Author Archives: Katie Mallinson

How to reinvigorate a team post-lockdown

The message from Richard Vann in the latest copy of Demolition and Recycling International is that you can reinvigorate a team post-lockdown, but it must be done with three key factors in mind – respect, care and caution.

If you’ve not had chance to read the recent edition, you can catch up here…

The potential psychological impact of COVID-19 has been widely documented. With many people struggling with the effects of social isolation, fears over job security, anxieties surrounding the potential ill health of themselves or loved ones, not to mention the significant general disruption to everyday life, mental health is in severe jeopardy.

Encouraging colleagues back to work, post-lockdown, must therefore be done with respect, care and caution.

As is often the case, attitudes, coping mechanisms and resilience levels will vary from one individual to the next. Some people are extremely keen to return to ‘normal’, others are extremely wary of the very thought, and there will be those occupying the ‘middle ground’ – they may be comfortable with the idea of coming back, providing they are confident that necessary safety precautions have been rigorously considered and implemented. And rightly so.

Likewise, there will be those keen to rebuild a sense of routine back into their working life, others who may have slightly reshaped their idea of a work-life balance, and some who have picked up very bad habits since the onset of the pandemic.

Some people will have been ‘absent’ from the demolition landscape for only a matter of days. If a project was considered business critical, for example, schedules may have encountered minor pauses at most – simply to facilitate a readjustment to on-site practices that accommodated the Government’s social distancing guidelines. At the other end of the spectrum, it’s possible that others haven’t been near a live site – or workplace of any sort – since the beginning of spring.

All of this – and more – presents business leaders with fresh challenges when it comes to the safe, compliant, ethical and effective management of their teams.

But to re-engage employees, post-lockdown, we perhaps need to stick to the basics.

Remembering our duty of care

Upholding our duty of care to colleagues – whether they’re operating on an inherently hazardous live demolition site, or in a comparatively safe office environment – is something we do as standard. So, while the risks we face now look a little different when compared to our world pre-lockdown, anticipating and taking steps to minimise these risks, is a process we should all feel familiar with.

The implementation of on-site social distancing and hygiene regimes is crucial in this respect, as colleagues won’t feel comfortable in the ‘workplace’ if their basic needs are not met. For example, only two people may be permitted to use a site cabin at any one time; PPE requirements may now stipulate that face masks are compulsory; and general personal cleanliness levels may need to be redefined.

Certain processes may require a complete overhaul, whereas others may benefit from minor adjustments. An excavator operator who works alone in their own cab, for instance, may simply need to wipe down their space at the end of the day.

Communication is key

Talking to colleagues about all of this is crucial. But again, communication is nothing new.

Some team leaders may choose to send formal written dialogue prior to colleagues’ return to work, re-induction briefings may be helpful when teams first arrive back on site, site signage will provide continued reminders as to how to stay safe, and post-lockdown protocol may even involve the completion of health questionnaires or medical reviews to assess the suitability of employees’ workplace presence.

Leaders must think carefully about which communication methods work best for their organisation – and also consider what may resonate with  certain employees and not others.

Compliance is only the baseline

As I’ve said many times, regulatory compliance should set only the minimum standard. We shouldn’t just consider Government guidelines but also what is fair.

For example, a proportion of a demolition project’s schedule can be progressed remotely, from the safety of an individual’s home. So, leaders who have previously chosen not to offer home working may now encounter push backs from employees keen to maintain some of their newfound flexibility. There are commercial, environmental and safety advantages to reduced travel of course, so this should be considered where possible.

A complete shift to remote working will naturally be impossible for most demolition firms, so employees need to be prepared to be flexible too. Sometimes a client meeting is far better delivered in person, providing it is safe to do so, and likewise cultural dynamics often benefit from a team gathering in the same place, rather than relying on the limited cues that can be conveyed via video.

Many demolition specialists undertake overseas work too, which presents additional challenges for employers. And of course, employees’ individual circumstances need to be accommodated, not to mention a country’s point-in-time COVID risk status. But, providing all scientific advice and safety protocols have been heeded, businesses must keep going if they’re to ensure their long-term survival.

