G4S recently became the UK’s first and only non-police service to gain accreditation to allow specialist security officers to stop and manage traffic as they escort moving Abnormal Indivisible Loads (AILs) on the roads.
Moving two emergency diesel generator tanks was nothing short of slow progress – due to its size and weight (they weigh 64 tonnes and measure more than seven metres wide – about the average width of four cars) but G4S’s Enhanced Security Officers (ESOs) have put their new police accreditation into practice.
The ESOs who were already working at Hinkley Point C have now become the only non-police officers in the UK to be provided with traffic management powers under the community safety accreditation scheme (CSAC).
The new accreditation allows the ESOs to stop or direct other road users or pedestrians for an AIL on the road. For example, if a tree or wires from a pylon are too low, the ESOs have the powers to stop the traffic whilst a tree surgeon or specialist electrician resolves the issue.
An AIL is defined by the UK government as:
- A weight of more than 44 tonnes
- An axle load of more than 10 tonnes for a single non-driving axle and 11.5 tonnes for a single driving axle
- A width of more than 2.9 metres
- A rigid length of more than 18.65 metres
The CSAS process
As critical components continue to be delivered to Hinkley Point C, the project has been conscious of putting additional pressure on local police services. As a result, G4S, which provides enhanced and regular security services at the construction site, offered to put a number of ESOs through the relevant training, with support of the local police service.
G4S paid for all of the training.
Once this was agreed the cohort were subjected to police vetting (on top of their current vetting) and all of the escort vehicles had to adhere to meticulous and exacting specifications that were up to the same standards used by the police.
After completing the CSAS training, these security officers must carry their accreditation and are required to wear CSAS branded PPE when on duty.
Alistair McBride, Strategic Account Director for G4S UK’s Nuclear Power and Utilities Sector, said, “We are constantly looking to upskill, invest in, and develop our security employees and this is another example of how we support our staff.
“We’ve worked closely with EDF and Avon & Somerset Police in order to achieve this, and the Enhanced Security Officers who passed the course have put in over 80 hours of training and hard work.”
The day in action
On Sunday 26 March, the first generator arrived via a barge 9 miles from the construction site. Once it had offloaded and been placed onto a self-propelled modular transporter (SPMT) the Escort team got into place.
The team effectively act as ‘outriders’ – the police officers who escort VIPs on motorbikes and hold the traffic to allow the VIP to pass through in their car.
Three especially designed and approved vehicles with flashing lights led the procession to the site. Behind the vehicles were ESOs on foot in front of, and behind, the generator.
From start to finish it took the team 3 hours to travel the 9 mile route on a specially built weight-bearing road, however they planned for the move to take up to 8 hours.
Ian Downing, G4S’s Account Director at Hinkley Point C said, “We began speaking to EDF in March 2022 about taking on this additional work. The process of starting the CSAS programme to leading our first escort took around 8 months, with the additional vetting and modifying our vehicles so they were up to spec. In the end the hardwork has paid off and we’re now confident in what our ESOs need to do.
“We’ve built a wrap-around programme to overcome a number of obstacles that we noticed in our practice runs, allowing the first move to go without a hitch.”
Planning, planning and more planning
Before the inaugural move, a range of plans, policies and practices were designed and put in place.
Working in rural Somerset means that mobile phone signals can be intermittent at best. The team quickly realised that this would be an issue when trying to update the control room on their progress and movements.
To work around this, a map with coloured checkpoints denoted where there is a strong signal. When the Escort team arrives at the checkpoint, they use Google Chats to inform the control room who chart the progress.
Colleagues in the control room have planned the move weeks in advance. Working with a small team of Risk Managers, everything from the time of the AIL being delivered to the time the procession starts is detailed weeks beforehand.
Benefits of using one provider
At Hinkley Point C, G4S Secure Solutions provides security, Facilities Management and now the AIL escort service.
As Ian explains, there were many benefits to incorporating the escort service into the work already provided by his team, “Due to the nature of the work, our ESOs are always on site, so adding this string to their bow makes practical sense in terms of resourcing, and saves the customer having to bring in and pay for another party to assist.
“It also benefits the customer by introducing certainty of delivery timescales to the site by using resources already available, and there will always be a level of consistency of delivery in terms of standards, quality and safety with a specific pool of resources dedicated to the project. The AIL services were previously provided by the local police service.
Concluding, Alistair added, “The limited availability of suitable AIL escort capabilities for nuclear new builds carries significant risk to the delivery of critical equipment, and therefore has a huge impact on the construction programme. We’re really pleased that we can play a supporting role in keeping the construction of a national critical infrastructure project moving at pace and helping to keep costs down.”