A young champion and her drone

Sophie Harwood, junior engineering technician at Waldeck Consulting, won the title of Young Health and Safety Champion in the 2017 International Safety Awards. She received this accolade for her work and enthusiasm in developing a positive safety culture.

Interested in architectural technology, Sophie was considering different career paths after completing her A levels in June 2014. Rather than taking on university debt, she decided to apply for an apprenticeship in construction contracting operations within the Building Information Modelling (BIM) Academy at Waldeck Consulting. Now, three years later, she is flying drones.

The BIM Academy was created to introduce school leavers to the software side of building information modelling work, which includes 3D modelling. “Waldeck’s BIM Academy offered the education, training and development I needed to build my career within the company,” said Sophie.

She has a long job title at Waldeck: junior engineering BIM technician and UAV and digital capture specialist. “I work with senior technicians and engineers to produce project deliverables, such as models and drawings, ensuring that they meet our standards and our clients’ requirements.

As a UAV (an unmanned aerial vehicle) in other words, an aircraft piloted by remote control or onboard computers and digital capture specialist, I use our drone to carry out surveys, photogrammetry and to capture accurate data, enabling object and model creation, model validation and data analysis.

In a nutshell: I use our drone to capture photos and stitch them together to create 3D models of buildings and sites for our clients.”

Sophie uses the drone to capture pictures that will be used in modelling buildings

Waldeck is a multidisciplinary technical and risk management consultancy, which specialises in design work in sectors such as civil, structural and electrical engineering. It also works for motor companies and building services. The company’s clients include Ford, Network Rail, the NHS and EDF.

Warren Monks, head of safety, health, environment and quality (SHEQ) at Waldeck, explains the nature of the company’s business: “We work with several automotive clients, and if they are looking to change their production lines or introduce a new product line, they come to us and we undertake design work for civil engineering, electrical and mechanical work, as well as architectural services. Our clients use this information to go out to tender to contractors who carry out the work.”

Sophie is currently studying for a Higher National Certificate in civil engineering. “That’s the next level after Level 3, which I finished last year, so I am building on what I’ve already learned. My job is now more focused on exploring new opportunities for how we can develop our business, including researching new software. We are also looking at how we can further integrate the potential of the drone into our work.

“For example, using the DJI Osmo [an imagery equipment], which captures several overlapping images, and can be stitched together to create a 360 panorama, we create a Google Street View image with which the client can interact.”

Waldeck clients can put a virtual-reality headset on and walk through buildings designed for them.

Becoming a safety champion

“One of the units in my NVQ required me to look at my workplace and assess health and safety hazards. I also had to suggest where improvements could be made. This gave me an opportunity to look at how health and safety is implemented at Waldeck. Straightaway, I was able to see what else could be done. When the Health and Safety First initiative was launched at Waldeck, I volunteered to be a representative for our office. I became very passionate about these issues.”

Warren Monks describes the background of the evolution of health and safety at Waldeck: “In 2014, we carried out an annual staff survey and one of the questions asked what employees thought of the health and safety culture at Waldeck.

The answers were not satisfactory to the board, which is why I was asked to prepare a report describing how we would deliver an initiative that would further embed a health and safety culture at Waldeck. I prepared a report describing how to deliver an initiative that would increase our understanding of health and safety at Waldeck.

Sophie Harwood pictured centre at the International Safety Awards gala 2017

Our work is predominantly office-based, which is classed as a safe environment. Paper cuts and trips were probably the worst things recorded. However, the nature of our work is changing and increasingly often we visit client sites, so we needed to raise awareness of health and safety risks outside of our workplace. This is how the Health and Safety First initiative came into being.

We revised our policies to see what was missing and launched a new set of health and safety procedures. The Health and Safety First initiative was explained to all staff via a number of workshops in each of Waldeck offices; our managing director explained in a video why health and safety is important in our business. Next, we set up the roles of health and safety champions, asking for volunteers in each office.

“Sophie was one of the first to put her name forward and she became a health and safety champion for the Sleaford office.

The champions became a point of contact and information relating to health and safety. We followed that up with another staff survey in October 2015, which asked the same questions about the health and safety culture as before. This time, there was a huge increase in the number of staff who said that the company had a positive health and safety culture and that they knew about the policies in the business. We will carry on making further improvements but we believe that we have achieved a step change in people’s attitudes. Now, we are also looking at extending the training of office champions by putting them through the IOSH Health and Safety course.