Top tips for demolition leaders:

  1. Agree expectations so everyone is clear of their role – with reminders of responsibilities where necessary – to help refocus the team.
  2. Make savvy use of technology to uphold face-to-face contact from a distance, and remain accessible should colleagues have questions at any time.
  3. Keep talking. Robust lines of communication are key to engagement, but ensure COVID-19 isn’t the only subject covered. Explore professional development topics, project updates, pipelines and more.
  4. Remember everyone is different. Some people may return feeling extremely alert and at the top of their game. Others will have been extremely sedentary since March with little to stimulate their minds. They may even need an EHS refresh. Treat people as individuals and proactively monitor performance, engagement and wellbeing levels.
  5. See this as the chance to improve. Clichés aside, there are learnings to be had from COVID-19, so don’t necessarily strive to get back to the ‘normal’ you’ve always known, if there’s the opportunity to be better.

 

 

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What does the Principal Designer role mean in demolition?

The role of a Principal Designer (PD) may be familiar territory for RVA Group, as we routinely adopt PD responsibilities on behalf of our UK clients. But for organisations new to the world of demolition, PD is yet another acronym that merits further exploration.

Here, RVA’s operations director and experienced decommissioning engineer Matthew Waller, gives a top-line overview of this extremely important project role…

In the most basic of terms, the appointment of a Principal Designer is a legal and fundamental requirement for UK decommissioning and demolition projects. This duty holder role is set out under the Construction Design Management (CDM) regulations, which exist to help manage health and safety on these potentially high-hazard assignments.

However, the successful fulfilment of PD responsibilities, in truth extends far beyond this regulatory framework. In fact, in our opinion, the role of Principal Designer is   integral to good project management and an essential element of the structure of any decommissioning team.

The role of a PD is to analyse the various potential risks that exist on a given site. Such risks may relate to the demolition discipline itself, but will also extend to include the process-specific hazards relevant to the industrial background and current operational status of the plant concerned. The PD may therefore need to enhance their own process knowledge with that of personnel from the sector, whether that be from energy, pharmaceutical, petrochemical, and so on.

The Principal Designer must then understand how these multiple hazards interact with each other, to assist and provide direction that will help mitigate the danger they pose.

In short, this detailed project knowledge and understanding adds demonstrable value to a demolition project. It forms the backbone of advice to the client in terms of:

  • What hazards are known to exist and can therefore be accounted for
  • And where they are located
  • When and in what order the risks should be approached
  • Who should tackle them, once the persons carrying out the works have been fully informed of the risks and the works that have gone before
  • How the process should be executed, in terms of communications between all involved parties, the most appropriate techniques for hazard mitigation, taking into account best-practice procedures, methodologies and ever-evolving legislation
  • And why, i.e. the ultimate rationale once everything has been assessed.

The above naturally relies on robust communication with all parties involved throughout, including the Client, Principal Contractor, CDM Contractors, Designers, etc as well as any other personnel brought in to work on the assignment. But it is this same clear and informed dialogue which will best protect health and safety during the entire project lifecycle. The PD should strive to create a successful safety-first mindset, with the management of EHS considered a joint responsibility shared by all involved.

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How has COVID-19 affected demolition projects?

In case you missed the recent edition of Demolition and Recycling International, Richard Vann explored the rapidly changing demolition industry during the global Coronavirus pandemic.

Read the full article here…

Every time I pen some thoughts for a column, there’s always the chance, of course, that the external landscape may have changed by the time my views appear in print. Over the last few years, I’ve frequently been asked to speak about Brexit, for example, and consequently tried to cover multiple scenarios to ensure the commentary remains relevant.

Fast forward to the situation we currently find ourselves in – the global battle against Coronavirus – and the landscape has never been so fluid.

Everyone is perhaps tired of hearing the fact that we’re experiencing ‘unprecedented times’, but of course that admittedly overused phrase is incredibly true. That said, when planning for the future, savvy organisations try to anticipate various eventualities – from best to worst case. So, while we’re perhaps facing extremities of planning that some demolition firms will unsurprisingly not have encountered before, we must stick to the same underlying principles we’re used to.

