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Highways England was ‘overly optimistic’ on roads improvement plan

Highways England was too optimistic about its previous roads improvement plan, the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) has said.

A review of the agency over the last five years praised it for delivering the majority of its commitments but noted the “substantial re-planning” of schemes due to start construction in the period. The regulator added that the “capital programme for major improvements proved to be overly optimistic”.

The body was meant to deliver 112 schemes during its first Road Investment Strategy (RIS1) period but, after discussions with the Department for Transport, this was revised to just 73.

Its £27bn RIS2 period is now under way, with many of the schemes from the last five years knocked back into the next five, or beyond. A lack of value for money in the planning stage was cited for delaying eight of those projects.

Grenfell designs approved ‘without being seen by architect or contractor’

Grenfell designs approved ‘without being seen by architect or contractor’

Designs were deemed “approved for construction” by cladding specialist Harley Facades, without being seen by contractor Rydon or Studio E Architects, the Grenfell Tower Inquiry has heard.

Simon Lawrence, who was Rydon’s contract manager on the Grenfell Tower refurbishment between 2014 and 2015, was shown emails from 2015 detailing plans for the building. The drawings were marked with an “approved for construction” stamp before Studio E and Rydon had seen or commented on them. In some cases, Rydon was not included in the email chain at all.

When asked by QC for the inquiry Richard Millett why the drawings were marked as approved, Lawrence said: “I don’t think we know why but I would assume that it was a Harley internal process to say it’s ready to go out to be checked, but that would just be my guess.”

When asked to explain this “serious mistake”, Lawrence said he couldn’t as he had left Rydon “long before the as-built [drawings] were complete and issued”. He added: “I would suggest that Studio E has taken an original tender drawing and has just put it in the pack of as-built [drawings] without checking it and updating it.”

Last week, the inquiry heard Rydon did not have a system in place to ensure there were no gaps in design responsibility.

The inquiry continues.

Workers to report safety issues to clients under new building safety rules

Workers to report safety issues to clients under new building safety rules.

Clients must set up a system where onsite workers can report potential structural and fire safety issues, under the terms of the new Building Safety Bill unveiled today.

The draft
new law, released by the government for scrutiny before it is presented to
parliament, will set up a mandatory occurrence reporting system where people
appointed building safety managers will have to report safety issues to the new
Building Safety Regulator.

The
wide-ranging draft bill also confirmed the creation of the new Building Safety
Regulator, initially being set up under the control of the Health and Safety
Executive. It also restated the intention to ensure that contractors, clients
and designers all have formal responsibilities for ensuring compliance with
building regulations.

TfL issues guidance for construction workers travelling to work

Transport for London has issued construction firms with guidance on how their workers can safely use the capital’s public network amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

It said: “As employers, you can help by instructing all those who can work from home, including administrative and head office staff, to continue to do so.

“Enhance the facilities you offer, such as lockers, showers and cycle storage, to enable your workforce to walk and cycle all or part of their journey to site.”

Is the Migrant Worker Shortfall Causing Problems?

With a call for British born people to go to the fields and start collecting the veg before it rots, it seems the focus on the construction industry is somewhat missing.

And with Priti Patel focus on reducing immigration, it seems like this won’t be getting much easier.

What does it mean ?

Well, with lower construction workers available, there may be an increase in an unskilled workforce, with a lower age limit.

But also it means that if you have your teams in place, you should do more to keep them in place so that other construction companies don’t try and steal them away from you.

It’s time to build the famil spirit with your teams, and this means having a more caring approach to both building and keeping your teams as we go through 2020.

Builders merchant sales tumble despite safety gear boost

The results of the first quarter sales from builders merchant sales show the initial dip response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Figures come from the Builders Merchant Building Index (BMBI) and they show a 6.7 per cent year-on-year decline in the value of sales to builders and contractors in the first quarter of 2020.

This is a much steeper 15.1 per cent year-on-year decline.

Sadly the upcoming figures for April are expected to show an even bigger collapse.

Many builders merchants have closed their outlets in the initial response to the government shutdown.

An unsure future

“Projections for the remainder of 2020 are difficult to make, but we know there will be a significant drop in April sales,” commented Emile van der Ryst, senior client insight manager at market research firm GfK, which gathers the BMBI data.

More data

Sales of heavy building materials including bricks, blocks and insulation fell by 6.5 per cent in the quarter; plumbing, heating and electrical sales fell by 7.4 per cent; sales of timber and joinery supplies fell 11.1 per cent; and tools dropped by 12.7 per cent.

HSE resumes site inspections as low enforcement figures revealed

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has just announced that it is restarting “proactive” inspections of construction sites.

This move follows a government announcement of more cash for the organisation and the prime minister Boris Johnson has promised the body would carry out “spot inspections” to make sure businesses were safe places to work.

The HSE had stopped carrying out inspections when the lockdown announcement in March, despite sectors such as construction continuing to operate.

Contractors are signing up for COVID-19 compliance courses

Housebuilders such as Wates, Kier, Vistry and Bellway have signed up to a COVID-19 compliance course, and more are expected to follow.

The course has been launched by the construction recruitment firm O’Neill & Brennan, who will provide coronavirus training for construction workers. 

The course is certified on the Register of Regulated Qualifications by Ofqual, and will provide contractors with the opportunity to have a fully qualified COVID-19 compliance marshal on site. 

This is designed to provide health and safety guidance on social distancing, how to sanitise sites, and how to spot coronavirus symptoms.

I would suggest this is an essential step forward to securing the continued safety on your building sites.

Whilst the teams will likely groan of yet more training to be had, this time, it’s a little bit different given the impact that COVID-19 has already had in the construction industry.

Furloughed workforce ‘drops to less than a quarter’

According to research from Build UK this week , the proportion of construction workers furloughed has fallen below 25 per cent.

It surveyed 25 of its members, which includes some of the country’s largest contractors, which revealed the number of workers having their wages paid by the government has fallen from 30 per cent four weeks ago to 22 per cent.

However data from the Office of National Statistics, which surveyed more SMEs, had a different outlook, with the proportion of staff furloughed in the two weeks ending 7 May at 45.6 per cent.

This was pretty much unchanged compared to the previous two-week period ending 19 April when it stood at 45.7 per cent.

The ONS surveyed more than 1,100 construction companies. to get this data.

How about you, are you back at work yet ?

Construction activity in Europe expands at faster pace

The eurozone has experienced its fastest expansion in construction activity expansion for a year, supported by increases in worker numbers and purchasing.

“The eurozone construction sector delivered mixed results in February as faster activity growth was accompanied by signs of a slowdown in demand,” said Eliot Kerr, economist at IHS Markit, which compiles the survey. “Despite activity rising at the quickest rate for a year, new business growth decelerated to the slowest in the current five-month sequence of expansion. Such a reading indicates softening underlying demand and can act as a prelude to slower activity growth. That said, firms were confident enough to continue taking on additional staff and buying extra materials, and forecasts for future activity remained strong.”

The rate of job creation accelerated to the quickest for almost a year. Across the euro area’s three largest economies, employment growth was quickest in Germany.

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