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Overcoming the Challenges of Health & Safety in 2020

Health & Safety

Health and safety excellence has been an area that the Stancold team always strives to achieve. The extraordinary circumstances that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to us, meant that, like many other businesses in the construction industry and beyond, processes have had to be reconsidered and stepped up significantly to keep everyone safe.

As Stancold’s Health & Safety, Quality and Installation Manager, Edwin Drew has worked tirelessly over the last 10 months to carefully monitor, react upon and implement precautions across the business, working on the guidance from the Construction Leadership Council (CLC), our external health and safety consultants, Building Safety Group, and the British Government to ensure that Stancold remains a COVID-secure contractor. We sat down with Edwin to discuss the challenges that this has brought to his role:

What hurdles have our teams had to overcome during the COVID-19 pandemic?

“Where we have a site-based team and office staff, we’ve had to look at each in turn. Of course, the first lockdown was an unsettling time for us all, so it was paramount that the transition into working from home and adapting on site was as trouble-free as possible for everyone. The benefits of social interactions that an office environment brings should not be brushed aside, so I was involved in arranging virtual ‘coffee breaks’ for our employees at home, so that we could take a moment away from work and catch up.

Fast forward 10 months and we have a skeleton team working from the office again, so we’ve had to re-assess the space to re-plan seating and working arrangements. We have limited the number of individuals that attend the office and made sure that employees are adequately equipped to work from home wherever possible. Strict policies are in place to restrict visitors to the premises and any employees that have visited external construction sites are not to return to the office.

For site staff, we have worked to evaluate and adapt previous work practices to ensure that social distancing is followed on site. This includes implementing different methods of installation and introducing the use of face masks, but this has been under constant review where Government advice has changed. Understandably, some of the team found working during the start of the pandemic quite challenging, so being available throughout to clarify and answer any of their queries has been valuable and continues to this day.”

What adaptations have had to be made on site to be able to adhere to our clients’ safe systems of works, as well as our own, while still managing to continue to deliver projects on time and on budget?

“Implementing installer ‘bubbles’ and adapting our working patterns has been essential. This includes introducing additional pieces of plant and equipment on site to reduce the number of installers involved, enabling the team to adequately distance themselves. Of course, there has been a predominant focus on PPE by our clients, so this has been carried out in line with advice from the Government and CLC. It was important to facilitate our fleet of vehicles with plenty of hand sanitiser and surface sprays and ensure supply is always maintained.

Despite the ongoing circumstances, working as part of the teams to bring COVID vaccine and testing facilities to life across the country has been a source of pride for many of our installers and project management team. We have had to reassess the priority of many of our contracts and promote work that is required to be completed as part of the UK’s response to COVID.”

How many man-hours have been lost due to COVID-19 to date?

“While we have been successful in continuing to work throughout the pandemic, unfortunately, our installers have been on the front-facing end, so half of our team did have to self-isolate for a period during 2020. This was predominantly due to a positive test result within their family or a request to isolate from NHS’ Test & Trace app.

Where we already had a procedure in place for this scenario, this was always swiftly dealt with to ensure that no one else was unduly put at risk, and I frequently checked in with individuals to see how they were doing.”

How has your role directly been affected? How have you found juggling these new challenges with your day-to-day commitments to more general health & safety, quality and personnel management?

“Like many others in the industry, my role has certainly been limited since the start of the pandemic. Site visits were often restricted during the first lockdown, so we had to get used to different means to ensure that our level of quality was not affected. We adapted by asking site installers to provide video and photo evidence of their work and then carry out remote audits. When site visits became slightly more frequent, they were still reduced, so the level of detail and scrutiny that needed to be achieved increased each time I went to site.

Managing our teams has naturally been different, which has involved managing the day-to-day install planner as well as providing personal support for our installation team and colleagues working from home, whether it was adapting schedules due to isolation or even if childcare proved an issue. It was incredibly important that we were, and continue to be, flexible throughout as all of our lives are more unsettled, while still ensuring that our clients’ requirements are met.

For me, working remotely has taken some adjustment, where balancing the needs of my own personal life has been a consideration. This can often include focussing on my young children during the morning, only to pick up the keyboard and mouse later on in the day to ensure that all of Stancold’s requirements are met.”

Thanks to Edwin for sharing these insights into the invaluable ways in which Stancold has overcome some of the obstacles that none of us thought we would be facing for the majority of 2020. Of course, Edwin and our senior team continue to review our policies and act in line with the latest guidance as and when it changes.

If you’d like more information on what we do and how we can assist in your business’ projects, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us here.

You may also be interested in our case studies from 2020…

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