I’ve always said that no two projects are ever the same in the world of demolition, and COVID-19 has not changed that. In addition to all existing EHS protocols, adherence to safe distancing regulations must be the non-negotiable baseline, of course, and continued monitoring of evolving guidance is paramount. But there are then multiple other project-specific factors to accommodate too – they have not been eradicated because of the virus.

Speaking from personal experience over the past few weeks, we’ve seen some projects adapt rapidly to a ‘new normal’ and approximately 70% of our sites have remained open as a result. Elsewhere, other works have stopped entirely, for the foreseeable future. There hasn’t been a singular method of coping with the pressures being faced.

We’re currently supporting a UK pharmaceutical client with a project in a live and operational environment, for instance, and the schedule here remains almost uninterrupted. In the first few weeks of lockdown, we continued to develop our decommissioning specifications and plans remotely, rather than on site. And, when it was absolutely necessary to physically inspect the plant, for example, the client arranged a system to visit the workface on our behalf and feed back information.

This client is considered an essential business so has kept a core production team on site, meaning visits to site could be organised relatively swiftly. We’ve maintained regular contact via video calls throughout, when not in the same physical location, so that we can continue to consult with one another, and this media-rich form of communication has worked well. We hope to have a full team back on site in the next week or two, with social distancing measures naturally in place.

Other sites closed for approximately a couple of weeks when Boris Johnson first announced the lockdown. In these instances – typically projects at the physical decontamination, dismantling or demolition phase – such ‘pauses’ provided an important opportunity to take stock and devise plans with contractors and clients. These included introducing upgraded security measures and temporary make-safe operations. With the duration of the suspension period being unknown, a range of flexible care and maintenance regimes also had to be considered.

Again, every scenario has been different. However, generally speaking, the priority has been to reduce the number of people on site to the absolute minimum, while being careful to prevent any skills gaps arising. On this note, it is important to stress that the usual project safety considerations must remain paramount – COVID-19 or no COVID-19. A proficiently skilled team is always required to carry out the work, so now is not the time to cut corners. If the work can’t be carried out safely with a condensed team, it cannot go ahead.

There are projects elsewhere that stopped completely, either for reasons such as this or because the client was more comfortable allowing schedules to be reframed. The current commodity value of scrap metal has come into play too, as well as logistical difficulties associated with moving materials.

We are now seeing positive movement on the majority of these sites though. The biggest changes have centred upon access and accommodation arrangements for staff, so that we have utmost confidence that people can shower, eat and use WCs without compromising social distancing guidance.

Given our international presence, we have had to remain abreast with slightly differing regulations from one country to the next. But this is the way we always work – whether we’re in the thick of a health crisis or not. We must be respectful of every client situation, cultural variations and so on. But whatever the local rules and customs may be, we will never put people at risk.

 

 

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5 things you need to know about the Demolition Code of Practice

Demolition is a scientific and highly regulated engineering discipline, underpinned in this country by the British Standard Code of Practice for Demolition (BS 6187). Here, RVA Group’s managing director Richard Vann explores five things you need to know about the industry cornerstone he was involved in developing…

  1. If you’re a demolition or dismantling professional, you need to be aware of EVERYTHING contained in this 168-page document, from front to back. If you’re a client organisation procuring the services of a demolition contractor or consultant, you require utmost confidence that the appointed project team has a comprehensive understanding of this code.
  2. BS 6817: 2011 outlines good practice when it comes to the partial or full decommissioning, dismantling and/or demolition of facilities, buildings and structures. Superseding the 2000 version of the standard, it offers recommendations that help to govern the successful and effective management of works. From establishing project responsibilities, to safe exclusion zones, the code delivers a detailed run down of the engineering discipline’s must-know guidelines.
  3. The code should be considered as setting merely the baseline standard for a demolition project, and in truth it provides only one planning element. The finer details come in the industry’s more specific regulations, such as the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012, Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015, Health & Safety at Work Act 1974, and so on.
  4. The Code is unsurprisingly detailed, but the updated 2011 document also reflects the evolving nature of the industry, and therefore the benefits that technological advancements and ongoing knowledge transfer can bring. It is consequently less prescriptive in content, to allow for innovation to be deployed by professionals with the relevant experience.
  5. The application of BS 6187 alone will not keep people safe on site. Think of it like The Highway Code – this rulebook tells you the do’s and don’ts of the road, and we all learn the content to pass our theory test, but it can’t teach you how to drive. The principles of the Demolition Code of Practice are therefore extremely important, but they need to be coupled with real world experience, if projects are to be delivered in a robust manner with maximum respect for EHS compliance and commercial integrity.

