Preparing to get back on site – safely

Over the past few weeks, the industry focus has been on understanding and implementing emergency measures in response to Covid-19. We still do not have a full sense of the likely impact. The construction sector has been particularly badly hit by the shutdown and there is a strong feeling that we cannot allow current – and currently proposed – projects to stall completely as the resulting damage to the entire supply chain would simply be too devastating. The State has stepped up to provide a degree of payment for public projects, we understand that negotiations are ongoing for many private projects. This is vital as the need for housing, in particular, will not be diminished by this crisis.

In an attempt to have contractors use this time to understand the changed workplace and to help them prepare for a speedy return to work on site, the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) has now published a 32-point plan to give the industry a standardised approach to commencing construction projects in Ireland. This plan incorporates the latest COVID-19 public health requirements to ensure that all construction projects operating during the Coronavirus, which will be many months longer than the shutdown period (at least), are protecting their workforce and minimising the risk of spreading the virus.

Key control measures contained in this document include symptom control and strategies for self-isolating, identification of workers with “at risk” family members in the home, hand hygiene, cleaning procedures, travel protocols and, of course, social distancing on site.  Workers will need to maintain a 2-metre separation insofar as possible. This is a huge change and will likely pose many challenges for health and safety personnel. For this reason, sites must assign a C-19 Compliance Officer, with responsibility for training, execution and compliance with these changes. In addition to advance communications and comprehensive online briefings, one of the key recommendations for site managers to consider is a “phased return to work”. It is not entirely clear what this would look like on an Irish building site. Reducing the number of workers in any given area, at a given time, seems like the most logical approach. Might this be the start of widespread shift working on construction sites?

Significantly, compliance with these new Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) involves changes to the schedule or delivery programme, therefore, the implementation must be agreed with the project client.

It seems inevitable that fear will stall the market, but only in the short term. The only true certainty is that volatility always paralyses the marketplace. The reality is that this pandemic is entirely unprecedented so we simply do not know the full extent of the economic or cultural impacts and, more importantly, whether these impacts are likely to be short or long term.
As always, we would be interested to hear from you on this.

Ian Lawlor
086 3625482

Director / Business Development
Lotus Investment Group