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The Return of Construction Sites — But Not as We Knew Them
The construction industry, like the majority of workplaces in the UK, has been significantly affected by COVID-19 with widespread site closures and ONS estimating that as many as 32% of the UK’s 2.4 million construction workers are potentially on furlough. However, not all construction was halted, highlighting the importance of the industry. Major government projects needed to be delivered in a short space of time such as three temporary hospitals set up to cope with the coronavirus outbreak.
On 10th May the UK government announced that construction workers are “actively encouraged” to return to site as part of plans to restart the economy while containing the spread of COVID-19.
Road to Recovery
As expected, since the government announcement, there has been an increase in productivity across the construction industry. One of the UK’s largest contractors, Willmott Dixon, has now opened 95% of its sites and, as a whole, 86% of major sites have restarted. Contractors can now keep sites open until 9pm, with the aim of making up for lost productivity. On-site productivity took a hit during lockdown phases, and even when business began to return, new rules meant fewer workers on-site due to new social distancing measures. There are even discussions taking place for certain sites to have 24-hour operations.
Including emergency hospital projects, the government is still investing heavily into healthcare, education and utilities, and there is a healthy pipeline for warehousing, logistical and distribution projects going forward. Despite this, a rebuilding phase will still be needed to return to the output which would’ve been expected pre-coronavirus outbreak. Implementing and abiding by safe social distancing measures will inevitably leave companies operating at lower output levels.
The construction industry as we knew it is changing, at least in the short term. Health and safety of workers is at the forefront of the changes. Site managers have been provided a site checklist for COVID-19 compliance and the Construction Leadership Council has produced a detailed guide on site operating procedures available here. The primary change is the introduction of the aforementioned social distancing policy on sites. Willmott Dixon recently shared pictures of how it is implementing new compliance with social distancing on site and this is set to be a familiar picture across the construction industry.
Productivity in the construction industry is showing promise that it will be restored close to full capacity sooner rather than later. Construction companies have to decide how best to ensure safe working conditions for employee’s across sites and consider the role technology has in this along with the creation of robust records and data for future auditability.
Interserve has been trialling technology to help ensure social distancing during its work on the NHS Nightingale hospital build in Birmingham. Workplace-safety specialist Sitezone supplied a personal alarm system which can detect if workers are closer than two metres apart.
In a previous blog we wrote about Viewpoint customer Red Systems’ own use of technology to promote worker safety. Shortly after lockdown was announced, the company made the decision to withdraw workers from site, and did not return until adequate personal protective equipment was available. The company then began to utilise Viewpoint’s Field View solution to create special health and safety forms whereby on arrival at site, workers’ temperatures are taken, they self-certify for symptoms and they are provided with PPE. All information is recorded on the form created in Field View and is then automatically emailed to key project stakeholders such as the client and main contractor.
As shown by Red Systems and many others, Viewpoint customers can utilise Field View for health and safety forms to comply with new working conditions outlined by the UK government and help ensure the safety of all employees. You can request a demo to learn more about Field View forms or if you are a current customer in need of training on this feature, contact our professional services team at [email protected].