News & Views

FPS Podcast – July 2020

The latest episode of the Federation of Piling specialists (FPS) podcast, sponsored by CGL, features an interview with Suzannah Nichol MBE, Chief Executive of BuildUK, who talking to FPS Chair Steve Hadley, speaks about the organisation’s response to the COVID crisis and the roadmap to recovery.

Suzannah begins with a short overview of what BuildUK is, who it represents and how the work it does fits in with the activities of the Construction Leadership Council and the Construction Industry Council. She speaks also about how, as the leading trade body for construction, BuildUK brings together the contracting supply chain and other parts that sit around it.

The present COVID crisis, of course, is the main thrust of discussions and Suzannah talks about the COVID task force that was established to examine the impact of the coronavirus on the construction sector. Meeting almost daily this task group worked to establish policies on site for safe working – Site Operating Procedures – reflecting government policy as well as ensuring how sites could be safely kept open. How the task force also worked to put out guidance on the furlough scheme, to allow a single point of reference for the entire construction sector is also discussed.

Suzannah moves on to speak also about the role of BuildUK on specific area such as ensuring accommodation was available for construction workers when hotels were closing to all but essentially NHS staff. Steve offers his own perspective of the accommodation scheme and how his own company was able to take advantage of the solution BuildUK together with the CLC, were able to offer.

Steve moves the discussions on to version 5 of the Site Operating Procedures and how it has evolved as a result of government changes such as the recent move from 2m distancing through to 1m+, and how risk mitigation and hygiene is adapting to maintain alignment with government policy. Steve also asks the question about how close the construction industry came to fully closing during the crisis and what discussions were being had at the time regarding the sector’s ability to continue working. Challenges, fears, and concerns by all people during the first week of lockdown were the main issues when construction was being told to ‘stay open’ and BuildUK’s role in addressing these is discussed.

Suzannah is also full of praise for the resilience of UK construction and in particular, how it has faced the COVID19 challenge successfully head-on. As we emerge from lockdown, the construction sector’s ability to rebound, albeit, in a measured way to normal, is noteworthy.

The roadmap to recovery document is discussed in depth and how construction is still the only sector with a clear plan looking to the future as construction comes out of the COVID crisis. Suzannah explains the three phases it encompasses and how it fits within Government’s “build, Build, Build” policy but also how construction can improve too with regards to sustainability and methods of procurement.

Steve asks of Suzannah how the next phase of the COVID issue will see opportunities embraced and asks what we can learn from the crisis, but also what obstacles need to be overcome to deliver the government’s ‘infrastructure revolution’ and the industry’s golden moment.

Sustainability is discussed briefly too and how that challenge will impact construction especially as it will be today’s generation that will deliver the necessary changes to meet the global challenge.

Steve concludes the podcast with an overview of guidance the FPS is presently working on from cage safety through to its priorities such as the management of fatigue, dust suppression and even a possible ‘rig simulator’.


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