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Our Approach to Groundworks for the Ministry of Justice

Working as a groundworks subcontractor in a prison environment presents unique challenges that require careful planning and adaptation. From navigating stringent security clearance processes to managing site logistics and reduced working hours, every aspect of the project requires meticulous attention. In this article, we explore how we successfully accommodated the Ministry of Justice's (MoJ) security procedures, invested in and adapted our business to overcome sector-specific hurdles, and the value of collaboration and partnership with the client and end-user, specifically within a live prison environment.

Security Clearance Process and Logistics


One of the primary considerations when taking on projects within the MoJ sector is the comprehensive security clearance process. To ensure compliance, all of our workers had to undergo stringent background checks, similar to those required for MoJ employees such as Prison Guards and Officers. It is crucial for any contractor working in a prison to have EL1 security clearance to safeguard the security, confidentiality, and well-being of the facility, inmates, and personnel involved. It provides assurance that the contractor has met rigorous standards and can be entrusted with sensitive information, maintaining the integrity and safety of the prison environment. This process can be intrusive and time-consuming, often taking six months or longer to reach EL1 status.


We established a dedicated internal Compliance and People Manager who worked closely with the groundworks team. This manager coordinated the EL1 security clearance process, providing support to individuals who were less confident computer users, and ensuring the smooth progression of the clearance procedure. As a result of these efforts, over half of our workforce (25 workers) now possess full EL1 clearance, granting them access to any prison in England.


For us, it was also important that our plant and material suppliers were vetted well in advance of their product’s arrival on site. Understanding the significance of planning and coordination, we engaged in numerous planning meetings with the client and directly liaised with the prison authorities before commencing the works. This ensured that all labour, plant, and material resources were planned at least a week in advance to allow for the necessary security clearance process.

Reduced Working Hours and Adapted Operations


Due to the unique nature of prison environments, working hours are significantly reduced. Having to program our works to accommodate for the maximum of seven hours per day posed additional challenges in terms of project scheduling. Operations, especially concrete placement, had to be uniquely sequenced to account for finishing, curing, and other necessary processes. To adapt to these restrictions, we embraced a flexible approach and maintained our close partnership with the client throughout. By jointly approaching the challenges, we were able to find solutions that allowed us to work within the limited time frame effectively.


The 48-hour notice requirement for any driver or visitor to the building site also posed a significant challenge. Building merchants could not guarantee the same driver or vehicle each day, potentially causing delays and complications. To address this, we made the strategic decision to bring the haulage process in-house, investing in new plant specifically for sensitive sites of this nature. This also created a new job position within the company, streamlining the process and ensuring that the same driver and vehicle could access the prison with materials consistently.

Lessons Learned and Strong Partnerships


Working in a live prison environment has taught us invaluable lessons about adaptability and problem-solving. Our company's agility and our loyal workforce, who possess a can-do attitude, played a crucial role in overcoming challenges effortlessly. By cultivating a strong partnership with the client and actively involving them in the planning process, we fostered an environment of collaboration, allowing us to navigate the unique obstacles presented by working in a prison environment successfully.


As a groundworks subcontractor in prison environments, we have recognised the importance of understanding and complying with the MoJ's security procedures. By adapting our operations to accommodate the stringent security clearance processes, streamlining logistics, and working closely with our clients, we have successfully overcome the challenges associated with working in live prison environments. These experiences have not only enhanced our company's capabilities but have also strengthened our commitment to delivering high-quality services in complex and demanding settings.

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