Coronavirus outbreak: Key issues in the construction industry

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construction industry, coronavirus

Following the coronavirus outbreak, Andrew Carpenter discusses key issues, the impact the virus has had on the construction sector and what we need to do as an industry to get through these unprecedented times

During the past few weeks, we have all no doubt been inundated with offers of help and advice on the coronavirus and what we should do. During this time, I have been gathering information and knowledge through my involvement with the Construction Leadership Council, Construction Products Association, Construction Industry Council, Build UK and many others.

Within all the ‘noise’ that we are all hearing at present, it is important we associate ourselves with those who are ‘in the know’ and who have influence and can positively affect our sector. I can report that the government has asked that individual Trade Associations, companies & other organisations refrain from writing to them individually but rather all work through the Construction Leadership Council.

I was in a virtual meeting with their co-chair Andy Mitchel recently when he reported a Task Group had been set up to deal with all construction-related matters during these difficult times. He further went on to say that he was confident within a relatively short space of time this group would have a plan of action for the construction sector during these difficult times and I have every confidence in them.

However, the government isn’t currently ‘singing off the same hymn sheet’, particularly about whether sites should remain open, but I’m pleased to report that they are addressing this. The discrepancy between the advice Westminster and Scottish government is giving is also under consideration.

I have to say that personally I believe the government is doing a fantastic job under very trying circumstances and it is the responsibility of all of us to play our part. Whilst some complain that the government is sending mixed messages the same can be said about our own industry particularly with some sites remaining open and others closing.

Key issues

The government has several key issues with which to deal that are particularly applicable to construction including Self-Employment, Furlough, VAT & tax referrals, the need to look after less obvious parts of the industry e.g. designers, offsite manufacturers etc, the need to keep the industry and its pipeline ‘alive’ and recognition we need to change the public perception of construction as we are being villainised as recently seen by Piers Morgan on Good Morning Britain.

I feel we need to emphasise it’s the construction industry that will help turn ExCeL into a hospital and carry our essential work at hospitals etc. It should also be noted that the current construction industry instructions by BEIS are like those of other European countries. Most contractors have taken a 48-hour break to reconsider their strategy for working on a site and this should be considered ‘best practice’. The London tube situation is a good example of the challenges being considered. Many of those who had previously closed are re-opening, however.

Having been an active member of Constructing Excellence for 20+ years, since the ground-breaking Rethinking Construction Report of 1998, my main fear is that we see opportunistic behaviours up and down the supply chain. In my opinion this crisis gives us the ideal opportunity to work in collaboration through truly integrated supply chains whereby we acknowledge the problems are all of ours.

We have massive issues with which to deal both within our own organisations and on the many and varied construction sites with which we are involved. When I joined the movement for change in 1998, whilst I was working for the CRH Group, I famously said in my first public speech that the industry was full of liars, cheats, bullies and hypocrites and I would suggest that NOW is the time to call these people out if they manifest themselves during this period.

Let’s use this devastating period to rid ourselves of these people, wherever they appear in our supply chains and move forward together to provide an industry of opportunity.

Finally, I would report that Public Health England urgently requires PPE equipment, and this is an opportunity for all of us to help and get involved.

A summary of the equipment required is as follows:

  • FFP3 respirator masks
  • Full face visors (disposable)
  • Full face visors (reusable)
  • Safety goggles/Glasses
  • Hand sanitiser
  • Full body (hazardous material) suits
  • Logistics/Transport support

It would be much appreciated if all recipients of this communication could cascade the request throughout their networks and see what might be available. Please ask people to respond directly to Graham Watts in the first instance – gwatts@cic.org.uk – he will pass on to the central contact for compilation.

We believe that this is an important initiative and we encourage anyone who can do so to help. It’s a real call to arms to the UK construction sector as we all work together to overcome this coronavirus pandemic so please do what you can to assist.

 

 

Andrew Carpenter.

Andrew Carpenter

Chief executive

Structural Timber Association

Constructing Excellence South West

Constructing Excellence Midlands

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