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Power Through The Cold Snap

Contingency planning for adverse weather conditions with robust generators

Recent Arctic weather conditions experienced in the UK have seen temperatures drop as low as a debilitating –20°C in Scotland, and these inclement conditions can cause havoc when it comes to keeping projects on target and sustaining health and safety.

Contingency planning becomes integral in such adverse weather conditions, allowing many sites to operate through the severe weather at half the operational capacity, ensuring projects are kept alive, site safety is maintained and budgets adhered to.

One area that features heavily in contingency planning is the issue of power. Today, the majority of quarries are connected to the national grid, however, due to the geography of many sites, power cuts are a frequent occurance. It is critical, therefore, that a constant and stable backup power supply to the site can be relied upon to implement contingency plans, avoid disruption to services, ensure safety and prevent expensive project delays.

Commenting on the market growth in demand for reliable and robust generators as part of wider contingency planning efforts, Mark Hodgkins, chief executive of ArcGen Hilta, one of the UK’s leading suppliers of on-site power equipment, said: ‘A generator is there to provide a backup power supply when the mains supply has failed, and having a reliable and stable piece of equipment is fundamental to the success of a project for three main reasons.

‘First, it helps the project stay on track and on time when it would otherwise grind to a halt.

Secondly, in the current climate it helps to protect the bottom line – unreliable equipment leads to site delays, and these, in turn, mean that time and money can be lost trying to get the site and project back up and running.

‘And last, but most importantly, it ensures site safety for all staff. With the recent occurrences in Chile and New Zealand rocking the mining and quarrying industries, staff safety has become more of a priority than ever. If the weather has made working conditions even more dangerous than usual, staff should not have to be concerned with their machinery failing and putting them at further risk should power be compromised.’

The issue of site safety is very much at the forefront of the industry. A contingency plan that details a backup power supply ensures that crucial tools and lighting can continue to operate when other sources go down, keeping staff safe. Additional safety features on generators, such as an emergency stop button and auto engine shutdown, also ensure the well-being of site workers.

Features such as connection to external fuel tanks allow extended running times to significantly minimize refuelling periods, allowing workers to spend less time worrying about their power source, and more time getting the job done quickly and safely.

In order to ensure optimum performance and extend the life of the product, regular service and maintenance of all machinery is key to ensuring consistent and reliable operation. Good service contracts are essential if site managers are going to be able to rely on machinery, as speed and ease of service are integral to keeping the projects moving.

Commenting on this issue, Gregg Taylor, ArcGen Hilta’s business development manager, said: ‘Generators need to be properly maintained to make sure they are able to withstand the testing conditions that they are faced with.

‘Businesses with critical processes or essential facilities should ensure that they have entered into a year-round, 24h a day, seven days a week maintenance agreement with their plant-hire company to guarantee exceptional service and aftercare.

‘If something does go wrong, site managers can’t afford to spend days trying to get the generator repaired. Our customers know that when they call us we have extensive knowledge of the equipment and can diagnose the problem efficiently. We can sort out 99% of issues within 24h and that is very important to them. This is the level of aftercare service and maintenance that all site managers should be aiming for to keep their projects moving.’

Leasing and service contracts allow flexibility and offer customers a chance to select the type and level of support that is right for them and their business needs. No matter how reliable generators are, it is essential that they are serviced and maintained correctly so that, when they are faced with the elements, they can perform to their full potential and support contingency plans.

The 2011 VAT increase heralds a year of tighter budgets for the quarrying and construction industries, meaning the old adage of ‘time is money’ never rang more true. Inclement weather conditions cannot run the risk of bringing a project to a complete standstill, so there must be a reliable and surefire way of keeping ventures powered-up safely to ensure constant operation and progression in the face of financial constraints.

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