The early stages of lockdown presented a clear challenge to contractors, who were told to keep sites open yet received minimal guidance on how to do so from the Government. It is a credit to the industry that construction firms were able to quickly implement measures to ensure work could continue safely. 

We organised a focus group of contractors and consultants to learn about the processes and protocols that enabled sites to remain operational during lockdown and adhere to social distancing rules.

The session was chaired by Phil Ankers of Pulse Consult, a member of The Building Society, and explored:

  •   The degree to which sites have been able to keep operational during the pandemic

  •   What measures have been put in place to uphold social distancing and the safety of those on site

  •   The challenges that will hinder the productivity of the industry whilst the virus is still prevalent

It was hugely positive to hear about the flexibility, creativity and resilience of those involved in putting those measures into place. The discussion touched on the practical interventions that could be taken, such as introducing more toilet blocks and one-way systems, to issues surrounding supply chains, transport, extended working hours and communications. Some of the key initiatives that were shared, include:

1. Sanitise on arrival
Setting up hand-washing and sanitiser stations at the entry point and elsewhere on site.

2. Split your shifts
Introducing shift sequencing, with the workforce organised into ‘working bubbles’ to minimise the risk of infection and facilitate track and trace

3. Stay in nearby hotels
Housing those who live further afield in hotels to avoid them having to take public transport or share longer journeys by car.  

4. Walk or cycle to site
Encouraging those living close enough to walk and cycle to work.
 
5. Localism as a KPI
Sourcing local subcontractors and materials to mitigate issues with transport and supply chains.
 
6. Accountability for 2m rules
Ensuring clear lines of responsibility and guidance for all those working on site.

7. Fortnightly risk assessments
Updating risk assessments for every person on site, with site risk assessments reviewed every two weeks.
 
8. Source local materials
With international and national supply chains affected, sourcing materials locally to keep construction moving forwards.

9. Use tech for site visits
Using Go Pros and Instagram Live to conduct site visits, reducing the need for people to be physically on site.

10.  Liaise with Unions
Communicating with unions to ensure there is an understanding of the protections in place for workers.

Our thanks to all those who participated, including: Elliott Wood, Pulse Consult, Volker Fitzpatrick, Wilmott Dixon Toureen, B&K, West Green and HG Construction. 

Through sharing our experiences and ideas, we’ve witnessed the industry come together to do better things as a result of the pandemic, helping to keep the economy going and move the agenda forwards in relation to climate change. Our aim at The Building Society is to facilitate these discussions, so that together, we can start to improve our practices in the built environment, and engineer a healthier, better society. 

Get in touch to find out more about our collaborative co-working community and to join the discussion [email protected]. This article is a general summary only. It should not replace advice tailored to your specific site or circumstances.