Ensuring lone worker health & safety for Thames Water


CSE Crosscom has been an approved supplier for Thames Water for over eight years. We have installed two-way radio systems in several of the company’s sites, finding solutions to challenges using the benefits offered by new technology in this sector, improving lone worker health & safety at one site and creating an early warning alarm at another.

CSE Crosscom’s system has delivered:

•Improved worker health & safety
•Accurate worker tracking
•Significant cost savings

The Client

Thames Water’s Walton AWTW covers over 15 acres. It incorporates a Victorian pump house, modern blocks housing processing areas, decommissioned sand beds and smaller ancillary buildings.

The Challenge

Thames Water’s previous solution for achieving communication coverage throughout this extensive site comprised three elements: operational personnel used analogue two-way radios supplied by CSE Crosscom to communicate with other colleagues working inside on site. For communication outside, where two-way radio coverage was not achievable, personnel also carried mobile phones. Finally pagers were used with a SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) system to raise alerts on equipment failures etc.

Through discussions with Thames Water CSE Crossom identified an opportunity to streamline and improve the existing three-part system, to improve worker health & safety and achieve cost savings. Thames commissioned the proposed CSE Crosscom solution.

A Modern, Streamlined Solution

Using Bluetooth beacons in internal areas and the GPS facility on the Hytera X1p andX1e hand portables for external areas the CSE Crosscom system achieves the required coverage using just radios, dispensing with the need for mobile phones.

The text function of the Hytera X1p has also made the SCADA pager system redundant as messages can now be received on the radios. Additionally the radios allow a longer message than the pagers so standard alerts are less abbreviated and more readily understood.

Using the CSE Crosscom system personnel at Walton now carry one compact, robust two-way radio instead of three communication devices.

“The Hytera radios are very simple to operate – if you can use a mobile phone you can use one. CSE Crosscom took time during the installation to ensure that our operatives were familiar with the system so that it could be used as soon as it was installed.”

Richard Hulley,  Operations Liaison Engineer, Thames Water

Central Control

Inside the control room integrated software shows three key visual displays of the system:

The location of the two-way radios covered by the system is shown on-screen on two plans of the works, one for internal areas (covered by beacons) and one for the external areas of the facility (covered by GPS). As personnel move around an icon for the radio they are carrying tracks their position on these screens.

A third display screen shows the communications element. Using this screen and connecting the PC to a microphone allows control room staff to communicate with Thames operators (who use the Hytera X1p) and contractors (using the X1e which has no screen and does not receive alarms). The system allows one-to-many and private calls.

Improving Health and Safety

Inside buildings the CSE Crosscom system automatically tracks personnel movement using Bluetooth beacons picking up radio signal. Unlike GPS tracking, which provides a location in 2D, Bluetooth provides a 3D location making it possible to see which floor the radio user is on. GPS, which tracks operatives outdoors, is automatically disabled within the Bluetooth area and resumes when leaving. The previous internal system required operatives to manually input which one of seven prescribed zones they were working in to their radio, this manual input is no longer required so there is less likelihood of human error.

Following a site survey and working with site plans and Thames Water personnel CSE Crosscom engineers identified the optimum sites for the system’s beacons to ensure that the location of operatives within the works buildings could be tracked at all times on the PC based software. The facility required 95 beacons in all, programmed by CSE Crosscom for Thames Water’s requirement.

“The new system is a godsend. The previous system was far less accurate in terms of location of workers. This one offers real peace of mind.”

Ian Privett, Process Controller, Thames Water

The new system even achieved coverage in ‘the crypt’, an area situated below the stairwell in the basement of the main pump house where several key services are located. ‘The crypt’ is below ground and very noisy. Previously no signal could be achieved and no conversation would have been audible however the use of beacons and the superior audio quality of the Hytera X1p made communication from here possible, and therefore working in this area far safer.

As operatives are often working alone the Hytera two-way radios have been programmed for lone worker, they sound a regular alarm to which the operatives respond; should they fail to do so an alert is raised. The radios are also programmed for man down monitoring; an inbuilt mercury switch triggers an alert if the radio is horizontal for an extended period of time. In both situations the alert, including the location of the operative, will be received by the CSE Crosscom system in the control room. Out of hours the system will send texts and alarm calls to all off site personnel providing cover.

“Operatives at Walton work in high-risk areas on a daily basis, often alone. Health & safety is a priority for Thames Water, and we believe that it is important to invest in technology that improves the safety of our staff. The new system tracks where operatives are; we know their safety is covered and they know that we are looking after them.”

Richard Hulley, Operations Liaison Engineer, Thames Water

“The new system means that anyone in any part of the works, whether it is the furthest edges or the deepest part, can stay in communication.”

Mark Collier, Health & Safety Advisor, Thames Water

Achieving Man-hour Cost Savings

The control centre at Walton handles in the region of 1700 alerts a day, from SCADA, BMS and operatives, requiring varying responses. At times the site could effectively be manned by one person however, under the original communication system, as routine checks necessitate leaving the control room, a second operative was required to ensure someone was present to receive critical alerts and to page out relevant information so that appropriate action could be taken.

Integrating the Hytera X1p digital radio, the CSE Crosscom system allows operatives to receive SCADA and BMS alerts direct to their two-way radio wherever they are on site so the whole site can be manned by one operative. With the need for a control room to be staffed 24/7 removed Thames Water has been able to significantly reduce overtime spend.

Rolling out success to other sites

Since installing the  system at Walton CSE Crosscom has installed similar systems for Thames Water at Hampton and Ashford, Middlesex.


CSE Crosscom Systems

CSE Crosscom systems go beyond the provision of two-way radio communication to incorporate other functions offered by two-way radios and the systems that can be integrated with them. Solutions are bespoke to each customer and their requirements. Experienced CSE Crosscom personnel consider the customers existing way of working, listen to their requirements, look at the technology available and build a solution appropriate to the customers business needs.

Working with CSE Crosscom 

The CSE Crosscom account team responsible for the installation and continued support at Walton include an account manager, a technical solutions engineer, who has online remote access the system to provide support to on site operatives, and a legislation specialist.

“The CSE Crosscom team is knowledgeable and helpful and we have developed a good working relationship.” 

Richard Hulley, Operations Liaison Engineer, Thames Water

CSE Crosscom offers customers in depth knowledge of two-way radio communications and related technologies, a range of products from the world’s leading companies in two-way radio communication, and an unparalleled level of service with a committed account team for every client.

Thank you to Richard Hulley and his team at Walton for their help in collating the information for this case study.

Photos: Peter Crane 2014