Costain and Passport

A Conversation with Ian Nixon

Costain is one of the organisations delivering the largest volume of work in the National Highways supply chain, working across Complex Delivery, Consultancy and Digital solutions and has been involved in Highways Passport since the scheme’s conception. To learn more about their usage, we spoke with Ian Nixon, their Transportation SHE Director. Ian is also the current chair of the Highways Safety Hub, the supply chain community helping to deliver National Highways’ Home Safe & Well strategy.

Could you tell us about Costain’s relationship with Passport?

At Costain, we’ve supported the Highways Passport since the concept stage a number of years ago. We’ve supported the Highways Common Induction (HCI) through delivery of the former one-day induction and provided feedback to aid the move from this to the hour online induction we have today. We provided filming locations for the Highways Common Induction at our A19 Testo’s contract and have reviewed and provided feedback on content during development. We are keen to continue to help improve this as it offers so much opportunity.

With Costain operating across both Major Projects and the Operations Directorate, we’ve experienced implementing Highways Passport in varying environments. Within Major Projects, in the Regional Development Programme (RDP), we are implementing Passport on our RDP North schemes near Newcastle-upon-Tyne and at our A30 Chiverton to Carland Cross scheme in Cornwall. The A12 Chelmsford - which is yet to commence construction phase - is already in discussions to use Highways Passport as their core competency management system.

Within the Smart Motorways Programme, we have been using Highways Passport on the M1 J13-16 and across our All Lane Running, Dynamic Hard Shoulder and Stopped Vehicle Detection contracts as part of the SMP Alliance. Within the Operations Directorate, our Area 4 contract in Kent was one of the early adopter schemes that assisted with trials, and they continue to implement along with our Area 14 contract in the NorthEast.

All these contracts have ensured that all staff have their Highways Passport showing completion of the HCI; the implementation plans are now focusing on achieving the same with our supply chain to achieve full rollout. Our leadership team has committed to all National Highways Costain projects using the Passport going forward.

So how are you using Passport?

Let’s take the SMP Alliance M6 J21a-26 as an example of how we use the system on major projects, as it’s perhaps the most established. The team are swiping workers in during inductions to confirm that they have the HCI and all the core competencies they need.

We then swipe at the start of the shift to award shift briefings as a record. This approach has the added advantage of flagging any competencies that have expired or might be expiring soon. 

We do both spot checks and swipes in maintenance contracts depending on what works best in each context. If workers meet at a depot, then we swipe them in and out – in March of 2022, Area 14 did just under 300 swipes. If there isn’t a depot, then we use spot checks instead. The flexibility in approach ensures that Passport works for the varying environments that we work in.

Given your experience with Passport, what do you think about it?

Passport offers advantages in competency management. It allows you to track and get prompts for competencies that need renewing. This is great for us but an even more significant benefit for Tier 2 and 3 contractors. They might have workers with us one week and be working for another Principal Contractor the next week – all they have to do is present their card, and the worker’s entire record is readily available to the Principal Contractor.

Then there’s the common induction; this covers the core messages that highways workers need to know. This means we can tailor our contract level inductions to just what people need to know on that site. We will start shortening our inductions as soon as our supply chain is fully carded – the near future.

The competence history on the Highways Passport helps to remove the need for duplicated training, enabling our contracts to be lean by removing waste in terms of repeated toolbox talks and training as we can verify that workers have already had it. Previously, we had no way of knowing this – it’s a wasteful way of operating as an industry. Finally, having those records centrally on Passport improves their retention and availability for assurance and auditing, saving time in locating records and reducing non-conformances.

Do you have any plans for Passport in the future?

We measure and track uptake, and then we feed that back to our contract leaders on the different schemes. We let them know where their performance sits so that we can generate a bit of healthy competition between contracts – it works well. We then feed this information back in a monthly meeting, where we review the data to see who is performing well. Unsurprisingly, all contracts want their scheme at the top of the table. Some of the schemes are even doing the same with their own supply chain!

And how did you go about rolling the system out?

We set the expectation that we were implementing across all contracts – this came from the National Highways leadership team. Each contract then identified someone to train as their Passport admin, and they drove implementation within their contracts. These admins are in charge of managing cards for workers and credits for the HCI. They then track completion and chase up anyone who needs to complete it.

Sharing responsibility like this has been very effective. In fact, up to February, we set the target to get 444 workers through the HCI, we ended up with 533. This represents our entire card-requiring highways staff, with implementation plans well underway for our supply chain.