Rt. Hon. Alok Sharma MP, the Secretary of State at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, recently wrote to the entire UK construction sector to acknowledge the critical contribution the industry is making following the outbreak of COVID-19. In his letter, Sharma salutes the “enormous efforts” being made by the sector to support the UK economy.
Not only was the letter welcome acknowledgement of the extraordinary efforts being made, it gave the construction industry the guidance and clarity it needed in these complex times. The Government has been advising that wherever possible, people should work at home. However, we know that for many people in construction their job requires them to travel to their place of work. With backing from Government, sites can stay operational and work can continue where it can be carried out in line with social distancing guidelines.
The industry has quickly risen to the unique challenge of keeping construction sites operational where it is practical and safe to do so by creating and implementing new ways of working to ensure workforces and the public are protected, and the risk of spread of infection is minimised.
But adopting new ways of working to keep sites operational is not the only way in which the construction industry is responding to the Covid-19 crisis. The sector is stepping up during these difficult and uncertain times, helping the most vulnerable in our society by supporting the national effort to rapidly build temporary hospitals and donating personal protective equipment from worksites.
Being socially responsible is not new to the construction industry, but in these exceptional circumstances, we have seen exceptional responses from across the sector. Here are just some examples:
NHS Nightingale, London
The construction industry along with 200 military personnel helped to turn the Excel centre into a hospital in just nine days. NHS nightingale has more than 80 wards containing 42 beds each. Their efforts have been described by NHS Chief Executive Simon Stevens as “nothing short of extraordinary.”
NHS Nightingale, Birmingham
Interserve Construction alongside 60 Gurkhas have turned the Birmingham NEC into a hospital in just one week. The Managing Director of Interserve Construction explained “The NHS Nightingale Birmingham shows what can be achieved when people come together across the construction sector.”
Kier and TRJ
In conjunction with Swansea Council, Kier and TRJ will be building a new structure to house a new hospital to increase hospital bed capacity in Swansea. Leader of Swansea Council, Rob Stewart explained that “staff and contractors are working around the clock to make this happen.”
Medical staff are putting their lives at risk every day and in some cases they lack personal protective equipment the London’s Charing Cross Hospital has received 1,500 masks, 300 pairs of overalls and gloves from demolition specialist Cantillon who are leading the charge to mobilise the construction industries donations of personal protective equipment.