There probably isn’t a person in the UK that’s been unaffected by Covid-19 -whether directly through illness, or local or national restrictions to stop the spread. Throughout the pandemic, key worker status has kept the highways sector moving, as essential infrastructure works have continued.
However, practice and protocols have had to change. Years of evolving and refining safety methods have had a sudden curveball thrown at them, and the challenge to keep our workforces safe has required swift action.
Crown Highways has continued to deliver their range of services throughout 2020 and are just one of the companies who have had to make some serious safety based manoeuvres in the best interest of workforce health and wellbeing.
Here we explore some of the key adaptations made, and how new challenges are being tackled as the impact of the virus continues to take effect.
Covid Manager meetings
Initially every other day, the Crown Highways management team met to specifically discuss Covid-19 protocols.
Topics include general workforce health and safety, possible improvements to practices and/or PPE, updated staff numbers in case of any required self-isolation, as well as any positive news that can be utilised to lift spirits at this challenging time.
As national lockdown restrictions have eased, Crown Highways currently hold these meetings weekly. However, with one eye always on local restrictions affecting their workforces across the UK, the company remains adaptable and flexible to more regular Covid-19 meetings if necessary.
Managing Director Mike Dale told us:
“These meetings really are the backbone of our Covid-19 response, we explore possibilities and solutions regularly, we see if improved equipment or PPE is available, we explore our workforce numbers and how that shapes our projected workload, as well as discussing employee wellbeing and mental health factors.
“As we all know, there is no set protocol for dealing with Covid-19 and it’s sprung upon us all this year. All we can do is continue to give our response the importance it deserves, and strive to keep our people as safe as possible whilst performing their duties.”
A number of additional PPE items have been provided to the workforce by Crown Highways as a commitment to their safety in their workplace. These additions include:
- Key worker vests to identify that the workforce was still able to operate on works and to make the travelling public aware
- Mandated face masks when social distancing cannot be complied to for other safety reasons
- Nitile gloves were mandated under normal gloves to provide the team with extra protection against the virus
- Mandated eye protection at all times rather than when just doing certain jobs to minimise the chance of infection
- Individual hand sanitiser for workers both on site & in the office
At Crown HQ, the company introduced social distancing floor markers to ensure that the 2m rules are followed at all times. Additionally, signage repeating the government message of stopping the spread are also prevalent around Crown HQ.
These signs are in addition to a QR code present in the office for if/when visitors enter the office for track and trace purposes, as well as hand sanitising stations present around the office.
Furthermore, each employee is provided with a personal bottle of hand sanitiser.
Crown Highways has increased cleaning operations in their office in order to take extra precautions to stop the spread of Covid-19. These cleaning practices also extend to site, where additional welfare vehicles are now provided to reduce staff numbers in each individual vehicle.
Additionally, the welfare units are cleaned more regularly, and there is a strict vehicle cleaning regime in place for all Crown Highways vehicles which is implemented after each and every use of any Crown vehicle.
A more plentiful fleet of vehicles has been brought in by Crown Highways to ensure that each vehicle only had single occupancy
Mental health First Aiders
Crown Highways reached out to all employees, clients and employee’s families and offered them free mental health support if needed, provided by their trained mental health first aiders.
Crown also sourced free training for suicide awareness and also how to deal with someone in isolation.
Working from home & safety practice redevelopment
Staff were empowered to work from home where they could, and are still supported through home working as Covid-19 continues to disrupt what we used to know as normality, to avoid travelling and mixing with other members of staff if not necessary.
For those not working at home, Crown has redeveloped safe systems of work and risk assessments to accommodate for Covid-19 factors.
Collaboration with other Supply Chain Companies
Within the Area 9 community (Midlands) the 15 organisations in the Alliance worked together in supporting each other.
These are examples of support given:
- Sharing of PPE – amongst different organisations where stock issues were raised.
- Furlough – developed an understanding of what furlough meant.
- Self Isolation cases – discussion on policy when staff self isolated
- Key worker testing – how and where we get testing across the region.
- Hotels for key workers – share information on which hotels were open
- Key worker authority letters – letters developed to enable us to continue to work.
- Site operating procedures – specific working guidelines to work with shared.
Mike Dale, Crown Highways Manging Director commented:
“We have been incredibly fortunate to continue to work through this very challenging and difficult period, as an organisation we have worked closer together and have done everything we can to ensure staff return home, safe and well.
“I hope when we are able to experience relative normality we continue to embrace some of great initiatives that have been used over the period and we can push on and continue to delivery work safely on the network.”