Back to the floor
LIVE's Deputy MD Gordon McKay grabs his PPE for a demanding shift with the London Barriers team...
Since 1966, our business has seen 2nd and 3rd generations of family members working for us, so my 10 years in this industry could still be considered a long apprenticeship! However, last week the London team welcomed me out on the road with them to experience a Barrier project first-hand.
Waiting for the shout for us to mobilise, it was apparent just how fluid the operation had to be to cope with variances and last minute changes. Despite this, the team took it in their stride and reacted swiftly as new instructions came in.
The project included us installing crowd control solutions for the Tottenham Hotspurs match and required over 200 Heavy-duty Crowd Control Barriers (CCBs) and near 1000 Police Barriers (Even heavier duty!)
The journey was an experience in itself - for those of us living north of the M25, we take routine travel times for granted, but it really hit home when our wagon had to leave at 1pm to travel just 18 miles for the 5pm start! This challenge is a major KPI and efficiency and scheduling are critical to turning a profit.
Anyway, despite our punctual arrival, we couldn’t start work until the road closures were introduced, but once we did, the installation process was quicker than I had anticipated. With the safety of a fall-arrest system, from 8ft stacks a team member passed down each barrier to colleagues walking alongside. These then swiftly rotated each barrier 180 degrees and slotted them together.
Their efficiency had obviously been refined over time, but despite this, pedestrians darted about the road, just inches from our operation, hampering the installation. Even more concerning, vehicle drivers were equally unfazed by our presence and tried to squeeze through between the lorry and the crews before the barriers blocked their way. This was despite a large stewarding presence in place to assist with segregation during a ‘live’ road installation. We installed 375 of the Police Barriers in around 45 minutes, which I was told was good going (maybe the crew was just being polite?!)
After the install, it was a waiting game. By half time, we couldn’t do any more until the fans had vacated the stadium and all the queues for transport had dispersed. The estimated recovery time was from 10.30pm and I was feeling a little less confident since struggling to master the technique in such a short time. Now it was time to reverse the process. We had to flip the 30kg barriers 180 degrees, pretty much lifting with one arm and get them onto a stillage on the lorry bed. The first few were not too bad, but as the stack height increased, your mettle is really put to the test!
The team were really supportive and patient as they assisted me when the stack grew higher than I could reach. Thankfully, that was just 6x stillages before we re-joined the other team who had a different method. They positioned the stillages on the closed road for a forklift to collect and load onto the artic. A less intense method I thought, but it was surprising just how quick your physical energy still drains, barrier-by-barrier.
My last experience of the night was with the second team, who had a different recovery method again - two crew members harnessed themselves to the lorry whilst their colleagues passed barriers up for stacking. For me, this was my preferred method, but as we approached midnight, and had lifted more than a normal shift, even this method was starting to take its toll on me.
I was under no illusion that tonight’s experience was a small job and that the crews were heading onto the Marathon project for their next shifts with the daily totals increasing to 3500-4000 units across day and night shifts. The crews kept telling me it was all in the technique and across the business, we are lucky to have the best skilled and committed individuals at Live. Being away from home and working on remote sites in the winter around Europe - finding people who want to put themselves through the physical and technical demands of barrier projects is equally difficult for us and we really appreciate the commitment and loyalty of our crews.
I’d like to thank the onsite team who had to put up with their new ‘apprentice’, but the experience was really worthwhile. It has given me a new perspective on how we do things on a regular basis and the highly competent service we deliver to our customers!