With many staff currently furloughed, how is the construction industry helping during lockdown? During the current lockdown construction workers are still allowed to work and this shows no sign of changing. While most firms are striving to complete ongoing projects or continue supplying materials to the industry, this can be difficult. Due to a downturn in business or concerns over staff wellbeing, many firms have furloughed staff for the foreseeable future. One thing the Coronavirus pandemic has proved beyond doubt is the willingness of the British public to help those in need. Construction workers are no different and often their local community contacts place them in a unique position to help.
While several examples here are large companies that can have a large impact on events, all are important. The actions of individuals or small groups have a huge effect on those they help and serve as an example to us all. In these occasionally dark and depressing times, here are ten uplifting examples of those taking positive action for no reward.
1. Contractors Appeal
The Contractors Appeal is an initiative set up by DE Group and the demolition firm Cantillon to assist the NHS. Initially the appeal requested donations of surplus personal protective equipment (PPE) from the construction industry. This was then distributed to NHS staff, volunteers and carers at risk from Covid – 19 who were lacking appropriate protection. This has since been expanded to include financial donations to purchase more specialised equipment tailored for healthcare. This allows the construction industry to directly aid NHS staff at the frontline of the response to Covid – 19.
2. Network Rail Supplier Payments
As of 30th March 2020, Network Rail has pledged to pay suppliers as soon as possible following approval of payment ledgers. This means payments could be up to seven days quicker for small to medium enterprises (SMEs) and 28 days quicker for others. This cashflow boost will allow these businesses to pay their own outstanding debts and strengthen the supply chain. Maintaining this flow of money through the industry sustains it and strengthens it for the future. This helps the construction industry to weather the current storm and emerge from the pandemic with as little damage as possible.
3. Nightingale Hospital
As our largest city and a global business hub, the flow of people through London has exacerbated the spread of Coronavirus. As a result, London hospitals cannot cope with the level of demand and are close to breaking point. The response to this is NHS Nightingale, the emergency field hospital constructed in the ExCel Centre. Completed in just nine days, it is capable of holding 500 patients and will ultimately hold 4000. This was only possible through the efforts of over 400 contractors working punishing shifts around the clock. Their hard work and dedication was praised by Prince William at its opening as ‘a wonderful example of Britain pulling together’.
Construction on Nightingale Hospital – (Picture – PBE Today)
4. JCB Staffordshire
Normally a manufacturing plant for JCB cabs, the Uttoxeter factory was initially closed due to the Coronavirus outbreak. On 30th March, it was announced it would reopen to produce steel housings for Dyson ventilators. These are vital to assist patients who cannot breathe unaided due to the effects of Covid – 19 infection. 50 employees have returned to work to manufacture the housings for 10,000 ventilators ordered by the government. Production commenced within days and JCB have announced they will continue ventilator production for other countries if required.
5. Protective Screen Production
After the Covid – 19 outbreak halted their usual production of bespoke wooden playgrounds, a Cumbrian joinery firm have changed direction. Creative Joinery and Design have turned their skills to making protective screens to protect local workers. Despite staff being sent home, the brothers who own the company have returned to work. The screens are designed to protect staff in essential local businesses to keep them open during the pandemic.
6. PPE Training in Suffolk
A team of out of work construction employees in Suffolk have been volunteering to train NHS staff in the correct use of PPE. As qualified face fit testers for several construction companies they are trained in PPE instruction. Working with Ipswich and Colchester hospitals, they have trained over 1,400 NHS staff in the safe use of face masks. Despite the risk to their own health, they are determined to protect NHS staff in close contact with infected patients.
7. Carpenters Turned Support Staff
Seven members of Swansea Council’s building team have been supporting local charities with repurposed council vehicles. Working with the Swansea Together organisation, they have been delivering up to 400 meals a day to those in need. Supporting hospitals, schools and local residents, they have been responsible for distributing books, toys and even Easter eggs. They also provide human contact for those in isolation and a point of contact for other needs.
8. Keeping Roads and Highways Safe
North Yorkshire highways contractors have been praised for their dedication to road maintenance during the pandemic. Ensuring safe, efficient travel for emergency staff and food and medical deliveries is vital during this period of lockdown. This also allows essential workers to travel to work safely and without delay.
Key highways workers ensure roads remain safe (Picture – Craven Herald & Pioneer)
9. Easter Egg Deliveries
Not every contribution needs to be a grand gesture from a large company and numerous workers. Two Grantham construction workers, Danny Emms and Ian Haynes set up a care package scheme to help the elderly and vulnerable. With Danny’s wife Emma co-ordinating, they have been distributing food and other essentials during lockdown. This included delivering 200 Easter eggs to children of self – isolating families on Easter Sunday, including 80 purchased with their own money.
10. Face Mask Donations
In Early April, Lemon Groundwork Solutions of Wickford, Essex donated 1,000 FFP3 face masks to Basildon hospital. The company delivered the masks from their own spare stock on hearing of short supplies at the hospital. Essex County Council made an urgent plea to local businesses for PPE donations as hospital stock ran low, with several responding quickly. Their managing director, Paul Hart, urged other construction firms across the country to follow suit in aiding the NHS.
At Hardwoods Group, we are still open for business despite the current crisis and the challenges it presents. Whatever your requirements may be, we will endeavour to supply any materials needed. Contact us with any enquiries, we will be happy to help.
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