Coronavirus is spreading all over the world, like wildfire. Does this have the potential to impact the scaffolding industry?
Worldwide there have been as many as 100,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) and as ScaffMag goes to press, this highly infectious disease has already affected 90 people in the United Kingdom.
On Tuesday, in its anxiety to slow down the spreading of this respiratory disease, the government laid down potentially drastic measures, and these will come in force if the situation gets worse. This includes the closing of schools, the cancellation of events, a ban on large public gatherings, and encouraging people to work from home. This is something that is not possible to do within the scaffolding or wider construction industry.
It is reported that 80% of the workers will not be able to work during the next few weeks as the outbreak peaks, including those in the scaffolding design and engineering sectors.
There is evidence to show that the COVID-19 virus has already entered the industry, as the builder of two new nuclear reactors, energy firm EDF, yesterday said that a worker on Hinkley Point C had contracted the disease.
It is expected that supply chains will also be impacted, as many of the scaffolding materials, such as tubes and fittings, are imported from China, a country that is the epicentre of the Coronavirus.
The company released a statement to ScaffMag and said that because of its business nature and as planned earlier, they will use their full production capacity during the winter months until February, while they also expand stocks at their Germany factory and its over 140 service centres all over the world.
This, Layher explained, will be done so that they are well prepared for the spring and summers seasons when they traditionally remain busy. Layher UK had already considerably increased their already high stock levels, because of the uncertainty over Brexit in the past.
Layher said that as they have large stocks of raw materials, they are not dependent on supplies from China, and have things well in hand for many more months.
The announcement of the lockdown led to the halting of scaffolding training courses all over the world, as well as the UK. This has led to many scaffolders being unable to get the training that is vital for maintaining a high level of scaffolding safety. As Scaffolder CPD courses are not being delivered many scaffolders do not have the opportunity for refreshing their CISRS cards, and remain in limbo.
Training in the scaffolding industry is given to both established professionals and newcomers and it also continuously adapts to changes in methods of best practice and legislation. The result of training coming to a halt has led experts to find new ways to make sure that people in the industry continue with the learning.
Construction Site Procedures
The Government has, right from the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, been keen on having construction work continuing, though with some of the recommended restrictions. This has led that industry to be challenged, and besides having to ensure safety from the typical risks on construction sites, they also need to ensure the maintenance of a safe distance, so that the virus is not spread unknowingly. Much of the guidance that has been given is generic, and that has led to SIMIAN having to work hard to decide on its application in scaffolding. Our clients have been given our internal document, ‘Guide for Scaffolders’ and this will be shortly revised for industry guidance so that it incorporates the latest revisions, that include the SOP that the Construction Leadership Council has produced.
Ways in which our customers adhere to measures for social distancing are:
- Travelling alone
- Work gang consistency
- One-way systems
- Staggering shift and break times
- Using hand-sanitisers on site
- Creating more space in the washroom and break out facilities
- A limit on the number of workers who can use lifts and hoists
- Regular cleaning of common touchpoints and cleaning equipment, like buttons and handles.