Tales from the Street 1 – A Health and Safety perspective

My name is Tony Penfold, I am a founder member of Streetworks Software Limited, we are proud to state that our works management software is developed for utilities by utilities people.

I have been engaged within the sector for almost all of my employed life. I started my working life as an asphalt labourer some 36 years ago, working my way to asphalt ganger, then to being a supervisor. I then followed the managerial path; firstly to Streetworks Manager, next to being a Contracts Manager and then on to becoming the  Reinstatement Manager in a large organisation, reporting directly to the Board. Over the years I have seen and been involved in delivering many changes to processes, procedures and culture, as I reflect back now, these changes have been transformative and have delivered a much safer, human focused, more efficient and compliant environment that has revolutionised streetworks activities .

In my personal experience, the changes we have seen in H&S over the years have truly built a health first attitude within the sector.  When I started, 36 years ago I would say that the focus on ensuring the health and welfare of streetworks employees was so little considered as to be almost non-existent. I spent most of my working days during the summer when it was hot weather working on the road in just boots and shorts. Famously, on a particular job down in Brighton on a very hot day working in boots (so some safety gear) and just a pair of green speedos; can you imagine the emails that would be sent now.

It leads me to reflect that although we all know it’s for the best for the guys H & S working out in the field; it must be hard laying asphalt on a hot day whilst wearing full PPE. The temptation to dispense of clothing remains, but the standards and checks employed these days ensure that our people are as well protected as possible.

To really back-up this point, I remember arguing with a supervisor years ago on a very hot day as I was raking asphalt out of the back of a lorry. He was telling me to put my safety helmet on and as I was enthusiastically arguing with him I came up quickly and smashed my head on the tailgate of the lorry, he just looked at me and said “no argument”. I understood his point then, I have the experience now that helps me in my work at Streetworks Software when training gang members on the tool and driving the H & S message home.

During my career in field-based streetworks activities, I’ve unfortunately been involved in two major accidents over the years.

Number 1

I was standing on the back of an asphalt lorry getting ready to dog (shovel) the asphalt over the back of the tailgate. As the driver tipped the lorry up, it became clear that he had forgotten to lock the tailgate. This resulted in me coming out over the back along with 15 tons of asphalt.  I was exceptionally lucky to get out the way in time. With modern standards and guidelines in the sector, I believe that this type of incident would not happen

Number 2

A mate and I were putting in some kerbs. My mate hammered in a road pin and went through a H.V cable, with some spectacular results. Luckily he was able to walk away with minor burns, these days we can use tools and technology to mitigate this type of risk.

As you can see, from my personal experience all the changes driven by an effective H&S culture can be shown to be for the good.

SwIMS has built-in H & S tools across the core environment and within the mobile app. integral to the mobile tool that the field-based gangs utilise are tools that help in reducing risks, strengthening site security and driving compliance with standards.

All field-based staff can be guided through essential processes, to protect them and ensure that adherence to safe working practices is “standard behaviour”. Tools such as Quality and Health & Safety checklists, vehicle maintenance checks, risk assessment procedures, HAVS monitoring, job event reporting (consequential damage, deep excavations, utility strikes) are an integral part of the field-aligned mobile app.

Field and office-based personnel (supervisors, managers, H & S people) can raise and complete compliance and safety audits. This develops a culture that drives the right behaviours and builds-up a valuable record of usage and trend data, aligned to individual customer needs, for continuous improvement.

SwIMS is the leading streetworks aligned works management tool for utilities, please contact us at


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The good old Days

Over the 40 years I have worked in Reinstatement, I can say that there was a time where Health and Safety was nearly non-existent, and

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