Chartered Institute of Building Magazine of the Chartered Institute of Building

Opinion

Health and safety is changing – and not just in construction

27 May 2020 | By Samantha Mepham, RLB UK
Health and safety is changing – and not just in construction

Covid-19 has brought health and safety to the forefront in nearly every walk of life. Flexibility and fluidity will be key, explains Samantha Mepham.

Samantha Mepham

The impact of the coronavirus pandemic has brought health and safety to the forefront of the global stage. From households to schools and from industries to governments – health and safety will remain a priority as we go through the covid-19 journey.

The process is going to be gradual and fluid – something that we will all need to adapt to constantly. Every sector will need to review their working practices to see how they can do things better – from healthcare considering how it can gear up for any further peaks, to offices considering their future commercial viability.

The pandemic made us take a step back and recognise that we are now looking at our workplaces through a different optic. The health and wellbeing of our staff is truly at the epicentre. 

From an operational point of view, one dilemma will be how to balance the financial health of the organisation with the published government guidelines recommended as best practice to be covid-19 secure. As we work through the covid-19 alert levels, and restrictions are relaxed, I remain sceptical that people will rush back as one to shared workplaces, not least because of potential prosecutions. 

Not only do we have to consider how we work safely on site now but we must also consider how we plan and design for the future.

Samantha Mepham

And that is the crux of the matter for the construction industry too. With the announcement that those that cannot work from home should return, and more sites reopening, those operating them will be managing them against an ever-shifting backdrop of guidelines.

None of us fully know the restrictions that will be in place next week, let alone in a year. Not only do we have to consider how we work safely on site now but we must also consider how we plan and design for the future. 

How we manage the process going forward will be driven through collaboration with our colleagues – be they contractors or clients. There is no doubt that the pandemic has sparked efficiencies and best practice in health and safety through the adoption of digital innovations and fostering collaboration. Health and safety will need to remain at the forefront of building for our future.

Samantha Mepham is a partner, health and safety, at consultant RLB UK

Main image: Martinmark/Dreamstime.com

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