As the concrete contractor, we’re the biggest contractor on the Velodrome site now, have been for the last six months and will be for another three or four. I have four foremen on site and I’m controlling most of the men working on site at the moment.
I let people know every day where we’re going, what the programme is, and make sure we have everything in place as regards to materials and shuttering. It’s definitely the most prestigious contract FDL has ever worked on. We’ve done large jobs before, such as blocks of flats, but this is definitely the most prestigious and maybe the most valuable one as well.
When I came here in February, there was a small gang of us in the office, trying to get our heads around things. It’s testing, this job. As you can imagine with a cycling track, there’s lots of curves. Where you’re going in a curve, you’re also rising as well, so you have lots of issues you wouldn’t normally have in a concrete frame.
Everything we’ve done for the last three or four months will be seen, it’s all finished work. The one blessing with this site, compared to any other site we do, is that the work isn’t covered up. You could walk in here in 2012 and see these piers and radius walls, put your hand on them and say ‘I did that’. Usually, the only time you ever see our work is in the car park!
The stadium is a far bigger project, but I’d say this is more challenging.
I’m not trying to take any glory away from the stadium, but there the radius is the same the whole way round. Here, when we’re doing a radius wall, we have to break the shutters up, then remake them to a different radius. Luckily, we have enough good men out there to get their heads around it.
Initially, it was difficult to convince the men that this was more than a day’s work. But gradually they’ve realised this is something we’ll never do again. It is challenging, and frustrating at times, but lots of the time the fellows call me down, and when I say ‘are you happy with that?’, I know they’re feeling proud. Sometimes they’ll come to me with suggestions and say ‘we can improve on that’. That’s the way I want the boys to react. There’s definitely a tighter team spirit on this site.
Gradually the men have realised this is something we’ll never do again
Half of the men here I’ve worked with before, but 50% are new to me. Slowly I’ve worked them into a team formation, with ISG’s help. Although they’re the main contractor, the ISG site managers are very involved as regards team talks and daily briefings, and having a chat with our men as they go around. It’s not that they’re ISG and they’re above us – we’re working in tandem with one another.
When people first came to work here, problems getting round the site irritated a lot of people. They had to get an induction at one gate, a pass at another, a bus somewhere else. People didn’t want to have to get up an hour earlier, or wait 40 minutes at the end of the day to get back home. The bus service in the early days wasn’t what people wanted, but [ODA delivery partner] CLM has now improved it considerably.
I’m the chief safety officer as well, we have tool box talks once a week and daily briefings. Safety has been a major issue, none of the lads have ever seen the likes of what’s happening here. CLM visit us [for a safety inspection] twice a week, ISG are constantly looking, advising and talking, and stopping areas where they think something might be wrong. We have our safety adviser coming in twice a week and our head fellow coming in once a week. So every time you’re doing something, you feel there’s eyes watching.
Logistics can be a problem here. If you can forward plan, it’s not an issue. But all of sudden there’s a problem and you want something first thing in the morning, and it’s three in the afternoon. But you need to tell [the DHL-run logistics service] by 11 in the morning to get a vehicle pass for the next day. That’s where we get caught out. On any other site, I can ring the office and they’ll send someone the next morning with a load of timber or shuttering, but here I can’t do that.
We’re a little bit tight in areas [on budget and programme], but what we’ve been asked to do I think we’ll do. We’re looking at releasing 90% of our work to [roofing contractor] Watkins at the end of October or early November, and then a team will stay on until Christmas to finish off.
I will walk away from here and say ‘I was part of that’, and the boys on site are thinking that too. I’ll definitely be back here with my son, who is 16, and my six-year-old daughter. It’s great that in 2012 they’ll be able to say: ‘Daddy was part of that.’