Family-owned construction firm Beard, whose work includes medical research facilities, special needs schools and MOD work, is continuing to operate on more than 90 per cent of its sites, despite the wave of closures that the industry has seen in response to the spread of Covid-19.
Beard, which is based in Swindon and operates across the south and south-west of England, including a substantial office in Oxford, has fully implemented the Site Operating Procedures drawn up by the Construction Leadership Council. This ensures that staff and subcontractors working on Beard sites are not exposed to unnecessary risk of infection.
Work is ongoing at Wadham College and St Hilda’s College in Oxford, and at The Quadrangle in Cheltenham. In Bristol the company is working on a new training facility for the Bristol Bears Rugby team. And also at the MOD facility at Lyneham, among other projects.
Additional safety measures include lengthening the working day and resequencing work to allow different workers to be on site at different times and minimise the need for contact.
Although operational capacity has been reduced to around 50 per cent by these measures, and by the enforced absence of workers, Beard has ensured that it is able to continue working on as many sites as possible.
A key issue is the availability of building materials. Beard has engaged with industry leaders and trade bodies such as the Construction Products Association (CPA) and received assurances that materials are available. While some builders’ merchants have been forced to close, many are still trading and able to supply sites that remain open. Beard is also working with the CPA to identify specific supply bottlenecks and support industry-wide action where necessary to address these issues.
Mark Beard, chairman of Beard, said: “The safety of all those working for us, and of the general public, is always our top priority. We are doing everything we can to ensure our sites are as safe as possible, and we will never put pressure on anybody to work on-site when they should be self-isolating.
“We respect other firms’ decision to close sites, but the Government has given the industry a clear steer that it wants construction work to continue where possible. We are putting in every possible measure to follow this steer and continue to operate as many sites as we can.
“When sites close, that results in a fall in demand for materials, and builders’ merchants shutting their doors. This can lead to a vicious circle with more sites being forced to shut, due to a lack of demand for materials.
“In response to the Government’s urgings to carry on working, to honour our commitments to clients, and to keep as many staff and subcontractors in productive work as possible, we are determined to do our bit to help turn the current vicious circle into a virtuous cycle.”