To discuss the content of this blog, or the safe, environmentally sound and commercially robust execution of your demolition project, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

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Decommissioning in the Middle East – market challenges and opportunities

Our Managing Director, Richard Vann recently spoke with the editor of
Tanks and Terminals to explore the challenges and opportunities associated with decommissioning in the Middle East .

If you missed the article, you can view it in full here:

As the oil and gas market advances in parts of the world such as the Middle East, all eyes are on what the future could hold for this developing sector. But to move forward safely, economically and with maximum respect for the environment, operators must also think carefully about how to proficiently manage their older assets.

Drawing on more than 30 years’ industrial experience, Richard Vann – managing director of RVA Group and past president of the Institute of Demolition Engineers – explores the challenges and opportunities associated with the clearance of tanks and terminals, and advises how to proficiently move forward with any decommissioning projects that arise…

On a global scale, oil and gas production has a rich and diverse history, and even on more local levels, the sector has evolved differently, from one country to the next.

The story in the Middle East, for instance, dates back to the turn of the 20th century, with oil reportedly first discovered in Iran in the early 1900s. Resource supply from countries such as Saudi Arabia began much later, with commercial quantities not unearthed until the late 1930s. But many would argue that the market became most interesting for this part of the world in the 1960s and 1970s, when the peaking of production in industrialised – and largely Western – countries, presented opportunities for Middle Eastern operators, particularly during the worldwide crises of 1973 and 1976.

There was a major investment in oil and gas during this era. But fast forward to 2020, and the consequence is that an unprecedented number of assets are now rapidly nearing the end of their natural design life, efficiency and environmental compliance. So, the question is how to clear tanks, terminals and other site infrastructures safely, cost-effectively and with minimal environmental impact.

The Middle East is not unique in demonstrating this trend of course, but many countries here now find themselves faced with a fairly notable challenge. Before the aforementioned upsurge in oil and gas activity, the landscape was largely undeveloped. There were no other heavy industries present, which means no industrial demolition history and consequently an absence of a supply chain proficient in this niche engineering discipline. This is therefore the start of a new decommissioning cycle, which has kickstarted a global hunt for expertise.

A global supply chain?

In many respects, despite the maturity of the demolition industry in countries such as the UK and USA – and consequently the level of specialist expertise which ought to be available – this worldwide search for a suitably skilled supply chain will not always be straightforward.

There are several capable contractors in the market. However, I have previously spoken at many international events about their unfortunate yet apparent reluctance to take on jobs outside their own borders, despite the opportunities this could present for the growth of their businesses. Assignments closer to home feel far more comfortable, for many.

This therefore narrows down the number of potential demolition teams able – or willing – to tender for work in Middle Eastern countries, among others.

Consultancy support and advice is undoubtedly even harder for asset owners to procure, as independent, strategic partners are rare. This has little to do with geography and is more a reflection of the makeup of the industry. Compare decommissioning to the world of building and construction, for example, where clients have a wealth of guidance at their fingertips, plus a variety of industry specialists to choose from when assembling their project team, and it is and always has been starkly different.

 

That is not to say, however, that it is impossible to form a proficient supply chain for Middle Eastern decommissioning projects.

Tank demolition

RVA Group has recently been appointed to help a Middle Eastern oil and gas company demolish a large floating roof storage tank.

The 106m diameter, 22m tall carbon steel fabrication – with a shell up to 50mm in thickness – has long been used to contain crude oil. But the tank was recently subject to an operational failure which resulted in a major fire, leaving it both structurally distressed and contaminated with residual hydrocarbons and other products of combustion.

This inherently high-hazard environment has therefore emphasised the need to plan for the adoption of cold-cutting demolition techniques only, to help ensure the strict control of sparks and any other possible sources of ignition generation. The continued monitoring of this potentially explosive atmosphere is also, perhaps unsurprisingly, paramount.