“Sophie has been very proactive in her role. She is always putting new ideas forward. For example, she proposed the office walks around, and suggested using St. John’s Ambulance for the first aid training, whom we supported as a charity, instead of a general training company.”

Sophie comments: “We used to meet with other champions to discuss how the company could create a positive safety culture. People seem to think that an office environment is completely safe. I say, hang on a minute, there are still dangers in the office – just look around.

“Every week, I walk around the office and if there are any hazards, I report them. Obviously, people also come to me if they notice any dangers. The company’s head office building in Sleaford, Lincolnshire, used to house a police station and there are many corridors, some of which are very narrow. They can easily get blocked with boxes, as we often receive various deliveries. Another hazard is the multitude of wires and extension cables. People are becoming more aware of their surroundings, so the message is getting across. At the end of the day, we all want them to go home safe.

“I also suggested that we should work with St. John’s Ambulance, to do emergency first aid training, as well as having fire marshal training. So, now there are people in every office who are trained to deal with these emergencies if they arise.”

What are the dangers related to flying drones?

“To be able to fly a drone, I attended a training course earlier this year, which opened my eyes as to how many regulations there are in relation to drone flying and what the dangers are. It was like a driving test: we had to do the theory first and then a practical test. The main hazard here is people moving around the area of the flight, who could be hurt if a drone was to fall out of the sky. Other dangers include aircrafts, strong winds and birds. Some birds tend to attack the drones.

“We have an operations manual, which tells us what we should do and how we could mitigate potential dangers. We have emergency procedures for every single hazard that could possibly occur. There are some, like birds, which you can’t control, but we would still follow the emergency procedure, e.g. stop people coming into the site. If the drone was to be used in a residential area, we would put leaflets through people’s doors informing them that we are going to be operating a drone.”

Making a difference

“I am proud that I’ve been able to make a difference within the company, to influence peoples’ attitude towards health and safety by making them aware of just how important it is. I’ve carried out monthly toolbox talks to make employees aware of how health and safety within Waldeck works, and I think the message is getting through. I was delighted to receive the Young Health and Safety Champion title at the International Safety Awards this year.

Plans for the future?

“I would like to keep on building my career with Waldeck. Three years ago, I was a trainee and I never thought that I’d be flying a drone. I’ve developed new skills and as the industry is changing, fast adopting new and advanced technology, I would like to keep on progressing within the industry.

“With businesses moving more towards a digital environment, we’re producing 3D models for clients. We are at the stage now where the clients can put a virtual reality headset on and walk through buildings which we’re designing for them. This technology has picked up a lot of pace over the last few years and our sector is becoming more competitive. However, we like to think that we’re keeping ourselves ahead of the curve.

In terms of health and safety, I would like to be developing things not only in the workplace, but also outside of work. I’m looking at innovations that make people’s journey to work safer, for example, how they use seatbelts and mobile phones.”

Drone/UAV technology

Each of the UAVs in the Waldeck fleet has a specific use, enabling the company to tailor its services to its client’s needs. UAV operators regularly utilise its photogrammetry UAV. The Waldeck Photogrammetry UAV has a 20-megapixel camera allowing the capture of high-quality aerial imagery. The camera is fitted with a wide-angle lens with a 24mm equivalent focal length and a mechanical shutter, eliminating rolling shutter distortion, which can occur when taking images while flying at high speed. As well as the ability to record stills, the camera can also record 4K video at 60fps for very detailed video. The camera can be fitted with a range of filters to ensure the pilots can capture consistently high quality images in a wider range of environments.

The UAV itself is fitted with an infrared sensing system which measures the distance between it and any obstacles, such as aircrafts, using infrared 3D scanning, providing reliable sensing and protection. The UAV also has three sets of dual vision sensors which form a 6-camera navigation system. The combination of these two systems allows Waldeck to fly in complex environments at a flight speed of up to 31mph (50kph), while avoiding obstacles in its path.

Information provided by Amy Cheeseman, UAV & Digital Capture Lead

For further information on the International Safety Awards click here.