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Concern over safety measures as construction recovers

A survey of over 700 workers and 130 employers carried out by specialist construction recruiter, Randstad, to analyse the impact of COVID-19 on the construction industry has revealed signs of sector recovery.

The building bounceback

Around 80% of employers said that their sites are now up-and-running, with a third of those (34%) operating at between 80% and 100% capacity. With regards to returning to a pre-COVID landscape, 22% predict to be back to full capacity in Q3 2020 and 39% estimate they should be back on track by the end of the year – some encouraging figures showing the industry is somewhat recovering. The data is reinforced by a reported growth of 8% in construction during May 2020, partly driven by new housing projects and initiatives.

Data around recruiting and appetite to hire produced some promising findings with 54% of employers surveyed are still hiring, 30% plan to hire permanent workers in the next six months and 15% are looking to hire temps, signalling confidence in the industry bouncing back into action.

Construction’s COVID-19 safety disconnect

However, as site numbers and jobs increase, COVID prevention measures are not keeping up with the pace.

The new report identified a clear disconnect between what employers think are reasonable safety measures and how this is perceived by workers on the ground. Some 92% of employers are confident that they are providing adequate PPE to prevent the spread of COVID, while over a third of workers (35%) claimed to not have access to enough PPE to allow them to confidently work while the virus remains active.

Worryingly, a clear discrepancy was identified in the survey regarding the level of social distancing on UK sites. Only a quarter (25%) of workers feel that social distancing measures are adequate, while in contrast 84% of employers are confident that reasonable steps have been taken to enforce responsible distancing.

Owen Goodhead, managing director, Randstad Construction, Property and Engineering said: “There's been lots of anecdotal commentary about how the construction industry is slowly starting to recover, but the industry needs some hard facts – we wanted to hear directly from our clients and candidates about what life is like on the ground. Our results present some interesting findings. The good news is that we are seeing the majority of the nation’s building sites now open for business, partly fuelled by the government’s commitment to promoting building and aiding of construction industry recovery. More encouraging data shows that over a third are operating at full, or near full capacity and more than half are continuing to hire.

In terms of safety, however, it’s clear to see that there is some disconnect between what employers think reasonable measures are with regards to virus spread prevention and what our candidates are experiencing on site. We know safety is of paramount importance to our clients and they've already put robust health and safety processes in place, however communication between head office and sites is now more vital than ever. Workers need to know that Government guidance is being followed to eliminate any disparity and encourage joined-up thinking.”

In light of the findings, surprisingly, less than a quarter of employers surveyed have implemented dedicated resource to enforce social distancing and hygiene measures. Just 22% have hired COVID-19 supervisors.

21 July 2020

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