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No scrimping on support and training

Published on Friday, 06 Jan 2012
Safety-first is a priority for workers underground.
Photo: Jonathan Wong

In a city renowned for its skyscrapers and feats of engineering, an area that is often overlooked is the construction and engineering achievements that take place below the city's streets.

"Beneath Hong Kong's buildings and streets lie a subterranean maze of tunnels and drainage systems which form a vital part of the city's infrastructure," says Robert Vaughan, the director of BEKK Solutions. "Some of the tunnels are the height of two New Territories village houses."

Vaughan says that key to working underground is safety awareness and attention to detail. "Safety is our number one priority. Through training programmes and site management protocols, we instil in the employees and the contractors we work with the absolute need for a safety-first attitude," he says.

BEKK Solution has been involved in huge local projects, such as the waterproofing of the Hong Kong Strategic Sewage Disposal Scheme, the MTRC Kennedy Town Station, and Nam Wan tunnels.

Overseas, BEKK also has a great deal of experience. It has worked on the Iraq Crude Oil Export Expansion Project - a strategic development in the Iraqi ministry of oil's master plan - and a water pipeline project in Sabah and Labuan, in Malaysia.

"When we work in tunnels and other underground projects, we must be conscious of the need for safety. Simple things such as a cluttered workspace or the slightest deviation from operating procedures can easily result in an accident," says Vaughan. "We liken our safety procedures to baking a perfect cake - the exact same ingredients need to be used every time a cake is made."

He says BEKK project managers and engineers, who have worked on major underground engineering projects globally, provide on-the-job training and pass on their knowledge and experience to younger, greener employees at the firm.

"We support our staff in obtaining the necessary qualifications and regulatory certification, but it is through working with our senior people that employees really learn their craft," says Vaughan.

"We need people who are willing to work as part of a team, learn unique skills and always make safety a priority," he adds.

Looking ahead, Vaughan says the Hong Kong engineering and construction industry is facing a stiff challenge recruiting the number of people it needs.

"As projects become more ambitious and complex, the industry is busier now than it was during the construction period around the building of the Hong Kong International Airport [in the 1990s] and the related core airport projects," Vaughan says. "We rely on supporting and training our staff to ensure we maintain a sustainable pipeline of professionals for the future."

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