On the art of working together - safely

Construction of the Veja Mate (Mother of the Wind) wind farm in the German Bight is a vast project. 67 wind turbine foundations are being put in place, consisting of transition pieces and monopiles, the enormous steel pipes that support the turbines. Boskalis, together with Volker Stevin International, is responsible for the entire process, from manufacture to installation. What has been Deputy Project Director Taco Terpstra's experience?

“It’s exciting. You have to deal with a lot of different parties and therefore you’ve got less control over the operation.”

WHAT DOES THAT MEAN FOR SAFETY?
“We’ve had to work really hard. After the NINA kick-off, which was well received, we had to deal with various incidents and dangerous situations: people were working at height without a lifeline, in the sandblasting cabin someone took off his mask when grit was flying around, and got some in his eye, part of a transition piece almost rolled over someone, certificates were missing, procedures were not up to scratch.”

WHAT DID YOU DO?
“Initially, discussed it internally: how far do we let it go? We pulled out all the stops: more safety experts, more supervisors. But it wasn’t just the incidents; the whole culture was different. When there was an incident with a monopile while loading a transport container, the sub-contractor wanted to gloss over it. The fact that we wanted to intervene was regarded as a nuisance.”

HOW DID YOU MANAGE TO TURN THE SITUATION AROUND?
“Something changed only when we had stopped work twice. We organized a NINA reflection session in which, from both sides, we expressed our failure to understand, our concerns and our expectations. That paved the way for genuinely discussing the subject of ‘safety’.”

WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM IT?
“I thought, we’re now working in Northern Europe, so safety consciousness will probably be high. I couldn’t have been more wrong. My lesson learned is that I no longer allow myself to take anything for granted. Seeing is believing.”