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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
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 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