The UK construction sector has remained among the most resilient during the coronavirus outbreak and to keep sites running, many companies have had to adapt quickly to new ways of working.
While we’re currently seeing the gradual loosening of lockdown restrictions, many new safety measures will remain in place for the foreseeable future. Furthermore, there continues to be continual unease at the prospect of a second wave of coronavirus that could see more restrictive working practices introduced across construction sites in the UK.
The calm before the storm
The sudden introduction of the lockdown caught many off-guard earlier this year, but during the remainder of the summer months, there is a window of opportunity for companies to get their houses in order before the cold weather arrives.
So what should the UK construction sectors be doing to prepare for this? The primary concerns will remain employees health and safety, so having methods of keeping sites productive if key staff can’t be present, the chain of information intact without requiring physical interaction and eliminating unnecessary interactions that could result in transmission of coronavirus, are the priorities.
Technology is playing a significant role in worker safety and it has been one of the most successful tools to help operatives maintain a safe distance from each other during the ongoing pandemic.
Mike Saunders, MD of Re-flow, who have been supporting companies in the highways and construction sector, said:
"Companies should be seriously considering a shift to more remote field options, which would include removing all paper from site and enabling people to monitor progress remotely through submission of annotated pictures, completed task lists and time/date and location stamped information. Removing interactions that would have previously been face to face or required passing potentially contaminated documents around, are an inherently sensible means of companies protecting themselves and their employees from unnecessary risk.
Businesses who are investing in the technology that allow employees to work from anywhere have been seeing the benefits already. Gritting our teeth and hoping this doesn’t happen again is not an effective business strategy and what we need now is a practical look at what’s just happened, so we can put measures in place to deal with a repeat, or anything similar, effectively. “
Getting it right this time
Technology adoption in the sector had been traditionally slower to take off due to the resistance by users to embrace onsite digital workflow management solutions. When it became essential, even with an accelerated learning curve for employees who were unfamiliar with these tools, everyone did remarkably well at getting to grips with it, and moving forward, operatives are now much more comfortable doing their jobs this way, so undertaking a digital transformation is no longer seen as a ‘nice to have’ but as an essential undertaking for future business viability.
Alongside engaging employees with the change management, companies also need to take this time to ensure their protocols are in a position to be easily shared with any subcontractors who they will need to continue working with if any new lockdown restrictions.
Currently we’re still in the middle of the crisis, but as we begin to emerge, there are likely to be horror stories from businesses being taken to task for failing to protect their staff. Therefore, companies must be prepared to implement robust COVID-19 safety policies, make sure workers follow those policies, and then document compliance with those policies to a greater extent than they normally would to cover themselves in case an operative claims to have contracted covid-19 on the job, through any employer negligence.
We have a window of opportunity to prepare for what’s next. Speak to one of the Re-flow team about getting your digital workflow management system up and running in a matter of days.