The project is of added complexity as all works are being carried out within a live crude oil stabilisation plant and long-distance pipeline pump station, with an operational ‘sister’ tank also lying adjacent.

Identified as a result of informal word of mouth recommendation, validated by initial remote research, RVA was then engaged by the client following several months of more detailed dialogue. The team’s first task was the development of a pre-tender safety plan to act as the backbone of all ensuing works. RVA has subsequently  been retained to provide specialist project management and HSE advice for the remainder of the project, and will assist the local contractor – an oil and gas engineering services supplier who has procured resources and equipment from the established global decommissioning sector – in the works execution. RVA has also supported the contractor in sourcing specialist UK personnel and equipment, for shipment to the Middle East.

At the time of writing, the team is three months into a six-month schedule.

Mounting demand from the Middle East

Having completed almost 800 decommissioning projects globally, RVA is no stranger to working on complex international assignments on virtually every continent worldwide. But enquiries from the Middle East are certainly at an all-time-high.

The team has recently worked with another organisation, for instance, to write a detailed specification of works to facilitate the tendering for the decommissioning and eventual demolition of a 1960s-built oil refinery in the region. Having supported the client with the devising of various corporate environmental, health and safety procedures, plus the procurement and management of a hazardous insulation materials survey specialist, before the next-step decommissioning activity can begin.

A stretched supply chain?

Sometimes, when a project team is formed of personnel from varying locations, a level of anxiety – or at least a degree of caution – exists surrounding the management of cultural differences. To a certain extent, this air of apprehension is understandable, as additional project considerations may of course present themselves. However, the thing for all parties to remember – because sometimes the appointed engineering teams also share such concerns – is that no two decommissioning assignments are ever the same, irrespective of their geography. To attempt to approach any works with uniform methodologies in mind, or rigid attitudes towards others for example, would not only be extremely foolish, but incredibly risky too – as far as decommissioning goes, there is no ‘one size fits all’.

Responsible partners in the supply chain on the other hand – RVA included – acknowledge the need to carefully and flexibly consider all project parameters on their own merit, so that a best-fit team, approach and schedule can be formulated on a case-by-case basis. As a result, such organisations and specialists are unlikely to be fazed by a demolition brief in the Middle East. Admittedly, it has the potential to create some additional criteria for consideration, but often a complex assignment in the consultant or contractor’s own country of origin generates unique challenges too.

Factors to consider

When assembling a multi-cultural project team, there are language barriers to navigate, as well as variances in everything from cultural beliefs to working hours and days. The time difference must be accommodated when planning dialogue between RVA’s personnel in the Middle East and resource at the UK HQ, for example, and with the weekend starting on Thursday evening and Sunday being a normal working day in this part of the world, further thought is required to ensure this does not ever cause any on-site disruption or delay. There is a need to adapt to and embrace local customs.

Some decommissioning teams less familiar with working abroad may even need to think carefully about the climate, as both hot and cold extremes can also influence on-site behaviour. The procuring client should ensure discussions take place around all of these factors, for utmost peace of mind that they will not cause any unexpected problems.

Legislation also varies significantly from country to country, which can set the tone regarding project expectations, unless carefully managed from the outset. A scrupulous decommissioning specialist will never knowingly put the wellbeing of an individual at risk, nor will they wish to jeopardise the commercial or environmental integrity of the project by taking an action which – in their eyes – could be seen to be cutting corners.

However, there should be one common law irrespective of culture, geography or the scope of works – respect. Respect for the client, colleagues, the environment, wider stakeholders and of course the engineering discipline itself, will help set the project barometer.

Establishing this respect naturally takes effort, but this is usually easier to attain with strong levels of communication, consultation and clarity. The corporate minimum standards for the project – however large or small – should be outlined and agreed from day one. Globally-respected European standards are often the starting point, but where higher levels of quality are known, they should always be the benchmark.

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Do modern economics mean the sale of redundant plant is impossible?

In the latest of his regular columns for Demolition and Recycling International, RVA’s Managing Director Richard Vann gave his thoughts on whether modern economics make selling redundant plants impossible.

If you haven’t read the full article, you can catch up here….

Impossible is a strong word. By definition, it means something that is completely out of the question – it cannot be done.

