The innovative ‘tracer’ research monitoring Tideway project’s health and safety

Tideway researchThe Thames Tideway Tunnel is a huge project being undertaken in London to build an urgently-needed new sewer.

The aim of the project is to protect the tidal River Thames from sewage pollution. The tunnel will be 7.2m in diameter, 25km long and run up to 65m below the river. It is due to be completed in 2023.

There are 24 sites across London and three hubs for the six tunnel boring machines.

From the outset, exemplary health and safety has been a central part of the project, with an array of new initiatives introduced. One example is its experiential induction programme, called EPIC, where every single person who works on the project goes through a thorough induction including engagement, realistic sets, and actors to simulate real-life situations.

The main motivator for this is to eliminate the ‘spike’ of injuries that often occurs at the beginning of projects. Throughout this infrastructure project, embedded researchers have continued to work alongside employees and contractors to observe Tideway safety and health.


Project lead Professor Alistair Gibb, from Loughborough University, led a webinar to detail how the research is progressing.

You can listen back to that webinar below and download the Q&A session from the webinar here.

The research

IOSH is funding seven-year longitudinal research into the project to monitor key health and safety processes, personnel, documents, events and activities. The results will provide robust evidence of what does and doesn’t work.

Researchers from Loughborough University are embedded into each of the joint-venture teams working on Tideway.

One part of the research is studying how people cope when things go wrong. Another is how decisions on massive contracts are made.

For example, three contractors working on Tideway, each of which requires locos and sheds. Each will have gone through a similar process to decide which was the best one to use, and yet they have chosen three different locos and three different types of sheds.

The research team is examining not just the what, but the how and why decisions were made. They will then look at what they’ve learned and how that knowledge can be used in making the safest decisions.

Ultimately, it is intended that findings and best practice will be shared across the wider construction industry and will influence future health and safety management and practice.