Over the course of the last few months we have all found ourselves in a bewildering world of uncertainty. The coronavirus pandemic has certainly opened up my eyes as to how much we are on a knife edge, both health wise and economically. There has been much debate on whether we as a nation were prepared for it? Did we have sufficient plans in place? Was our response the right one? I’m sure if we all sat around a table we would have different viewpoints, arguments and agreements.
As a sitting representative on the CFA council, I have been kept up-to-date on the ever-changing situation affecting the two major aspects of my role – construction sites and manufacturing operations – thanks to Richard Catt. Feedback in both directions has been very constructive, but what’s discussed in an email or over the phone can be very different to what’s actually happening out in the field.
However, I have been overwhelmingly pleased with the approach of virtually all the main contractors when I have had to attend sites to carry out essential surveys. Even prior to any governmental dictum, I was finding the following measures being incorporated effectively and rigorously. Rather than embarrass the main contractors or look like I’m favouring certain companies, I won’t name them. Instead, I’ll simply list both the Bostik guidance and the on-site measures which have been implemented to keep everyone as safe as possible.
- Firstly, I have been provided with a direct point of contact when on site. This might sound straightforward, but the busy nature of most sites often means the relevant person can’t be found, and we can end up looking in lots of Portakabins in an attempt to track them down – meaning we’re coming into contact with more people than required.
- Secondly, security guards on site have been more than helpful. Rather than touch pads at turnstiles, they have simply been confirming my name and details, from a distance, and allowing me through. On exit, they tick me off the list. Straightforward.
- Thirdly, the availability of sanitiser and hand wash on sites has been excellent. Washroom facilities have been clean, uncluttered and just like home, which I’m sure we’d all agree isn’t normally the case.
- Fourthly, the patience shown by the contractors while accompanying me around the site, at a 2 metre distance, and waiting while test work is carried out has been extremely good.
- Fifthly, the one way systems painted onto floors, notices reminding people of the importance of social distancing, and people keeping corridors clear have all made the job go much more smoothly.
- Sixthly (is there such a word?), stairways have been kept very accessible, which reduces the use of hoists and therefore helps to avoid unnecessary contact with others.
- Seventhly, the number of sub-contractors on site at any one time has been kept to a minimum. This has meant that flooring contractors aren’t having to work to keep floors free of other trades, and they’re not having to do piecemeal work in small rooms on different levels of the building.
So, which of these observations make for concerning reading? Shouldn’t we expect to see sites operating in this way at all times?
I’m sure there are more observations to be made, and I would like to congratulate all main contractors who have worked to get the sites in such a good condition. It has enabled the likes of me, and hopefully you flooring contractors out there, to carry out essential site visits both safely and effectively during these uncertain times.
Now for the preaching bit.
I’ve seen how good sites can be, so will we reconsider how we run construction sites in the future? Can we really look at reducing the insane speed that developments and projects are often carried out, and in the long run look after our teams both physically and mentally to allow them to do their job to the best of their ability?
Will we reduce the number of tradesman on site at any one time? Or will we offer realistic timeframes to the clients and extend the phasing of the project? This would surely result in less stress for all involved. Sounds good to me, but planning and investment is key.
The global pandemic has shown us many things, often more negative than positive. However, one of the positives that I have noticed in this situation is that, without the people of this great nation, without the work force, then we are nothing. We have all found ourselves working too fast and far too intensely over the past couple of decades in particular, and surely this shock to the world which we now live in can encourage us all to re-evaluate.
As is see it, buildings can be built, workers can be happier, stress levels can reduce and quality can improve if we all pull together to control and slow down an already over worked and cost driven industry.