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Keeping building sites open for business

A key economic driver is construction. So, in the current climate, should building sites be open or closed?

Historically, construction is a barometer for any downturn or upturn in the wider economy. However, it is not given equal footing under the key worker status laid down by government.

Mark Hart is a member of the Chartered Institute of Building and sits on the SJCC committee representing the NFB. He commented.

“We closed our sites when we went into lockdown, as above all else, we wanted to protect the wellbeing of our staff and supply chain.

“As we are not considered key workers, there are problems with keeping sites open when you have a diminishing workforce due to a lack of childcare and restrictions due to vulnerable family members.

“However, keeping sites closed has a major bearing. It impacts the stability of the sector and the general economy and for businesses, it escalates costs and the risk of insolvencies amongst the supply chain.”

Therefore, construction sites have started re-opening.

“This is a phased approach and will be on a site by site basis as it is not a one fits all scenario. Overall, the contractor must be given the acknowledgement that it knows its sites better than anyone and is therefore in the best position to decide whether it should be open or closed.

“We need support that we will not be penalised for the decisions we make. The Safe Operating Procedures (SOPs) are endorsed by the government and implementing these standards means that the contractor is likely to see a significant drop in productivity. Therefore, we could face the threat of legal proceedings around perceived breach of contract due to the delay in completing contracts.

“The challenges of reopening are many. But, most importantly, is keeping our employees and the wider workforce safe whilst trying to achieve productivity under the very demanding guidelines set out by SOPs. We must consider how we adhere to social distancing rules, not only while on working on site, but while travelling to and from work and taking rest breaks.

“There is also an immediate problem with the difficulties of getting product and PPE to site, as most builders merchants are shut, and we cannot build if we don’t have the materials.”

Written by Sue Wilcock with quotes by SJCC committee members for an Article in the East Anglia Daily Times. Click here for the full article

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