BUILDERS turning Birmingham’s NEC into a Nightingale Hospital for coronavirus patients were given an alarm system developed in Dorset to make sure they kept to social distancing rules.

SiteZone Safety donated six of its personnel distancing systems (PDS) to ensure construction workers kept two metres away from each other while the exhibition centre was transformed into an NHS site.

The systems consist of a small pack and a detection “tag” which can be worn on a hat, belt or arm. The tags vibrate and an alarm sounds if workers get closer to each other than the prescribed distance.

Gary Escott, co-founder of Ferndown-based SiteZone Safety, was approached by Interserve Construction, the principal contractor converting the NEC.

SiteZone Safety made its first prototypes in 24 hours and they were being tested on site at the NEC 96 hours later.

Two “safety ambassadors” wore the units all the time and patrolled the site to ensure workers are observing social distancing. If not, they were reminded of the guidelines, with demonstrations using the distancing systems.

The four other units were rotated between different key tradespeople on the site to reinforce the rules. The aim was to raise spatial awareness and encourage behavioural change.

SiteZone Safety made its first prototypes within 24 hours of its first discussions with Interserve.

The prototypes were demonstrated to the client within 48 hours and were being tested on site at the NEC 96 hours later.

Stuart Palmer, site manager at NHS Nightingale, said: “It was vital that we kept our construction staff protected from infection risk and encouraged them to work around each other safely. We knew about SiteZone Safety’s proximity warning expertise, and they have been able to meet the challenge for us in record time.

“There was an urgent need to get NHS Nightingale, Birmingham, completed, so high standards of health and safety practice were key drivers to the success of this project. SiteZone Safety’s PDS solution helped us achieve both.”

Gary Escott said: “We had an unusually short period of time to develop and produce a solution that we could deploy quickly. The biggest single advantage we have is that our PDS is built on proven technology, with over 125 million hours in use. The technology has been repurposed for this new application i.e. an invisible virus is now the risk, not a moving vehicle or machine.”