Adapting to new construction site-safety guidance with tech
After analysing recent data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), Yorkshire Brickwork Contractors (YBC) found that construction has a higher rate of deaths related to COVID-19 when compared to other sectors. Specifically, among low-skilled construction workers, the death rate was 25.9 per 100,000 males with an additional 87 deaths of workers in the skilled construction workers occupation category.
Michael Wynn, managing director at YBC has interviewed experts in technology to see what can be adapted and used in the construction industry to help keep workers safe and social distanced.
The Construction Leadership Council (CLC) have updated site operation procedures to reflect the latest Government guidance following the easing of lockdown measures from Saturday 4 July. The ‘one metre plus’ social distancing guidelines require workers to keep two metres apart, or one metre where two metres is not viable.
It is crucial that sites maintain the social distancing guidance put in place to keep construction site workers safe from risk. We understand that many manual methods in construction may be disrupted. Tom Cannon, director of Tracked Carriers, discusses material handling and how social distancing may affect this. Tom commented, “Manual handling may become an issue if social distancing isn’t respected, many tasks are still carried out with a hands-on approach which can be problematic when several people are required to lift or carry heavy goods.
“New generations of lifting equipment are allowing increased social distancing on-site, spider cranes and high-capacity material lifts are prime examples of this, as they can access restricted areas and allow a single operator to lift and hold heavy items in position and are changing the way many tasks are carried out.”
With social distancing being a core concept in keeping our employees safe, it’s important that technology can be incorporated so the guidance can be followed. Tim Fitch, director of Invennt, business consultants specialising in construction, suggests investing in technology such as Reactec: “We have seen businesses create programs for training commissioners who are there to manage, maintain and ensure that this two-metre rule is adopted correctly. However, we have also seen companies that have developed technologies, the one I am thinking about in particular is a company called Reactec.
“They have developed wearable technology, initially for monitoring Hand Arm Vibration (HAVs) risks. The device looks like a rugged Fitbit, designed to measure the amount of vibration that goes into your arm from power tools. The great thing about their technology is that you wear it, and it automatically uploads the data into the cloud, getting continuous measurements from a particular device that’s associated with a worker.
“Now they have taken this technology, upgraded it to include and measure social distancing. It advises how close you are to fellow workers who are also wearing one, tracking throughout the day, even a week or a month, however long the lockdown lasts. You get a live update on how well social distancing has been implemented on your site. As anyone who’s trying to social distance knows, you’re bound to get close to people as you pass by them in the street, but with this technology, you’ll know who it was and how long the exposure was. This is a quickly adopted technology that’s very helpful for the current environment.”
In addition to social distancing, there are other methods of keeping sites safe from the spread of coronavirus. Following Boris Johnson’s initial call for companies to make sure they are ‘COVID-secure’ ahead of employees returning to work, Inivos, (who regularly decontaminate more than two fifths (41%) of NHS hospitals with their innovative Hydrogen Peroxide Vapour (HPV) and Ultraviolet-C light (UV-C) technologies) has launched a new Workplace Infection Prevention Assessment that helps businesses – including those in the construction sector – to identify and address contamination risks – including COVID-19.
The assessment identifies risks for viral and bacterial spread across five main vectors – water, surfaces, air, people and food – and provides organisations with clear actions to help control the potential transmission of viruses and bacteria. The evaluation includes a questionnaire as well as a full survey of the business environment, with an in-depth report delivered at completion. To enable business leaders to activate the service while maintaining social distancing measure, the entire service can be completed remotely by Zoom, Teams or Skype.
Tautvydas Karitonas, Head of Research and Development at Inivos, commented: “Although many businesses will have plans to manually deep-clean their workspaces, manual cleaning on its own is not enough to ensure an environment is COVID-secure. We know that conscientious business leaders will be looking for more robust measures to ensure a safe space for their workers, guests, and tenants.”
In order to ensure employees are working in safe conditions, Yorkshire Brickwork Contractors has followed government guidance throughout the pandemic. With its clients returning back to work it has helped enforce health and safety guidance further with many developments adapting to social distancing rules with extensive signage across sites and uniforms to remind workers to work safely.
Managing Director, Michael Wynn said: “At Yorkshire Brickwork Contractors we have always taken pride in our approach to health and safety, making sure all of our operatives and supervisors carry the relevant training qualifications for every job. With the recent pandemic, it is important that we adapt our way of working to follow government guidance whilst incorporating our current standards.”
Research reveals 164% rise in searches for loft conversions
Market research conducted by building supply specialist Insulation4Less has revealed that searches for ‘Loft Conversions’ rose by a staggering 164% between May and June of this year, while searches for ‘Loft Conversion Ideas’ jumped by 186% as people spend more time on home renovations this summer.
The company also found that the most popular use for a loft conversion is for an additional bedroom, while an extra bathroom was the second-highest search term. Walk-in wardrobes came in third, beating out a home office in fourth while converting a loft into a home cinema round off the top five.
According to a recent study, a loft conversion can add roughly 20% to the value of a property. With the average UK house price standing at £267,000 in January 2021, this represents an average increase in value of more than £53,400.
Johnpaul Manning, Managing Director of Insulation4Less, said: “If the last year has taught us anything, it's that having space is essential to our mental health and wellbeing, so it's no surprise that people are taking the time to focus on home improvements to help them make the most of their home.
As one of the most under-utilised areas in any property, loft conversions represent a great opportunity to maximise the use of space that not only improves quality of life but also has the capacity to add value to the home”, he said.
Manning added that it's important to remember that a loft conversion isn't just your average DIY project, and should never be done on the spur of the moment. “A significant amount of planning needs to happen to make it a reality, and an understanding that life can be disrupted while the build is taking place.
“While it's definitely a worthwhile project, I'd recommend that anyone considering a loft conversion should do some in-depth research to really understand what's needed to make it a reality”, Manning said.
Is Your Loft Suitable For a Conversion?
While loft conversions do look amazing and add an extra element to a property, not all homes may be suitable. Insulation4Less says that this is due to a variety of factors.
“It's important to make sure that your roof is structurally sound enough to handle a conversion”, the company said. Although there are different types of roof structures, they mostly fall into two distinct categories: a traditional roof, and a trussed roof.
A traditional roof: was typically found in pre-1960s houses. Rafters on traditional roofs run along its edges, leaving a good amount of free space. However, they might still need new or extra support. Trussed roofs, on the other hand, have ‘W’ shaped rafters that support the roof and the floor structure. Even though truss roofs may appear to be harder to convert, it’s not impossible; the ‘W’ shaped rafters can be replaced with an ‘A’ shape structure which creates a hollow space. While this can add additional costs, it could be a worthy investment, so take this into consideration during your planning process.
“Another thing to consider is the roof's height and pitch, and how that will impact the amount of space you’ll have. You’ll need a minimum height of 2.2m to ensure proper clearance. While you might be happy to settle for something a little shorter on paper, make sure your happy with the height you have and the effect it could have on the enjoyment of the space”, Insulation4Less advises.
The company recommends doing research before going to an architect or contractor. “Ultimately, look for other conversions on your street or in similar properties, and if you feel comfortable, ask if you can have a look and discuss how their project came together - you’ll find a wealth of information that could really help your own project in the future”.
Information credit: Insulation4Less.