an auxiliary bridge - which lay across the construction site - was removed to make way for a large ovond on the roof of the Gaasperdammertunnel. A big milestone. Wilfried Lips: "Let's say it is difficult. But it does not ruin the atmosphere, because everyone knows that we all have an interest in complying with the measures. It contributes to the 'we' feeling: we have to get it together, in a safe way. I absolutely experience that feeling here."

Own research

At the start of the corona crisis, Ballast Nedam was one of the first in the construction sector to be geared towards working safely within the new frameworks. Our COVID-19 crisis team has now been set up in such a way that it can quickly have positively tested colleagues quarantined and carry out the source and contact investigation themselves. This method allows our crisis team to intervene quickly and prevent an outbreak.

Martijn Smitt explains: “Until now, contamination on our construction sites has been limited and we have always been able to take quick measures. It has usually always been someone who has contracted an infection in his private time." Until May 1, 2021, all colleagues will work from home as much as possible and visits to the construction sites will be limited. Only the people who have vital functions and who are important for managing and carrying out the work on the projects are at the work locations.

In the meantime, the work continues at full speed. "I think the tightened measures are a wake-up call," concluded Martijn Smitt. "That applies to everyone. We take a structured approach, and that is paying off. Of course we suffer from the corona virus, but we have always been able to protect our employees as well as possible and keep the company open. Ultimately, this meant that we nearly achieved our planned production properly."

Wilfried Lips also experiences the urgency of the tightened measures: "I have indicated to all construction site employees at IXAS that it is about our safety, our health. In addition, work can be stopped for fourteen days if we do not comply with the measures and if contamination occurs at the location. And that's exactly what we don't want."

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