Safer on-site: Beacon Detection and Select Site Solutions team up to protect HS2 workers with contact-free Temperature Screening Units

To help provide peace of mind for workers on its sites, the HS2 development has implemented innovative Temperature Screening Units. These are contact-free, using thermal imaging technology to screen workers.

The technology was designed and implemented by technology specialists Beacon Detection and Select Site Solutions, with dedicated routers for standalone connectivity provided by CSL.

The HS2 project is a major development by anyone’s standards: a new high-speed railway linking up London, the Midlands, and the North. When complete, the high-speed rail project will service 8 of Britain’s 10 largest cities.

As expected with a project of this scale, there’s a colossal amount of work to be done. Phase 1 of the HS2 project alone includes 134 miles of dedicated track between London and Birmingham, passing through 31 miles of tunnels and over 10 miles of viaducts. It’s an enormous endeavour over multiple simultaneous sites, employing thousands both directly and as contractors.

Like others in the construction industry, HS2 Ltd was keen to find the best ways to ensure work on Phase 1 could continue safely during the coronavirus crisis. A top priority was ensuring the protection and peace of mind of all employees, contractors and others accessing work sites, which are run by Laing O’Rourke and Murphy Group Joint Ventures.

A new thermal imaging-based solution for HS2 from Beacon Detection

As luck would have it, security specialists Beacon Detection were already demonstrating a thermal imaging-based temperature screening solution to a nationwide gas company on a site near HS2’s Birmingham Interchange. Site and area managers from HS2 were invited along to take a look.

“They were impressed,” says Beacon Director Dan Thain. “They liked what they saw so much that they invited us to another of their sites to demonstrate the system to more of the HS2 project management team.”

Introducing Temperature Screening Units

In a follow-up meeting, one of the project leaders came up with the idea of dedicated Temperature Screening Units, specialist temporary buildings positioned at the entrance to sites. And the partnership between Beacon Detection and Select Site Solutions, along with the new Temperature Screening Unit, was born:

“It was the proverbial ‘back of a fag packet’ idea,” says Select Site Solutions Senior Contract Supervisor John Moore. “This was just a scribble, as most of the best product ideas are. The concept was passed to us, and it was a no-brainer. This was at a time when a lot of construction sites across the country were stood down, and we needed to stay ahead of schedule and get guys back on site; get boots on the ground.”

Contact-free detection – how does it work?

The temperature screening system that impressed HS2 managers so much consists of a bullet-style camera that utilises both thermal imaging and conventional video lenses and sensors, connected to management software and a monitor.

It allows for rapid, contact-free preliminary detection of elevated skin surface temperatures. Site staff present themselves in front of the camera for screening. If the system detects anyone with a skin surface temperature above its optimal configured range, it automatically generates an alert.

The system is accurate to ±0.5°C (and up to ±0.3°C when utilising an additional blackbox calibrator) and takes less than a second to scan people. Crucially, this means minimal hold-ups to work on the project.

The camera uses AI detection to reduce false alarms caused by other heat sources. If an elevated skin temperature is detected, the staff member is then able to be clinically measured and assessed in an appropriate environment.

Into production

Select Site Solutions, a subsidiary of Laing O’Rourke, set about designing the temperature screening modules based on the original brainstormed concept. Immediately, Moore says, the production team was enthused. “We knew these were potential game-changers,” he says.

Select worked closely with Beacon to design the layout of the units, helping ensure the set-up could be mirrored easily in subsequent implementations.

Beacon’s Dan Thain explains: “We spent a few days configuring the kit, programming it to get it exactly how we wanted it in order to save the format and configuration files. This allows us to pre- load them from the head office, and means we can now roll out new units as quickly as possible with minimal localised calibration requirement.

The units themselves are re-purposed shipping containers, with three doors. Through one, you enter the unit, and face a wall with instructions on it. You follow that to the right, where the camera is located, and you are asked to stand there while you are scanned. All being well, you get a green light and go through the door on the left and onto the site.

If an alert is raised, you are asked to go through a door on the right, where there are several isolation areas. You wait there for a set period, and then are asked to present yourself for a second temperature check – because, for instance, heavy exertion in hot conditions can temporarily raise skin surface temperature. If the second check is fine, you can go onto site. If not, you’re sent offsite for further testing under medical conditions.

Standalone connectivity provided by CSL

Both Select and HS2 were keen that the units could operate unmanned. This would mean that when a high temperature was detected, an automated email alert would be sent to the Health and Safety department (complying, of course, with its updated internal HR policies and GDPR guidelines). Meanwhile, the individual would be advised to self-isolate before presenting themselves for confirmatory re-screening.

However, this posed its own challenge, in the form of a lack of wired and/or dedicated connectivity at the HS2 sites. To solve this problem, Beacon brought in M2M and IoT connectivity experts CSL, a company they trust for the monitoring of Beacon’s installed intruder alarm systems.

When Beacon needed a reliable, secure and independent wireless connectivity solution, they opted to use CSL Router,” CSL’s Joe Sheppard says. “In these installations, Beacon Detection are using the dual SIM variant of CSL Router. This variant comes with two network diverse roaming SIMs, one active and one on standby for total resilience.

As many of the HS2 sites have limited or insufficient connectivity, this option ensures that not only is the best mobile network selected to maximise connectivity, but that should one network go down another can be utilised instead. In addition, with the project occurring across many sites in different locations, the roaming SIMs mean that the same product can be used in any location. CSL Router also provides Beacon Detection with remote access to the system, ensuring that they don’t need to attend sites to check system performance.

Cai Llewellyn Operations Manager says Beacon appreciates the access and operability the CSL Router provides:

Because it doesn’t sit on anyone’s network, we haven’t got to go through any IT infrastructure or anything along those lines to secure it,” he says. “We’ve set it up so that once it activates an elevated temperature, it sends an email to the health and safety department. As soon as there’s an activation, it sends a screenshot of the person who has had the temperature alert, this then enables the H&S department to follow their own internal procedures and act on it straight away, getting in touch with site managers and getting the individual off site straight away for further testing.

“It means it’s effectively a secure, self-managed, self-contained system. And because we can dial in remotely through the VPN and adjust anything that’s needed, we’ve even been able to use the router to carry out firmware updates.

Units deployed in just seven days – to fantastic feedback

Within just seven days of receiving the initial proposal, the partnership of Beacon, Select and CSL had built and deployed five of the units to HS2 sites in the West Midlands, including at the main Birmingham Interchange site. Hundreds of staff and contractors now pass through the modular units every day.

They have been received exceptionally well, by both staff on the sites and HS2 Ltd management. Steve Paskins, Laing O’Rourke’s operation leader on the HS2 enabling works joint venture said:

There is no replacement for good cleanliness and social distancing rigour but we’ve found that the temperature checking units work quickly and accurately, and while the system cannot detect if coronavirus is present, their ability to pick up a temperature gives us, everyone on site, as well as their families’ assurance that colleagues have all been checked before entering the project.

The feedback has been good, and the technology is an important element within our armoury.”

Beacon’s Dan Thain agrees: “The units offer massive peace of mind for staff, and for their families as well. HS2 have implemented strong social distancing policies as well. Together these measures offer workplace confidence to all of those employed on the project, many of whom travel significant distances to be there.

Select’s Moore says there are now plans to deploy the Temperature Screening Units across other Laing O’Rourke sites. “We’ve also had a lot of interest from the wider construction market as well, outside of Laing O’Rourke,” he says. “It’s easy to understand why they’ve been so enthusiastically received: the units reassure us, the workers on site, that we are working in a safer environment – because everyone has to come through them, everyone gets checked.