Britain’s economy can only restart when bosses ensure their workers are safe. If they fail, they face another lockdown – and risk their staff never coming back.
John Allan, chairman of Barratt Developments and president of the CBI, listed steps his business is taking to reopen, in an online presentation to the business group’s members.
Step one: social distancing. If workers can be kept apart, they are less likely to spread coronavirus.
Barratt’s, which hopes to restart on some sites next week, will begin with just half the usual number of workers. It will stagger their shift patterns to avoid a “surge” at rush hour. And the shape of the sites will change.
“We are going to widen walkways on our sites – the safe walkways people can use to get from one part of the site to another,” says Allan.
“They are normally quite narrow, probably about a metre wide. We are going to widen those, and when that is not possible we’re going to put refuges, passing places, so that people can pass safely.”
Step two: PPE. When staff cannot be kept apart – for instance when handling tools or components which require two workers – they will wear personal protective equipment.
This includes face masks, of the type which are not used in the NHS and so will not disrupt medical supplies.
“In confined spaces, we’re going to provide people with complete headsets, a bit like Second World War gas masks,” the chairman says.
Step three: enforcement.
“We have got to convince our workforce that this makes it a safe place to work,” says Allan. “Then once you’ve set it up, you have to police it.”
He has planned four levels of enforcement. Site supervisors take responsibility for making sure their staff understand and stick to the rules. Then a warden on each site – typically picked from the company’s substantial pool of ex-forces staff – will police compliance.
The Health and Safety Executive will be invited in to check up on the rules and compliance to them. And then the company will send in its own squad of inspectors for surprise visits.
And those who do not comply? “You will be instructed and taught not to do that,” says Allan.
“If the behaviour was repeated and people didn't learn the lesson, frankly they would be terminated. We cannot allow a small number of employees to put all the rest at risk. But I think by and large the people we employ are very sensible.”
Let the work recommence.