Safety Doesn’t Happen By Accident

Now boasting over 45 years of experience in the construction industry, Hightown Group is pioneering in attitude and approach.

For Hightown Group, health and safety best practice goes hand in hand with its enviable reputation. Now boasting over 45 years of experience in the construction industry, the business is pioneering in attitude and approach. Fittingly, it has underlined its capability and commitment to the highest standard, gaining ISO EN 9001:2015, ISO 14001 and BS OHSAS 18001.

Working across both the public and private sectors, Hightown Group has established many long-term relationships alongside consistently earning new contracts thanks both to its reliability and credibility within the sector. It also possesses diverse skills and experience meaning it can tackle a wide range of new builds and refurbishments. From high spec laboratories and teaching facilities through to shops for the retail industry, residential developments and even hangar refurbishments for the aviation industry, Hightown Group is always willing and able to adapt to varying client requirements and challenges.

Recent projects include its work for a higher education client which required the design and build of a data centre. This comprised of a primary steel frame structure with metal composite cladding to the roof and walls. The construction works involved construction of a ground bearing slab, mezzanine floor, mechanical and electrical services, and external hardstanding and drainage.

When completed in 2018, the new data centre building provided space for the University’ Performance Optimised Data Centre (POD). The POD is housed in a 20-foot container and provides 10 industry-standard 50U racks of hardware. The POD uses an efficient cooling design of variable speed fans, hot and cold aisle containment and close coupled cooling to maximise capacity and efficiency.

As principle contractor, Hightown Group oversaw the relocation of the University’s POD from its existing location and installing the POD in the new data centre building. The POD is the hub of the University’s data processing and management capability and managing the programme to ensure a smooth transition was critical. A robust business continuity plan was developed with the client to ensure that all risk where identified and appropriately managed.

A significant part of the project’s success was the Group’s approach to partnering with the both the client, the client’s design team, the client’s specialist IT consultants and Hightown’s supply chain partners. To deliver the project to the client’s budget, the project was valued engineered in partnership with the design team and supply chain partners. Many key savings were identified by considering the construction methodology, materials installed and the building form.

Health and safety was also crucial. With over 9000 students, staff and visitors within the 24/7 campus, Hightown Group ensured that its health and safety procedures and systems were robust and developed suitably to meet the needs of the client’s business needs.

Such consideration for health and safety was also critical for another project for the higher education client involving the new build of a social space for students. The brief was to design and build a space that allowed students to work

collaboratively or individually. The space had to be flexible to accommodate both current and evolving pedagogies. The space included technologies used in learning, such as personal learning environments, high-quality digital learning resources wireless networks and mobile devices.

Construction works involved piled foundations, ground works which incorporated concrete retaining walls and a steel frame structure. Concrete slabs to both floors housed a catering facility and break out area. Curtain walling and cedar cladding were part of the external envelope system and green credentials incorporating PV panels to support the small power requirements. A water harvesting systems was installed to recycle the rainwater and natural ventilation were included within the scheme.

Although the building was not stipulated as being BREEAM accredited, Hightown commissioned a BREEAM consultant at its own cost to evaluate the scheme to meet a rating of Very Good. To complement the building, extensive external hard and soft landscaping incorporating pavers and planting were also undertaken.

The success of the project was due to the early understanding the University’s financial constraints. Hightown Group worked closely with the client’s design team and its supply chain to ensure that it secured best value without reducing either the standard of materials or reducing the quality of equipment. Hightown undertook a series of value engineering exercises to ensure that it delivered the best possible outcome without impacting on the whole life cycle of the facility.

Yet, again students were on site as well as teachers, staff and visitors. It meant consideration for the health and safety of many different parties had to be considered. Hightown Group’s successful completion of the project safely is another indication why it maintains such a strong reputation.

Reaffirming this is the business’s accomplishment at this year’s Construction Enquirer Awards where it has been named one of the top 10 in the category of Best Main Contractor to Work For (under £50m). Part of being recognised is Hightown Group’s corporate and social responsibility successes, including its ongoing implementation of a robust health and safety system based on best practice principles.

In fact, as well as its ISO accreditations, Hightown Group possesses SSIP accreditations with SafeContractor, CHAS, Constructionline L3 which not only instils confidence in its work but allows it to tender for projects in high risk arenas such as the nuclear and aviation sectors.

Lee Haysman, Health and Safety Manager for Hightown Group, believes one of the strengths of the Group’s approach is that it recognises the importance of workforce engagement. As a result, you develop trust which is so vital.

“The key to Hightown’s excellent health and safety record was recognising that worker involvement and trust is critically important to the safe running of the business. Hightown has successfully built positive relationships between its management team, its employees and sub-contractors, which in turn ensures that a culture of trust and transparency is embedded within the business,” says Lee.

“Hightown understands that an outstanding workforce is built on the pillars of trust, respect and co-operation. I have worked with the management team and site managers over the last six months to put into place strategies that encourage a positive health and safety culture, without unnecessary bureaucracy or excessive costs.

“We have our ‘safety first’ culture and this means work safe = home safe.  Simple but it works. By coaching staff and not beating them with the health and safety stick, we empower them to take both ownership and give them confidence to challenge unsafe action and conditions on site.

“From an external perspective, I have witnessed employees develop and begin to flourish following valuable time spent coaching and mentoring on site. In the short term, I have seen tangible improvements in safety engagement, simply by explaining why we want to involve workers and what is expected from them in dangerous working environments.  Asking for employees’ opinions and consciously acting rapidly on suggestions or shortcomings means the workforce knows that Hightown is serious about worker involvement and that a safety-first culture is the only way forward.”

Recent improvements have included the development of a Temporary Work Procedure and the implementation of Temporary Works Co-ordinators; tracking documents to more easily track progress on each site; and rando drug and alcohol testing.

Hightown Group has also introduced generic RAMS documents ready for making site-specific which helps eliminate unnecessary paperwork and allows the Project Manager / Site Manager to focus on site risks for which standard controls are not already defined.

Other improvements have seen the business provide health and safety updates to its extended supply chain on a monthly basis, the introduction of a new safety observation system across all sites as well as a new adverse event reporting system.

As the Group looks ahead, it’s objectives include producing a new company health and safety handbook for all employees, implementing a policy that stipulates higher subcontractor standards must be achieved, and leadership training for directors and senior managers.

Hightown Group has throughout its history recognised the importance of being innovative in its thinking and proactive in approach. This ethos can be applied to its health and safety policy that continues to adapt, improve and, as exampled, provide the foundations for enduring success.