Safety is LMD’s number one priority

Ian Buchanan – LMD Health and Safety Manager

Safety is fundamental to LMD’s success and to the future development and growth of vacuum excavation. The following article by Ian Buchanan, LMD’s dedicated Health and Safety Manager, is featured in the LMD Annual Review 2020/21. By clicking on this link you can read the Review, or download your own copy.

Making safety the top priority brings with it upfront costs and a degree of operational constraint. It is LMD’s belief, however, that these costs and constraints are outweighed by the commitment of the team, efficiencies over time and, of course, managerial peace of mind.

Ian Buchanan is LMD Vacuum Excavation’s dedicated Health and Safety Manager. In this article, Ian outlines the current health and safety measures in place at LMD and further plans for 2022. Safety is a journey not a destination.

Firstly, it is important to remember the areas in which LMD Vacuum Excavation’s teams work. Locations can include nuclear power stations, electricity substations, silos, sewage treatment works, dockyards, highways, housing developments and more. The work may be at height, such as removing aggregate from a flat roof, or at night, such as upgrading the UK’s smart motorways. In other words, there is a prima facie requirement for robust and comprehensive safety systems to be in place.


For me, safety starts with training; both in the classroom and on the tools. At LMD we run a three-month induction programme. The programme ends with an external assessment to achieve CPCS accreditation. Nobody is allowed to work on their own until they have CPCS accreditation.

We also run additional training programmes, including external training, for those working on, for example, the railways or petrol forecourts. This training leads to the SPA (Safety Pass Alliance) Passport for working in areas with a Zone 0 vapours classification. This means a hazardous area in which a flammable atmosphere is continually present.

Regular training to upskill existing LMD team members is reinforced with monthly toolbox talks. A lot of the focus is on reporting and investigating near misses and changing work procedures in line with the findings.

Health and Wellbeing

Both Sam Dockrey (Operations Supervisor) and myself are Mental Health First Aid trained. I found the training fascinating and illuminating. It certainly doesn’t qualify you to become a counsellor or a psychologist, but it does help you with early identification of potential mental wellbeing issues such as anxiety. It provides you with the skills to empathise, allowing people to sit down and unload, and to give colleagues the help and guidance they need to find for further assistance.

The fundamental benefit of Mental Health First Aid training is that it switches support from a passive ‘after the event’ to a proactive ‘nip it in the bud’ approach. This is so much more beneficial for the individual concerned and, in turn, for the company.

I am well aware, however, that this is not a silver bullet in its own right. It is just one part of an ongoing awareness and acceptance of mental health issues across society in general.

In a more direct physical health intervention, all LMD operatives working on site undergo annual safety-critical medicals delivered through a third-party provider.Sys


LMD operates a PPE laundry system for team members. Each operative is allocated three sets of LMD-branded flame-retardant, anti-static work overalls: one being used, one in laundry and one spare.

Each week, dirty overalls are collected and cleaned by Sheffield-based Abbey Glen.

Clean PPE reinforces pride in a job well done. LMD also wants to be seen as a cut above the competition and clean PPE is just one action to help us achieve this. I have found that clients really appreciate the approach as well; it reflects well on them.

Systems and Procedures: ISO 45001

One of my key health and safety objectives for 2022 is to achieve ISO 45001 accreditation which has recently replaced BS OHSAS 18001.

LMD is already audited for several third-party safe working accreditations including Constructionline Gold, SMAS Worksafe and Achilles UVDB for which we received 100% in our last audit in November 2021.

ISO 45001 is important in that it shows our commitment to continuous improvement in health and safety matters, and in its international profile. As LMD extends its activities in international markets it is important that our health and safety systems and procedures are recognised as ‘best in class’.

FORS accreditation

LMD is already holds FORS (Fleet Operator Recognition Scheme) Bronze accreditation. In 2022, our aim is to achieve FORS Sliver accreditation and maybe even FORS Gold.

All new additions to the LMD fleet are already specified to the FORS Gold  standard. This standard covers all aspects of vehicle, operator and third-party safety including hi-vis steps, blind spot vision aids, audible warning systems, in-cab display systems, high-spec mirrors and cameras and data recording. LMD already has the largest UK fleet of vacuum excavators equipped with Direct Vision cabs (see images).

FORS Silver accreditation includes mandatory training for drivers which includes spending time on a bike to appreciate how it feels to navigate busy roads as a cyclist.

All drivers joining LMD already undergo a challenging third-party driving assessment.

Vehicle servicing and maintenance

All LMD vacuum excavators undergo regular six-weekly PMI (preventative maintenance inspections) checks. All remedial works are logged one LMD’s workshop management programme. The PMI are complemented by daily driver vehicle safety checks (see Px).

In my time with LMD, it has made a significant investment in its workshop team, the workshop itself, and the diagnostic equipment available to its fitters, This all feeds in to ensuring the safe operation of the LMD fleet.

When they return to base, all LMD vacuum excavators are washed and inspected. Clean vehicles may not, in themselves, be any safer than dirty ones but the sense of pride and ownership felt by the driver provides a psychological boost which I am sure improves their approach to safety.

EU driving hours

To protect the wellbeing of its team members on site, LMD is committed to continuing to work to EU drivers’ hours rules which are more restrictive than the domestic GB equivalent.

In broad outline, EU drivers’ hours rules stipulate that a vacuum excavator operator should work no more than nine hours a day (which can be increased to ten hours a day for two days a week); a maximum of 56 hours in any one week; have at least eleven hours of continuous rest every day; and, have a 45 minute break after a maximum of 4.5 hours driving.

I believe operating EU drivers’ hours gives our operators a better and safer quality of life, and is a bonus for clients as it provides for safer operations on their sites.

The factors I have noted above represent just some of the steps we take at LMD to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of our teams. I am continuously looking for ways in which we can further improve and look forward to reporting on these in next year’s review.