The Covid-19 pandemic has taken the world by surprise. Even after the outbreak in China, the risk was not widely recognised in the UK and the rest of Europe for a couple of months. As the pandemic spread and impacted the health of so many, swift adaptations have been required.
As with so many industries, demolition has been greatly affected. At Rye, we are committed to safe demolition and the health of our staff, clients and other partners is our number one priority. The positive aspect of this is that we already had a mind-set of safety first, allowing us to quickly tackle the challenge head on with readiness and organisation wide support. Of course, the challenges presented by the virus go far beyond the regular procedures we have in place. We had to consider a variety of factors and establish new ways of working before we could even contemplate returning to work.
• Project delays: No industry exists in isolation and the need to close sites means that construction projects have felt a knock on impact. Strong relationships and open lines of communication have been pivotal at this time. Close collaboration has helped us work through this time in partnership with our clients and we have seen absolute alignment with our belief in the need to prioritise the health of all involved above a speedy return to work.
• Updated working practices: Whilst we have been allowed to return to work, this hasn’t meant a return to ‘normal’. Society is having to adopt new ways of working and we are no different at Rye. To protect the health of all those involved, we have spent a considerable amount of time reviewing working practices that support these requirements.
This has come in the form of enforced social distancing on site and in our offices, temperature checks and hand sanitising facilities upon site entry for everyone, additional PPE for site operatives and increased communication. Our Site Managers have increased their patrols and maintained frequent conversations to build awareness of, and compliance with, these new practices.
• Project costs: The new practices have, of course, resulted in additional costs in the form of additional staff to execute H&S checks, additional equipment and increased training costs, both financially and in lost working time.
Whilst such changes have had an impact on our work and resulted in increased costs, our ability to respond in such a way has allowed us to get back to work quicker than would have otherwise been possible. This has been our primary aim; to get people back to work safely, to deliver for our clients and to keep the industry moving - so absorbing extra work and costs is something we’ve been willing to do.
Any thoughts that the effects of this pandemic will be short lived, are widely considered to be mis-placed. Even with falling infection and mortality rates, there needs to be constant vigilance to maintain the health of, not only site workers, but wider society too. The demolition industry has a major role to play in the recovery of the economy but it must be carried out in a safe and sustainable fashion. For us at Rye, this means the acceptance of new norms and a new level of accountability for us all. At Rye, we are considering how we continue to operate in a safe manner and believe that careful planning and continued vigilance will allow us to deliver for our clients, whilst still playing our part in reducing the risk to the wider community. It isn’t just a case of tolerance however, there is also an opportunity to improve our working practices in the long term. The scrutiny we have placed on reviewing how we work, brought about by the pandemic, has also led us to identify a variety of improvements we can make to standard operating practices. We are confident that these will deliver improvements in terms of performance, productivity and savings for our clients as we move forward.
Safe demolition is fundamental to employment, growing housing requirements and a thriving economy. It is vital that we respond with positivity and not only tackle the challenge we are facing now, but also place ourselves in a state of readiness allowing us to continue to operate and play our part should further obstacles be placed in our way.