‘We have a roadmap in place for the future’
The covid-19 pandemic has resulted in unprecedented demand for health and safety advisors’ expertise. Mark Starling explains how he is helping Kier to open its sites safely.
In the 25 years I have worked in construction, 12 of which have been at Kier as a safety, health and environmental manager, these past months have been the most challenging but also the most rewarding. Covid-19 has resulted in unprecedented demand for our advice with safety teams working on construction projects adapting their approach to risk management at an extreme pace.
When the government announced lockdown on 23 March, we needed to react quickly to provide advice and guidance to our teams to allow them to continue their work safely. We immediately completed in-depth workplace risk assessments on every site to determine what controls were required to reduce the risk.
The publication of the Construction Leadership Council’s (CLC) first Site Operating Procedures (SOP) was a real turning point and gave us a straightforward ‘rule book’ to follow, ensuring we were able to keep our sites open and productive, delivering projects to our clients.
Our team at Kier played a lead role in developing the updated CLC’s SOP. We have further developed this guidance and worked collaboratively with other tier 1 contractors to develop tier 1 guidance that has been adopted across the industry.
From revamping our site offices to adhere to the 2m distancing rules, to putting in place one-way systems, we had a key focus on setting visual standards with a strong emphasis on pictorial signage and very clear zone markings on site so that everyone would immediately understand what was expected of them before reading any words. The approach was also important in case any workers on site struggled to overcome any language barriers.
Adapting work programmes
Programmes of works have been adapted to ensure that fewer people are working in any given area at a time. Front-of-house access control has also been changed: fingerprint scanners have been disconnected and replaced with a card entry system. Kier has found ways to incorporate tools and technology, for example, instead of our dry liners manually lifting plasterboard together, we now use a mechanical plasterboard lifter.
In our welfare facilities we have increased drying room sizes and revamped canteens to have long tables with appropriate distancing marked off. We have also made better use of our outside spaces by setting up outdoor seating areas (with social distancing in place) for breaks.
The covid-19 situation has made a massive impact on our industry and it will hopefully result in a shift in the way we work. We are focusing on making permanent positive changes to our business to ensure we are compliant while still being productive, reducing ill health, accidents and incidents while protecting our environment. We will continue to use innovative tools to support our teams, using technology more for training, meetings, events, audits and inspections.
It has been a tough journey so far, but it is thanks to our colleagues that we have a roadmap in place for the future. I am proud to have been part of this whole process and I am proud of everyone in our industry who stood together in these challenging times. Our collective effort can bring about positive change to the industry in the future.
Mark Starling is a Kier safety, health and environmental (SHE) manager. He is also a chartered member of the CIOB and serves on the CIOB Health, Safety & Welfare (HSW) Group