The lifting of lockdown restrictions across the UK has been eagerly awaited by many of us, with Brits keen to return to pre-pandemic norms for jobs, families, and social lives. The construction sector, in particular, has seen a mighty shake up, with site rules and ways of working changed for good. Managing director of The Input Group, Chris Monk, explains which changes will be disappearing along with restrictions and which, for better or worse, will be sticking around for the foreseeable.
The impact of easing restrictions on the Construction Sector
Building towards freedom
The Input Group managing director expounds the changing nature of construction as UK lockdown comes to an end.
“Construction was, luckily for us, one of the first sectors to reopen following the first Coronavirus lockdown. Due to already stringent health and safety policies and the nature of much work occurring in open air, works were often able to continue as planned – albeit slightly delayed in some cases.
“However, this certainly doesn’t mean we haven’t seen some major shake-ups in the sector, particularly for SMEs like ourselves, who were hardest hit by the pandemic. The Department for Business Innovation and Skills suggests that 99.9% of UK construction contracting businesses fall into the SME category, and further research from Aldermore found that 17% of construction SMEs have seen a reduction in business income since the start of the pandemic. It’s not hard to do the maths and realise that almost one fifth of the entire construction sector has been adversely affected by lockdown restrictions.
“It’s not all doom and gloom, though. Recent data suggests growth in the sector once again, with construction output growing by 0.9% in the month-on-month all work series in January 2021, according to the Office of National Statistics. We can only expect this figure to have grown throughout the last few months, as restrictions continue to lift.
“The question remains, therefore, which of the many adaptations the sector has had to make will remain as life opens up again. Health and safety has always been a top priority for The Input Group, and the construction sector at large.Like so many other businesses that had to follow a number of regulation changes and new government guidelines, we have had to embrace new ways of working.
“Early on, we invested in ProCore – a construction management software, which helps to oversee all aspects of each project including health and safety assessments and has been invaluable. Particularly as the subject of health and safety has never been more important than it is now. As a result we were very pleased to secure an industry-leading zero AFR (loss time injury frequency rate) rating this year. All the work we have done supports our CONCEPTZERO policy – which promotes a zero-tolerance attitude to injuries, delays, and accidents, making sure we do everything we can to prevent any of these from happening.
“This heightened focus on health and wellbeing is one we both hope, and expect, to see continue as life opens up again, and we’d be pleased to see other contractors follow in our footsteps and strive for zero LTIFR ratings too.
“Of course, the lifting of restrictions affects significantly more than just the construction sector. We’re now seeing people begin to travel across the country again, enjoying staycations and making trips for business and pleasure alike. As a business with strong expertise in the rail construction sector this is big news for us as we’re seeing a much higher footfall in railway stations.
“With a return to frequent usage by commuters, construction site signage is more important than ever, particularly on a live site. During our recent work on Castleford Railway Station, commuters were able to continue using the station throughout works, with the railway line remaining open throughout the ten months of construction. Therefore, a transferable platform had to be maintained at all times with clear signage and wayfinding implemented for users, as access was moved depending on the scale and location of works being completed. This enabled us to set the standard on the project for what the signage would look like in a post-Covid world, which was really exciting.
“We’re expecting to see this type of signage used throughout the sector as we emerge into post-Covid construction practices, not only within the rail industry but throughout various aspects of construction in cities, towns, and on any projects in high-footfall locations.
“It’s impossible to predict some of the changes that will occur in the dynamic and ever-changing world of construction but there are certainly some exciting lessons to be learned from the past 16 months and we’re looking forward to seeing what the post-lockdown world will present us with.”