Re-constructing Britain: How Will the Construction Industry Make Up For Lost Time? 

It’s inarguable that the pandemic turned the whole world upside down but now that we’re starting to put the last couple of years behind us, a question remains: how can we go back to what life was like before? 

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the British construction industry contributed up to 6% of the UK’s GDP, 7% of jobs, and 13% cent of businesses. Indeed, between 2018 and 2019, the industry’s output was up by 3.8%, according to the Office of National Statistics (ONS). 

But then the pandemic came and changed everything.  

Expectedly, the construction industry’s output has plummeted over the past few months and, in March 2022, work was down by 7.1% compared to last year. 

These are undoubtedly daunting times for the construction industry, but history tells us that construction has always been at the forefront of building/re-building Britain’s economy. After the Second World War, for example, construction flourished, and the 1950s and 1960s are often referred to as a ‘Golden Age for the industry. 

So, the flame of hope still burns, however dimly, and a combination of careful planning and vigilance can go a long way towards averting the crises and getting the industry back on its feet. 

As the economy’s gradual return to normalcy continues, Nifty Lift – one of the largest manufacturers of mobile elevating work platforms in the UK – explores several ways to enable firms to operate safely within the parameters of the new global circumstances and attain their previous productivity levels.  

Machinery Checks 

Operating a construction company is a risky business: before you can even get started building, a project can be dead in the water for a variety of reasons that range from budget constrictions to environmental obstacles. 

However, it might be working on-site that poses the majority of risks, with everything from falling objects to insufficient signage and poorly set up perimeters potentially representing hazards for both the workers and the public. 

Add to that the potential risks arising from re-opening machinery that had been sitting idle and you could be looking at a recipe for disaster. As any construction worker will surely know, there is no formula for accidents, and these can occur due to a number of unpredictable reasons, including faulty machinery or overlooked human errors.  

It is essential that firms run through all the necessary machinery checks and closely examine any equipment before they continue operations as usual. These checks will vary depending on the equipment you use, of course, but many manufacturers nowadays install monitoring tools directly into their machines for an easier and quicker maintenance process. For example, if you use access platforms, the NiftyLink tool is a powerful way to gain essential data insights on your machines’ health and activity.  

Social Distancing Measures 

Worker safety should be the number one priority when reopening a construction site or adapting one that has remained operational throughout the lockdown and while the regular PPE is still crucial for any construction worker, there are now several adjustments required to curb COVID-19 infections on-site.  

While maintaining social distancing can be difficult on a construction site, implementing new practical safety measures will soon become commonplace, and high productivity levels can resume.  

This can include measures such as providing additional PPE, ensuring everyone on site respects the social distancing measures, and regular cleaning and disinfecting of work areas. 

Safety Plan  

Risk assessments may just be the bane of every site manager’s existence but the truth is that this is a crucial part of the process of setting up a construction site. Simply being aware of the risks that working on-site poses isn’t enough to ensure the safety of both the workers and the public, though, and this is precisely why every site needs to have a safety plan devised and ready to be implemented. 

However, developing a safety plan that addresses all potential hazards on a job site can be a long and exhaustive process, especially since it needs to be reviewed and updated regularly to keep up with the changes on-site. 

In a recent webinar hosted by RICS, several key steps were discussed, which could be made a part of such a plan: 

• Distance your cabins farther apart than usual. 

Stagger your employees’ starting times to avoid a rush at a particular time of day. 

• Install extra washing points and make hygiene equipment such as hand sanitisers readily available. 

• Employ a social distance coordinator on your site.  

Lastly, yet perhaps the most important point to take away, communication is vital. All workers on-site need to be regularly updated with the latest guidance on COVID-19 and how to stay safe, and this can be done through regular briefings, toolbox talks, posters and signage across the site. 

In what ways has you construction work been affected by the pandemic? Now that normalcy is slowly resuming, what else can we do to make sure everyone stays safe on-site? Get in touch in the comments below and let us know. 

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