4 The control of risk

The control of risk

4.1 Competence

For earthworks to be successfully designed, constructed and maintained, it is important that the personnel undertaking each task should be competent. When possible this should be managed by the implementation of a system to demonstrate the competence of the staff involved.

In some industries there are specific requirements for competence management systems which should be adhered to, e.g. Railway safety principles and guidance [9].

4.2 Risk management

4.2.1 Projects

The management of risk should be a key aspect of projects involving earthworks as in all construction activity. The areas of risk to be managed should include:

  • programme, quality and financial risks to ensure the successful delivery of the project;
  • health and safety, along with environmental risks to satisfy statutory requirements.

NOTE 1 All projects involving earthworks come under the requirements of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 [10] (CDM).

All those involved in design (and construction) activities associated with earthworks should consider the requirements of the project and seek to follow the "spirit of CDM" to ensure the approach taken is appropriate for the project.

NOTE 2 BS EN 1997 (both parts) have been drafted to follow the "spirit of CDM".

NOTE 3 The creation and maintenance of a project risk register (PRR) is seen as good practice and is a requirement under CDM [10].

All risks identified by those involved in the design of earthworks should be fed into the PRR. It is important to realise that various parties have an input to the design of earthworks, and therefore as designers they should engage with development of the PRR.

Where a project includes geotechnical design, a geotechnical risk register (GRR) should be developed to support and enhance the PRR. The scale of the GRR depends on the complexity of the project. This approach should help the earthworks team manage out or minimize some of the geotechnical risks; all residual risks should then be fed into the PRR. On projects with multiple design teams, risks should be highlighted and their management co-ordinated in the PRR.

A GRR will tend to divide into two distinct sections:

  • a) the "risks affecting investigation", which relate to the procurement and implementation of the site investigation (e.g. access, buried services, contamination, topography); and
  • b) the "risk affecting works" which relate to prevailing geotechnical conditions that might affect the design and construction of the project.

For further details see Section 2, Design and management of earthworks.

4.2.2 Asset management

Maintenance of existing earthworks should follow the management approach of reducing risk levels to "as low as reasonably practicable" (ALARP), giving consideration to whether spending on remedial works will result in a cost benefit over a realistic maintenance period. Remedial works become a self-contained project requiring design and construction with concomitant geotechnical risks that should be approached as described in 4.2.1.

4.3 Geotechnical certification

The concept of staged approval of a scheme via a certification system is of benefit to the control of risk, and should be adopted on complex projects involving earthworks (BS EN 1997-1:2004, Geotechnical Category 2 and Geotechnical Category 3). The geotechnical certification scheme should be flexible enough to enable the level of detail required to be appropriate for the complexity and scale of the project. When used, geotechnical certification can be a very effective system to record the identification and management of risks by the geotechnical design team.

BS EN 1997-1:2004 does not require certification but BS EN 1997-1:2004, Section 4 does require the designer to specify requirements for inspection and testing during construction, which for earthworks might be most easily achieved by a form of certification.

NOTE One system is that operated by the Highways Agency (see HD 22/08 [11]), which embraces the requirements of BS EN 1997-1:2004, Section 4.

4.4 Geotechnical feedback report

Construction Design and Management Regulations [10] require the drafting of a health and safety file that contains full records of the works constructed. As-built records have to include details of the earthworks undertaken for a project to assist with future maintenance, design of additional works or decommissioning of the works.

For earthworks projects, the as-built records can be significantly enhanced by the inclusion of a geotechnical feedback report (GFR) that includes details of the earthworks undertaken. All parties involved have to be aware of the need to capture records of the works undertaken from an early stage of the project. This approach can bring significant benefits in the management of risk. When prepared, this document becomes one element of the health and safety file. The relationship between the GFR and other documentation is illustrated in 6.5.

BS EN 1997-1:2004 does not specifically include the concept of the GFR, however BS EN 1997-1:2004, Section 4 covers many of the topics which need to be addressed within this style of report. The GFR is considered an appropriate way of recording the data from earthworks projects to form a complementary record to the as-built drawings and meet the requirements of BS EN 1997 (both parts).

BS 6031:2009 Code of practice for earthworks