The importance of watching briefs to UK construction sites

Why is it important to keep watching briefs / explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) engineers on your construction sites in the UK? Learn why below!

What’s the point of a watching brief?

Why, might you ask, is it important to have an explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) engineer present on your construction site?  Surely, finding unexploded bombs is a rarity in the UK – and not something your team would be likely to encounter?

Many of our clients ask us this question when we recommend a watching brief to them  – but unexploded ordnance (UXO) is more common across the United Kingdom than you might think.  Theoretically, ordnance can be hidden anywhere on your construction site, and in our over-30-years of experience, we know it can easily be mistaken for steel pipes or other construction materials.

Mistaking UXO for other objects could negatively impact your reputation, your project’s integrity and ultimately, it could affect the safety of your personnel.  Imagine, for example, you accidentally mistook UXO for a steel pipe and attempted to excavate it?  This could have disastrous consequences.

UXO and unidentified objects

Rogers Geotechnical Services Ltd correctly identified the need for an EOD engineer on their site in Sherlock Street, Birmingham.  The site previously contained rows of terraced houses constructed prior to World War II, which have since been demolished.  Now, Rogers Geotechnical Services are performing ground investigations on the land so that new houses can be built in their place.

One of SafeLane Global’s EOD engineers, Lee Wharam, was appointed to the site to conduct a watching brief and provide advice to our client regarding any potential UXO finds.  His presence proved vital when work was paused due to the discovery of a large metal object. 

Lee swiftly identified the suspicious item as a harmless storage tank.  The rapid identification allowed work to immediately continue, avoiding the costs associated with otherwise going on standing whilst waiting for an EOD engineer to attend site.

However, when a second threat was later identified – Lee immediately halted the on-site operations and carefully removed the soil around the unidentified object.  This allowed him to examine and identify it.  The item turned out to be a drop tank, used to store jet fuel (pictured below – with gruesome teeth)!

Drop tank with teeth in Birmingham

A frightening looking drop tank discovered on a site in Birmingham.

Had Lee not been on site, these items may not have been successfully identified for a considerable period of time, resulting in the client losing money and negatively affecting their tight project timelines.  Additionally, had the threats been deadly ordnance, accidents could have occurred if site personnel had not been aware of their lethality.

Truth bomb – UXO is common, well-hidden, and deadly

Hundreds of thousands of bombs were dropped across Britain during World War II – it’s widely accepted that at least 10% of those failed to explode as designed, and the older a bomb gets, the more unstable it can become.  Heat, shock waves, or vibrations are enough to detonate volatile ordnance.

Our EOD engineers can rapidly identify any unearthed suspicious object or discount non-ordnance, ensuring work can continue uninterrupted.  If ordnance is found, our engineers can take charge, cordon off the area, contact the relevant authorities – saving time and lives.

Our on-site EOD engineers can be literal life savers – do not take any risks during your construction project.  Contact SafeLane Global today and learn how we can help you stay on time, on budget and safe.