The coronavirus has spread all over the world like wildfire. What is its potential for impacting the scaffolding industry? As Scaffmag goes to press, the confirmed cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus have crossed 100,000, and in the United Kingdom, this disease that is highly infectious, has has already affected 90 people. The government, is anxious to slow down the spread of this respiratory disease, and has put in place measures that are drastic in their potential, and before the situation becomes worse, the measures will come into force. These measures include encouraging people to work form home, a ban on gathering of many people in public, cancellation of events, and the closing of schools.
The scaffolding industry or even the wider construction industry are not industries where these measures are possible. As the outbreak peaks, it is estimated that 80% of the workers will not find it feasible to work, and Wako Kwikform is one of the companies that has indicated how it will proceed during this crisis. The COVID-19 virus has already made its way into the industry, as is evident from the fact that a worker at Hinkley Point C, engaged by energy firm EDF, the builder of two new nuclear reactors, has contracted the disease.
China is the epicentre of this coronavirus, and as they are the importers of many scaffolding materials like fittings and tubes, this could affect the supply chain. In a statement given to Scaffmag, the company has said that its business nature and earlier planning, will lead them to use their entire production capacity in the months of winter, until February, and at their German factory, they will expand stocks, and will also do so at the 140 service centres that they have worldwide. Layher explained, that this action will leave them well prepared for their traditionally busy spring and summer seasons. Layher UK already has high stock levels, which they had considerably increased, due to the past uncertainty of Brexit. As per Layher, they are not depend on supplies such as mobile scaffold towers from China and have large stocks of material, and this will result in their having things well in hand.
The lockdown announcement has led to a halt in the training courses for scaffolding in UK, as well as all over the world. As a result, scaffolders will not get the training that is essential for maintaining the required high levels of safety in scaffolding. Scaffolder CPD courses are not being delivered, and this has led to scaffolders being unable to refresh their CISRS cards, which remain in limbo. Scaffolding industry training is imparted to both established professionals and those who are new to the industry, and this training is continuously adapted to legislative changes, changes in the best practices, and changes in methods. The halting of the training has led experts to find newer ways that can ensure that the people in this industry continue the process of learning.
Construction Site Procedures
Right from the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the government has been keen on the continuation of construction work, albeit with some of the restrictions that are recommended. This has been a challenge for the industry, as not only do they have to ensure safety from risks that are typical on construction sites, they also have to ensure that safe distances are maintained, so that this does not lead to the unknowing spread of the virus. The guidance given has been generic, and has required SIMIAN to work to find ways to apply this to the scaffolding industry. "Guide for Scaffolders", an internal document, has been made available to all clients and this is being further revised for guidance in the industry, so that the latest revisions are incorporated and these include the SOP that has been produced by the Construction Leadership Council.