Life after Lockdown: How it’s changed our construction sites

17th July 2020

In the latest of our ‘Life after Lockdown’ series, Mulbury’s health and safety manager, Rachael Williams reflects on the changes of the last six months and what it means for the future.

As health and safety manager at Mulbury, it’s my job to minimise risk. Thorough planning is in the role’s DNA, so when a new infectious disease began circulating the globe we sprang into action.

Rather than stepping into the unknown, we made the decision early on to temporarily close all our construction sites. We allowed office-based staff to work remotely from home and pulled frontline construction workers off site.

The first few weeks of lockdown gave us time to digest what was going on and come up with a plan. While taking guidance from the Construction Leadership Council’s site operating procedures, we also pressed on with creating our own stringent health and safety processes to go a step further.

A grade A action plan

With government encouraging construction to continue we set a target of returning to site at the beginning of May. There was a lot of work to do behind the scenes to get our sites – and staff – ready for the transition.

We had many meetings to review the latest industry guidance and countless adaptations of procedures as we assessed sites on an individual basis. But we’ve had brilliant feedback from our team and the firm has even been commended by clients on the level of detail in its processes.

Extra measures include allowing only one tradesperson to work on each plot where possible – whether it be an apartment or house – at any one time. We’ve also enhanced our cleaning processes including multiple hand sanitising stations throughout all sites, with some also receiving additional freestanding handwashing facilities with running water.

Back before lockdown was announced, we’d attempted to procure enough PPE but found all suppliers had stopped delivery and were – understandably – diverting all supplies to the medical sector. While it was extremely difficult to get hold of what we needed in March, April’s lockdown also gave us the opportunity to band together and secure the PPE stock we needed.

All workers are now required to wear PPE and although social distancing has been nationally reduced to one metre, we still keep a two-metre distance from each other on site wherever possible.

Taking our learnings into a post-COVID world

Our stringent health and safety regime has also seen the introduction of a new WhatsApp ‘clocking in’ system to minimise transmission on high-contact surfaces. We’re even looking into a cloud-based system which would see construction staff report for duty via a mobile phone app.

We took a phased approach to the return, with eight of our ten sites operational by the end of May, and about 70 per cent of our usual contractors working at any one time.

Health and safety visits were stepped up to ensure the new processes were fully bedded in, with the enhanced measures leading to an overall improvement in safety and inspection scores across the company.

Even though we’re back on site with new processes running smoothly, the risk is still there, so we’ll continue to monitor the situation. Now that we’ve seen the benefits of some of the new measures, we’ll even carry some processes into a post-COVID landscape too.