Stories

A construction worker looks with uncertainty for the safety equipment he left behind before he climbed the scaffolding. Meanwhile, a load of sheathing is lifted up over the heads of working colleagues without double protection in place.

When the CEO of a company arrives at a site, sees something wrong, and then gives a talk about it afterwards, he is sending a very important signal.

Statkraft President and CEO Christian Rynning-Tønnesen had personally requested that his first visit to the Devoll development project in Albania would also be a Health Safety Environment (HSE) inspection. In line with the company’s priorities for 2015.

Among the things the CEO saw at the site, were unsecured working practices at heights, a crane lift with an improperly secured load, and active workers below the hanging load.

“I am very pleased with the organisation of the construction work and the progress demonstrated. However, I am far from pleased with safety at the power plant construction site,” the CEO told employees of Devoll Hydropower in Tirana after being alarmed by the irregular lifting operation.

“I am very glad he saw this, and that he commented on it,” says HSE supervisor Nikolas Garnett, who served as a guide for the CEO during the visit. “When the CEO of a company arrives at a site, sees something wrong, and then gives a talk about it afterwards, he is sending a very important signal.”

Changing attitudes

Garnett thinks it is good that the top executives from Oslo get to experience the realities of construction sites in countries where safety is not given the same high priority as in Western Europe and Scandinavia.

“Incidents like this show the importance of actively involving the sub-contractor’s management on site, and that workers must be allowed to take an active part in  the safety work,” Garnett says. “This must improve, and it is improving.”

He admits that progress is slow. Focus is on being visibly present on the construction site, improving safety step-by-step, and changing attitudes and HSE culture at all levels.

“Our HSE efforts to prevent injuries, accidents and undesirable consequences depend on errors being corrected – often that a colleague cares. The ability and will to care is an important part of any HSE culture, and is what will lead to change – at all levels.”

Safety boot camp

One idea that came up during the visit was to establish a “safety boot camp”, based on what has been done in Cetin, Turkey. There, all personnel working on site must complete a boot camp focusing on fundamental knowledge, including scaffolding, lifting operations, forbidden areas, and falling accidents. Unless they complete each section, they will not be allowed on site.

“Safety in Albania is still in its infancy,” Garnett says. “Many unskilled labourers lack basic knowledge and awareness of safety, simply because no one has ever taught them safe working methods.”

“Adjustment over a long period of time has accustomed us and made us comfortable with safe work processes and safety rules. However, for the boys on site, it can be difficult to suddenly be confronted with new rules and methods, even if they are designed to protect them. A boot camp could be a very useful tool for us.”

High activity level

Despite challenges in terms of HSE, the president and CEO also witnessed many positive things.

The construction site is teeming with activity, with a constant stream of trucks moving from the upstream riverbed filled with new mass for the dam that grows every day. In little over a year, the 80-metre tall and 900-metre long dam will be complete. The spillway is already completely poured. Down in the construction pit, the Banje power station is taking shape. The outflow pipes are in place, and the pouring of the concrete for the basic building is well under way. The preparations for the largest facility, Mogliche, is under way further up the Devoll valley.

Filling of the 15-kilometre long reservoir will begin towards the end of next year. The Banje power plant is expected to start operation in the summer of 2016. By then, replacement roads must be completed to provide residents of the Devoll valley with a new road to the north, as the existing road will be under water. This is the responsibility of the authorities, and an important issue during the talks between the CEO and Albanian government officials during the visit. During the talks, it also emerged that the Albanian government is looking to carry out highly needed reforms in the energy sector.

The electricity grid experiences almost 50 per cent loss due to theft, lack of metering, and natural grid losses. It is clear to everyone that something must be done. At the same time, more rapid deregulation and increased power exchange with Albania’s neighbours is needed to attract more foreign investments in the energy sector.

Text: Lars Magnus Günther
Photo: Agim Dobi/Statkraft
The article is also published in Statkraft's magazine People & Power no. 4/2014

Hectic activity: The dam for the Banje power plant is halfway completed. Filling of the reservoir will start before Christmas 2015.

THE DEVOLL PROJECT comprises two power plants, Banje (70 MW) and Mogliche (186 MW). They will be completed in 2016 and 2018, respectively. The plants will generate about 730 GWh annually, and increase Albania’s total power production by 17 per cent. The investments in the project total EUR 535 million.

THE LICENSE AGREEMENT grants Statkraft the right to sell the power freely, including as export power to adjacent markets. THE PROJECT is executed by Devoll Hydropower, a fully owned subsidiary of Statkraft, with approx. 70 employees at the offices in Tirana, in Gramsh, and on site.

A CONSORTIUM comprising Turkey’s Limak and AGE is the main contractor for the project, while the units are supplied by France’s Alstom.

DEVOLL HYDROPOWER assumed HSE responsibility from Owner’s Engineer in June, and is currently training seven Albanian employees to UK standards. CURRENT

BOTH POWER PLANTS will have separate smaller turbines, able to generate power at the required minimum water level.