But of course, this statement is not true when it comes to the sale of redundant plant. There are occasions when assets that have reached the end of their useful life for one operator, can still contain inherent value in the eyes of another. A sale therefore can go ahead.

Consideration of this route is understandable. The goal – for any soon-to-be-decommissioned facility – should always be to maximise the return on assets where possible and safe to do so. However, factors such as plant age, former processes, recovery cost, testing, market forces and commercial competition, will all form part of the decision as to what should happen next.

As my dismantling for re-erection column stressed in the last issue of D&RI, the sale of redundant plant should be realistically viewed and often not prioritised as the ‘plan A’ for an unwanted facility, as the challenges likely to obstruct a sale are significant in both scale and quantity.

Supply and demand

Firstly, there are the basic economics of supply and demand at play.

In developed parts of the world – across virtually every heavy industry – operators are seeking ever more efficient processing technologies. Sometimes this is to stay on the right side of the law, if the ageing plant risks breaching necessary legislative or EHS standards. But there are capacity, ecological, financial and innovation advantages associated with investing in smarter and more modern equipment too, which, collectively, can prove the catalyst for operators looking to proceed with an ‘out with the old’ strategy.

This widespread availability of redundant assets means that from a resale perspective, the market is becoming saturated with standard and off-the-shelf kit, and such plants – or component parts of them – are consequently becoming harder to sell.

Copycat technologies

Processing markets are becoming further saturated because – as markets are maturing and operators’ expectations are becoming increasingly sophisticated – all eyes are on the latest plant and equipment. But many countries are so proficient at designing and manufacturing ‘copycat’ technologies – often for very affordable investment levels – that any ageing assets would need to be extremely advanced to justify purchasing something ‘second hand’ as opposed to brand new.

Could you sell a ten-year-old laptop on eBay, for example, when so many better, more current models exist – often without breaking the bank? It would probably be a struggle – especially if the laptop is shipped in hundreds and thousands of component parts that require re-assembly before it can be used.

Finding a ‘buyer’

The sale of a redundant asset is – perhaps unsurprisingly – far easier if the facility is to be transferred to an operator within the same group as the seller.

When RVA was engaged to oversee the decontamination, demolition and dismantling of a manufacturing facility on an 11-hectare site on Jurong Island, Singapore, for example, selected plant items were carefully recovered so that they could be transferred to the owner’s sister plants worldwide.

This project was bound by tight timescales, given a commercial driver for the client to exit the site within defined lease and permit parameters. The work was therefore planned sequentially with designated demolition areas handed over in a carefully phased manner. Potential sources of ignition were subject to strict controls, due to the nature of the chemicals housed nearby and the presence of some units which had to remain operational during the initial stages of the programme.

Had this shipment of assets been dependent on the involvement of a third-party buyer, the project specifics may have been quite different, due to the complexities involved. In-house transfers are often easier than external ones, as the ‘owner’ has control at both ends.

Sometimes, sadly, deals also fall through. And the longer a plant lays idle – whether comprehensively mothballed or not – the greater the chance, on the whole, that an eventual sale will prove difficult. The condition of the asset is likely to deteriorate, and with the passage of time there is usually an increased risk that EHS and legislative compliance will no longer be guaranteed. In addition the cost of keeping an asset in saleable condition increases exponentially with time and can erode any potential commercial gain.

What is financially viable?

Acknowledging that the operator will undoubtedly wish to proceed with the most financially advantageous – and hopefully safe – route map for their decommissioning project, a feasibility and options study will prove an extremely valuable modelling exercise before any works begin.

It is crucial to explore all possible project scenarios because, sometimes, the route eventually selected may not have initially been considered or deemed possible, due to false perceptions of the associated financial burden.

The complete clearance of a plant is often the most straightforward and cost-advantageous exercise overall, for example. This is because, from a technical perspective, a full clearance usually only requires a global or battery limits isolation strategy. In simple terms, the plant is usually rendered ‘cold and dark’ so that, once residual hazards have been removed, all structures can then be demolished for scrap and the site taken back to flat slab. This then paves the way for the construction of a new facility, or the sale of the site ‘as is’. In many instances the net cost/gain of such a project could be far more attractive than that to facilitate the sale of a redundant plant.

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