Lockdown brought the need to adjust overnight to new ways of working. Four months on, it’s no longer new, and most built environment organisations have devised their initial response to remobilise their operations safely. As more workplaces open up, the everyday challenge of working safely remains and it’s vital that the industry’s response evolves collaboratively and avoids complacency.
As a business, the safety and wellbeing of our people and those with whom we work has always been our highest priority. During the pandemic, we have supported essential projects relating to national critical infrastructure and public safety, with a small number of key workers working outside of their homes during lockdown. We ensured that our UK offices, as well as any project sites under our control, were Covid-19 secure, introducing a range of wellbeing and safety measures, in line with government guidance. When the guidance permitted, we facilitated the return of some of our people to a limited number of workplaces.
As restrictions further ease across the construction sector, we have implemented a controlled process to get more of our people back to work on site, supporting our clients in a way that keeps everybody as safe as possible.
Returning to sites – our safety process
We undertook initial exploration and quantification of the risks that Covid-19 poses to our people in their activities. We then detailed the measures and controls required to mitigate the identified risks, aligned with Construction Leadership Council Site Operating Procedures and government guidance on construction environments.
This helped us to develop a simple methodology for site visit risk assessment, based on a Go/No Go checklist, used when any member of our staff has reason to go to site. Our people also complete an individual risk assessment, which details whether they are personally vulnerable to additional risk or pose any increased risk to others.
This methodology provides our managers with a consistent tool to assess the risk of any activity that requires an employee to work outside their home. Through a short series of questions, managers can quickly assess the risks and ensure that site visits are undertaken in line with the latest government guidance. Once a robust plan is clearly defined, our Atkins Operating Safely (AOS) Application enables managers to quickly review, approve and monitor employee safety whilst undertaking works away from their homes.
Whilst government restrictions have eased, employers continue to have a duty to comply with their existing obligations to employees, and to take account of the ongoing additional risks posed by Covid-19. Faithful+Gould takes this responsibility very seriously.
Our robust risk assessment and planning process has been critical in enabling our business to return towards pre-Covid operations and remains under regular review. However, we know that risk assessment and planning processes alone will not protect our people. Whilst regular effective hand washing and social distancing have become an essential daily routine, there also needs to be a step change in individual behaviours and personal responsibility at work.
We have created a supportive culture where our people feel empowered to challenge behaviours that expose them to unacceptable risks. Prior to any site visit, we walk through the activity with the individuals to identify potential risks in travel, contact, physical constraints and interaction with others. We encourage our people to firstly avoid personal risk and empower them to challenge any behaviour that puts themselves or others at risk, following up (off-site if necessary) with those responsible, so that improvements can be made.
The evolving situation is new to all of us in the industry, but we feel it’s vital to avoid complacency, and to lead by example. We are also supporting our clients with similar aims— you can read more about our Workspace services here.