Back in March, the UK Construction Leadership Council wrote to Number 10 to seek support and reassurance that all construction sites across the UK could remain open as long as they were able to do so responsibly. The letter was an industry intervention designed prevent job losses, the closure of businesses and delays and cost increases on crucial programmes and projects. As we move towards a seventh week of lockdown, it is worth taking a step back to see how successful this has been.
Importantly, construction sites have been able to remain operational, but in return the construction industry has had to swiftly change and adapt sites to protect their workforces and protect the public too.
Spearheaded by the Construction Leadership Council and Build UK, the COVID-19 ‘Site Operating Procedures’ report outlines the steps construction sites must take to work in line with Government guidance on social distancing and prevent and minimise the spread of infection. The guidance is intended to introduce consistent measures across the construction industry and ensure employers and individuals make every effort to comply.
The ability to keep sites operational relies so heavily on the actions of each and every individual and how they conduct themselves at work. Here are some great examples of how the construction industry has adapted to protect their teams and keep sites operational.
Interserve has been using new technology designed to vibrate and sound an alarm if workers get to close to one another. The proximity alarm is designed to help enforce two metre social distancing guidelines. Made by SiteZone Safety, the Personal Distancing System (PDS) device can be worn on a hard hat, belt or arm. The system was first trialled during the construction of NHS Nightingale in Birmingham.
Willmott Dixon is adopting a mix of new technology and new ways of working to keep its Birmingham University School of Engineering project on schedule. A number of measures have been put in place on site to maintain social distancing including one way staircases and walkways with directional arrows to give workers more space navigating around the worksite.
Amey are undertaking work at Kettering Train Station and teams are using floor markings to ensure a two metre distance is maintained between people on site at all times.
From Amey’s twitter account | April 16 2020 | Amey
Hinkley Point C
Teams working at Hinkley Point C in Somerset have been cut by more than a half to around 2,000 to significantly reduce their workforce and make social distancing possible. A number of measures have been brought in to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 including screen in canteens and body temperature checks.
By Hinkley Point C media team | April 23, 2020 | HPC news
Redrow plans to remobilise sites in May with ‘robust social distancing protocols and physical measures in place’. Redrow will be introducing ‘COVID Supervisors’ on each site to monitor teams at work and ensure social distancing protocols are being adhered to at all times.
Underpinning all of these examples has been communication to colleagues and customers about the steps being taken. By proactively engaging with the public, businesses have largely avoided any backlash from being wrongly perceived to be ‘breaking the rules’, thus helping to keep the economy moving without risking their reputations.