Like most of the UK economy, the construction sector has had to adapt quickly to changing rules and regulations since the outbreak of COVID-19.
But while the restrictions seem to change on an almost weekly basis, there is hope that by the spring, a greater sense of permanence will become possible as the first successful vaccines start to roll out to substantial parts of the population.
With that in mind, what can we expect from 2021? And which of the changes we have made this year are likely to become part of common practice, even once the pandemic is over?
Remote working and COVID-safe construction
One of the biggest changes across the economy as a whole is the massive and overnight uptake of remote working, especially in administrative and clerical roles.
While on-site construction clearly cannot be carried out remotely, efforts have been made to reduce human contact, with crew working alone or in workplace ‘bubbles’, deliveries of materials carried out in a distanced way, and employees working from home if possible.
A lot of this will not be necessary once the pandemic ends, but site managers may prefer to continue assigning tasks to smaller teams who stay together, as well as organising deliveries of materials more clearly with one designated individual to liaise with the delivery driver.
Admin and organisation
The key element in all of this has been organisation, planning and admin. Back-office staff have been home-based and dialling in via telephone, email or video conference.
On-site, COVID-control has been the watchword. Areas are designated to be accessed only by specific bubbles or individuals, allowing work to continue without overlap or delay, and this holds promise as a long-term way to maintain an efficient construction site.
We have seen innovative uses for our timber mats, from creating separate staging areas for work to continue at necessary distance, to one-way temporary access roads and temporary pedestrian pathways with a separate site entrance and exit.
For the future
Activity will bounce back – it always does, eventually – and many of the practices devised during 2020 will still be beneficial under ‘normal’ circumstances.
First and foremost, we need to get well clear of the tail end of the pandemic. Until then, Timbermat will continue to work closely with our customers and suppliers to keep the construction sector COVID-safe, while allowing crucial economic activity to carry on.