Opinion

Readers’ comments: Plastic roads, worker fatigue, carbon innovation, construction quality

28 October 2019

How much is worker fatigue caused because of the reduction in the workforce?

Plastic roads: Willmott Dixon answers CM readers’ questions

CM 17/10

[Asked if microplastics from roads using recycled plastic will wash into the watercourse]

Plastic has been used in road construction since the 1960s. These plastics are added into asphalt to create what is known as PMB (polymer modified bitumen) and we are doing exactly the same thing.

We take plastic waste, out of green bins (less than 30% of UK plastic waste is recycled) and instead of burning or burying this valuable material, we mix it with our activator. This activator bonds at one end with plastic and the other with bitumen, this creates a WPMB (waste polymer modified bitumen).

In one move we reduce the amount of oil-derived bitumen used, we reduce the amount of CO2 being released and we give value to plastic waste. Asphalt roads can continuously be recycled, meaning we have created a closed loop whereby this material is locked in our roads indefinitely.

We have had to make sure that this assumption rings true and have had to do a lot of testing in the background with universities, to make sure that as cars, buses and HGVs roll over the surface we have not got plastic leaching out into the soil and watercourses. We have categorical evidence that this is not the case.

[Asked if recycled plastic roads can be used on motor-ways, runways and taxiways]

This waste plastic material has been used on 800+ roads in the UK mainly in the north-east of England. Starting in 2016 in Cumbria on small schemes, repairing damage of Storm Desmond, and now in 2019 on the A689 dual carriageway.

This will be rolled out as we gain more credibility and have our materials used on the Highways England Strategic Road scheme. In 2017 Carlisle airport had its taxiway and runway paved with this material.

Jo Charles, head of sustainability, Willmott Dixon

Worker fatigue ‘a serious issue’ for construction

CM 26/09

It is very refreshing to see that finally this issue is being taken seriously. I have seen first-hand the effect that fatigue has on construction workers, the projects they are involved in and also the effect this has on the wellbeing of the workers themselves and their families.

I am unfortunately of the opinion that, left unchecked, the consequences of this problem will affect the health and wellbeing of the workforce, productivity, quality and additional long-term problems.

Despite all the good work that has been done within the industry, unless workers’ health is put before programme schedules, we will still see this issue.

W Davey

Most of the workforce are made up from subcontractors. More often than not they are working to a really tight schedule. Management often ask these contractors to reduce their costs and the way this is normally achieved is to reduce labour.

Fatigue will set in because of the reduction in the workforce. Better planning, and communication might reduce this but the common consensus is “just get on with it”. Maybe in time attitudes will change and a balance will be found.

Ian Robertson

Cambridge scientists capture carbon to create building materials

CM 01/10 

Should the buildings which potentially are to be built using this MgCO3 [magnesium carbonate] need to be demolished or face earthquakes in the future, then would the original CO2 be released into the environment?

Kevin Simpson

This is an exciting leap forward for greener concrete and other material possibilities, plus possible other uses such as fire resistance, together with capturing CO2. In a way, rather a simple answer, as quite often the best scientific solutions are, such as with graphite and graphene.

Surely the investment will transpire and we will hear a lot about this venture. Best of luck!

Grant Gover 

Tory MP calls for focus on construction quality

CM 04/10 

For quality, read education, training and experience: an old chestnut.

Once properly trained and educated – and I don’t necessarily mean academically qualified – then and only then can projects be adequately supervised to produce the quality of an output specification.

“Snagging” should be a thing of the past and return visits non-existent.

John Baker

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