Project & Construction Site

Photos by Toni Pallari

Responsibly at the construction site

In addition to nuclear safety, occupational health and safety is one of the most important issues at the Hanhikivi 1 construction site. Construction site employee representatives Jouni Karekivi and Mikko Lehtelä also consider themselves attitude educators.

When you talk about occupational health and safety or responsibility with Mikko Lehtelä, joint employee representative at the Hanhikivi 1 construction site, and Jouni Karekivi, general employee representative, you will often hear them repeat the word “attitude”.

“An example of the correct attitude is someone encouraging their colleague to buckle up,” says Lehtelä.

Construction site inspections and surprise breathalyzer tests are also indications of the correct attitude. Zero tolerance applies to everybody from directors to contractors and regular employees.

At the Hanhikivi 1 construction site, the correct attitude means first and foremost taking care of your colleagues and having the courage to address any deficiencies. Lehtelä and Karekivi talk about an atmosphere of caring, which Fennovoima wishes to spread to the entire construction site.

Construction and fine-tuning

Lehtelä and Karekivi started in their unique positions at the Hanhikivi 1 construction site a little over three years ago. In accordance with their titles, they represent all the employees at the construction site, impartially looking after the interests of all trade unions and ensuring compliance with the site agreement, which includes the rules for the construction site. Lehtelä focuses on occupational health and safety and Karekivi on collective agreements, but they also have shared duties.

“We ensure compliance with Finnish laws, statutes, and agreements in all the work done at the construction site,” Karekivi explains.

When Lehtelä and Karekivi started their work at the beginning of 2016, some 100 companies operated in the plant area and approximately 160 people worked daily at the Hanhikivi peninsula. Now, more than 560 companies have registered for the construction site and 240 people work there. Even during the slowest months of the year in the wintertime, it is the daily workplace of 150–200 people. So far, access permits that are required to enter the site have been granted to some 2,700 people.

“Now is a good time to build cooperation networks and fine-tune the processes,” the employee representatives say.

A total of approximately 30,000 employees of the client, contractors, and subcontractors are expected to go through the access permit process – i.e. obtain an occupational health and safety card, as well as pass a security clearance and a drug test – during the construction period. Furthermore, the people working at the construction site must participate in Fennovoima’s site access training and the contractors’ own introduction training courses. During the busiest construction phase, up to 4,000 professionals representing a variety of nationalities will be simultaneously working at the construction site.

“We ensure compliance with Finnish laws, statutes, and agreements in all the work done at the construction site.”

Functional systems will be required already before the busiest years, as despite seeming fairly quiet, the construction site is already in full force: the site is being prepared for the construction of the nuclear power plant. At present, hydraulic construction, dredging, and the construction of auxiliary buildings, as well as other projects, are ongoing at the construction site. The plant supplier’s site office should be completed and the construction of Fennovoima’s administration building should start by the end of this year.

In his daily work Jouni Karekivi, general employee representative at the Hanhikivi 1 construction site works closely with Kati Oravisjärvi, head of Environmental Safety Division for Titan-2 and Sami Antinoja, security manager for RAOS Project.

Strict screening is part of responsibility

To an outsider, it sounds like you must be a wizard who walks on hot coals to be able to become a contractor at the Hanhikivi peninsula or obtain an access permit for the construction site.

“The screening is strict, but you should not be intimidated by it,” Karekivi says.

It is all about responsibility, as is the construction site register for contractors, which is part of the site agreement. Proactive work with the Tax Administration and other authorities ensures fairness.

Lehtelä and Karekivi build cooperation and trust between the different parties active at the construction site – the employer, the employees working at the construction site, the contractors, and the authorities. The Hanhikivi 1 site agreement, starting with a joint employee representative for the entire construction site, is a unique arrangement not only in Finland but also internationally. People did not know what to think about the employee representatives at first, as they were unsure who they were actually representing.

“We represent the employees,” Karekivi says.

Meetings, discussions, and the employee representatives’ work to make themselves better known have created an atmosphere of trust and openness where it is easy to work. Lehtelä and Karekivi feel that the employer also trusts them.

“We are on the same team with Fennovoima.”

Cultural differences must be evened out

Cultural differences must also be addressed at an international construction site. As examples, Lehtelä mentions potential differences in the attitude towards occupational health and safety and different personal protective equipment practices. Even the requirement of working clothes that comply with safety standards has been a surprise to some people. You cannot walk around at the Hanhikivi 1 construction site in any safety boots whatsoever, which means that plenty of advice is needed.

There were no accidents in 2017, but the slippery weather caused a setback already in January last year. However, at the end of February 2019, the construction site had been operating without accidents for some 400 days.

“We want the employees to enter the construction site healthy and leave the site in equally good health,” Lehtelä says.

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