Contractor protects team from virus in theatre operation

One of the sites to have implemented the Construction Leadership Council’s (CLC) coronavirus site operating procedures is the renovation of the Globe Theatre in Stockton-on-Tees in County Durham.

Construction manager Mark Wolverson says: “Following the prime minister’s announcement about the lockdown, our first action was to review who needed to be on site and who could work from home. This led to the reallocation of design and commercial personnel to home working environments.

“Also, our site’s offices are in a large building adjacent to the Globe, so this allowed us to space desks to abide by the two metre social distancing requirements. Within the theatre itself, one-way systems were implemented on staircases to avoid paths being crossed and two metre spacing was marked for safe working. To further the social distancing message, we installed motion activated voiceover systems to remind operatives to abide by social distancing when entering the site, while hand sanitiser is plentiful and available in meeting rooms, on desks, and all site entrances and exits.”

Daily toolbox talks are a key part of the mix, to explain the latest guidance and operating procedures and ensure that everyone knows how they are expected to work within the guidelines. These are held in open spaces large enough for everyone to stay two metres apart.

Mark Wolverson continues, “The safety of our people and supply chain extends beyond the project’s boundaries. Everyone has a letter explaining their need to be outside their home in case they are questioned by law enforcement.”

The biggest challenge is the supply of materials, he says, and subcontractors still willing to operate. Willmott Dixon has had to respond creatively.

“We reviewed the project’s plan, looking at the supply chain resource we have and the tasks that can be brought forward,” he explains, “This has included changing the construction of key walls to masonry, as the metal decking contractor furloughed its workforce before the roof was completed. Taking this action has allowed our brickwork partner to keep its team employed. We actively engaged our supply chain partners who were able to continue to work on site, ensuring we prioritised activities that kept them going while maintaining the two metre social distancing rule.”

He continues: “Through our safe working practices, we are seeing more supply chain partners returning on a weekly basis, which is enabling more tasks to be completed. We have had supply chain partners comment they feel safer on site in comparison to their local supermarket, and are pleased to be able to continue their work.

“The supply of materials has been a challenge, as heritage projects require many specialist materials. As the government increased social distancing measures, some builders’ merchants and specialist suppliers temporarily close. However, there is an upward trend in openings, and [the client] Stockton Council has been very supportive, with the Globe critical for the local economy, in helping obtain materials.”