Four pupils from Queen Elizabeth School in Barnet have been shortlisted for a prestigious construction innovation award after developing a valuable safety device for podiums as part of an engineering challenge devised by national fit out and refurbishment specialist Overbury, in partnership with the Engineering Education Scheme (EES).

Overbury asked students to tackle one of the most prevalent health and safety concerns in the industry: the safe use of movable podiums when working at height. The main issue with these podiums, which are very commonly used in construction, is that they provide no mandatory wheel locking system. Operatives can be working at 12ft when standing on a podium and if unlocked, it can easily move, putting the worker at serious risk.

 With this in mind, four students, Richard Cavanagh (16), Ricky Eatough (17), Mohit Miyanger (16) and Piragash Selvakumar (17), were tasked to design and make an attachment for podiums that would remove the need for operatives to consciously lock the wheels before using the equipment. The students were given six months to complete the challenge, and in this time, they visited two of Overbury’s biggest construction sites, interviewed health and safety professionals and researched possible solutions.

After careful planning, in depth analysis and research of the issues the industry faces with podium use, the team designed and built a spring device to remove the need for operators to consciously lock podium wheels before use. This involved a kick-step inspired mechanism on the podium allowing it to stay secure regardless of weight or height. Making the device involved complex applications including the use of CNC routers and casting aluminium. Demonstrating excellence and innovation throughout the project, the students have achieved extraordinary results and the design will be used by construction operatives working at height on podium steps, both indoors and outdoors.

 Michael Noonan, the technology teacher who oversaw the boys’ participation in the scheme, comments: “The four boys really went above and beyond the requirements for this project. The methods applied involved complex applications which I would not expect 16 and 17 year old students to devise. All four boys have worked extremely hard throughout the course of the project and I am delighted that their efforts have been recognised.”

 Alex Wood, industrial mentor and health and safety advisor at Overbury, adds: “Partnering with Queen Elizabeth Boys School and helping these four students fulfil their extraordinary potential has been an incredible experience. It has provided them with a much clearer understanding of the construction industry, allowing them the opportunity to see some of the fundamental issues construction workers face on a daily basis. We look forward to seeing them continue to develop and utilise their enormous talent and we have no doubt that these students will go on to achieve big things in the industry.”

 The students’ project has been judged by the Constructing Excellence South East panel and the results will be announced at a Gala Dinner and awards ceremony at Westbourne Suite at Lancaster, London on Thursday, 29th June. In addition, the students have submitted their application to the Big Bang Science and Engineering Fair, which takes place in Birmingham from the 14th to17th March 2018.