How the supply chain can support construction sites as they return to work

Wednesday 20th May 2020

Covid19. Social distancing. PPE. Staggered start and finish times. Cleaning. Cleaning. Cleaning. Construction sites now have so many additional challenges to overcome as they gear up to return to work. But how do contractors go about overcoming those challenges and how can the construction supply chain support sites as they return to work?


March 23rd was a big day for the UK as the government announced a significant set of restrictions on British life, in living memory, in a bid to stop the coronavirus outbreak. That lockdown sent shockwaves through our economy and caused confusion in some industries, most notably in construction.


Whilst the government asked for people to stay at home and implement social distancing providing no specifics to how the construction industry would continue to operate, many sites and their supply chain across the country shut down. In a recent survey conducted by Building, 43% of respondents cited that they shut down sites as they couldn’t create a safe working environment and implement the PHE guidance at the time. With public pressure surmounting and devolved administrations taking different actions, it felt like the construction industry was caught between a rock and hard place. 


Fast forward to April 14th and a lot of work done by the Construction Leadership Council, the construction industry has what looks like the beginnings of an exit strategy as the new Site Operating Procedures are released. This has brought some confidence back into the contractor community who have communicated roughly 60-80 % of sites will reopen in the coming weeks.

But how do contractors go about implementing these procedures and how can the construction supply chain support sites as they return to work?


The Challenges


Access & space on site

With the site operating procedures encouraging contractors to take their own transport rather than overcrowd the public travel networks, sites are going to need to think about parking spaces for the increase in cars. Meeting the need of social distancing when accessing site will undoubtedly mean sites will have to increase the number of egress points, further putting site space under pressure.

To save valuable space, sites will need to reduce wasted space taken up with container loads of product and turn to the supply chain to deliver just in time. Delivery times may also be restricted as work is planned with staggered starts/finishes and access procedures will change, making it important for delivery companies to familiarise themselves with those change in procedures to ensure quick and easy deliveries.


Social distancing & work planning

Another site operating procedure is to ensure, wherever possible, 2m social distancing; meaning contractors will have to limit the number of people on site at one time. Contractors will be looking to innovate where possible to allow activities to be completed by one person. Suppliers could help by reviewing installation of materials and utilise where possible offsite solutions to minimise the number of people having to install on site and improving productivity levels.


Personal Protective Equipment

Reportedly difficult to get hold of PPE will become a challenge to the contractors as they must ramp up PPE numbers as well as cleaning stations. Those in the supply chain that have been supporting in the fight against COVID19 in supplying PPE to front line, may also consider reaching out to sites to see whether contractors need supply, ensuring workers remain protected and sites active. Also removing the installation preparation works carried out onsite, to offsite, will help contractors keep staffing numbers low, meaning less demand for PPE.


Supporting construction sites returning to work relies on the supply chain focusing on service as well as the products delivered. Contractors should challenge suppliers to see how they can help reduce risk and suppliers should think about how they can help contractors maintain social distancing without losing productivity. Innovating through offsite, removing much of the install preparation done onsite will be one way how the supply chain can support.


Polypipe Building Services is supporting contractors returning to site through its fabrication service. Polypipe Advantage delivers offsite fabricated Terrain drainage stacks and MecFlow water supply kits just in time, floor by floor. Stillages of the lightweight material can be craned to each level and installation can be carried out by one person. By using this service, we believe we can help face the challenges of space on site, 2m social distancing and the demand on PPE.

Anyone wishing to speak to us about how we can help contractors return to site, please email:  


To read more about the Polypipe Advantage service click here

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