The Larsen & Toubro Construction was assigned the time-bound task of building the Statue of Unity, which was dedicated to the nation on October 31, 2018, the 143rd birth anniversary of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.
It had put in place all safety protocols at and around the Statue of Unity, which is of national and international importance. After all, construction at massive heights involve adopting conventional, mechanical and digitalised safety procedures and measures.
Most pieces of the gigantic Statue of Unity were in place except for the head. It was now left for a clutch of 20 engineers and about 100 workmen to work the scaffolds and place the pieces that would make up the head.
Led by 35-year-old Giridhar Saran, the workmen took up position as the turntable ladders and boom cranes, rising above the ground like metallic pre-historic beasts, moved the sculpted pieces and claddings which the workmen grabbed and placed, piece by piece on the bronze neck after being matched and welded using oxyacetylene flame. On the ground, a couple of hundred men watched in awe as the ones above trod carefully on the scaffolds.
The L&T engineers and workmen exchanged few words as they toiled to finish placing the Sardar’s head in the closing days of the project. “Even though we were working on the great heights to assemble world’s tallest statue we felt assured because of the safety gadgets and solid safety protocols in place,” Saran said, recalling the days.
To allay fears surrounding fatal accidents, the biggest concern was for workmen falling to the ground through openings, tripping into excavation pits or being injured by falling loose material from great heights.
So, some of the safety innovations followed during the “fast track” construction of the world’s tallest statue, which included several engineering control measures, were coordination of multi-level activities through a common permit, zero tolerance for fall arrest, use of Rope Suspended Platforms (RSP) for emergency management, use of guide ropes to restrict the swaying of RSP, specially designed work platform for inclined roofs, cages for accessing manhole opening, the use of cup lock scaffold and ladder beams to suit working platforms.
Of late, L&T-NxT, which delivers disruptive digital outcomes for the domestic and global customers, has come up with an innovation that makes workers feel they are ring-fenced by invisible “hands” and give them the sense that they are not on higher floors but at the ground level.
The safety-screen is a hydraulic climbing system across three levels of a structure that prevents workmen from seeing the heights at which they work and shields them from the buffeting of strong winds.
Over the past few years, L&T Construction has evolved a few more innovative processes and mechanisms – many of them powered by digital technologies – that are ensuring high safety standards at all its sites.
There is a dedicated mobile app named Safety. Launched in 2016, it has some 18,000+ users, covering 700+ projects cumulatively registering some 300,000 engagements per month. There are other apps such as ViewEHS and Ib4u that are used by specific wings of L&T Construction.
An entire menu of digital solutions has been devised to keep workmen and on-site engineers safe from potentially hazardous situations. These include the application of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), track and trace incidents for an entire range of project sites and shopfloors, among other locations. These solutions not only digitally track locations but also take corrective and preventive action in the event a dangerous situation arises.
While digitalisation of safety is the buzzword across all L&T entities, much of the Group’s safety standards and practices emerge from L&T’s own training facility called ‘Safety Innovation School (SIS)’ in Surat’s Hazira. A second SIS is located in Tamil Nadu’s Kanchipuram.
Indeed, digitalising safety is the thrust area of L&T CEO & MD S N Subrahmanyan, who believes “it is a mindset that needs to be inculcated first in oneself, followed diligently and spread vigorously to make safety a second nature for everybody. Digitalisation is the vital edge we enjoy, and digital tools can make the biggest impact to further improve our safety record”.
The progress achieved so far in digitalising the Environment, Health & Safety (EHS) initiatives and processes at L&T is dovetailed with the conglomerate’s ‘Mission Zero Harm’.
Beginning with safety awareness and training using an innovative, immersive experience of AR and VR, the use of experiential films at project sites leaves a lasting and powerful impact on workers for the need to practice safe methods at work.
“We have created a number of short films on AR and VR. No less than 40 modules have been devised for multiple scenarios and some of these are in combination with AR. In fact, immersive VR films are administered to participants at every project site,” said Anantha Sayana, the Chief Digital Officer at L&T.
The modules encompassing various types of work – at heights, in confined spaces, fire safety, material handling, etc. – have been developed and put on a variety of VR gears such as Oculus Go, Rift and HTC Vive.
At L&T Hydrocarbon Engineering (LTHE), as many as 177 mock drills and 504 EHS campaigns and promotional events were conducted across project sites in 2020. More importantly, 15,879 safety training programmes were also conducted.
Over the past two years, several efforts to digitalise the EHS process at L&T Heavy Engineering include the introduction of an online ‘permit to work system’, ‘reported safety concern’, ‘temporary override of safety critical control’ and ‘safety inspection system’. This has helped to monitor the process effectiveness, trend analysis and reduction of non-value-added activities.
Digitalisation is the name of the game today to ensure high EHS standards, and the various digital solutions for safety adopted by all the L&T verticals have improved awareness and compliance.