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The bumpy road out of lockdown

At the time of writing, the nations of the UK were due to be coming out of lockdown during April. So the end is in sight, but the road forward is definitely looking bumpy, says Hamish.

AS I’ve said before, one of the good things to come out of the pandemic has been an improved way of working on-site that has led to fewer trades being on-site at the same time, improved hygiene, and more realistic project timelines. That’s great, but we’ve recently become aware of a relaxation of this more disciplined approach.

It seems the site operating procedures haven’t always been adhered to in all cases. In some instances the HSE have had to get involved. I understand it’s inevitably going to be tricky to implement best practice 100% of the time when there are hundreds of people working on-site. However if staff are going off sick with Covid-19, there are track and trace procedures which must be adhered to and I’d urge anybody in charge of a site to study the guidance contained within the document ‘What to do if a worker has Covid-19 or has to self-isolate’, which can be found on the Build UK website.

Let’s not forget the quality improvements that can be gained by adopting an improved way of working. Quality in flooring requires laying the floor in the correct way and, in particular, getting the moisture content down. This is particularly true with anhydrite screeds, where moisture content can be a cause of failure if correct procedures and timescales aren’t followed. This is much easier to achieve when there are fewer people and fewer trades on-site and when project programmes are realistic.

As we emerge from the main restrictions of the pandemic, hopefully this month, plenty of other challenges will be waiting for us. Brexit is right up there, of course, and we’d urge government to do whatever it can at this stage to sort out the issues that are still causing problems for our members, particularly those importing products from overseas.

To describe these as ‘teething problems’ is no longer acceptable. The long delays being experienced on some types of product and the massive cost increases on container space which are being seen just now, are creating real problems for some businesses.

I’m also writing in the week that reverse VAT was imposed by HMRC on a very reluctant construction industry. The CFA, along with other trade associations, has been opposed to this change throughout – so we very much hope this will be the last such unnecessary administrative and cost burden that we’re going to have to deal with at this time when our sector remains fragile.
Of even more long-term impact is the environmental challenge and the whole issue of making our industry more sustainable. I think it is highly significant therefore that CFA has just launched its major new report – Zero Avoidable Waste in Flooring – Towards a Circular Economy.

This is a very important piece of work from the CFA and I want to commend everybody who has been involved in compiling it. It aims to establish a benchmark for the environmental and sustainability position of the contract flooring supply chain, by both setting out the achievements of the industry up to this point, whilst also highlighting the challenges and priorities for improving our future performance.

There are particular challenges for contractors in this. The next stage is for the industry to put together an action plan which will set out how to overcome the barriers that currently exist and exploit the opportunities that have been highlighted. In my own business, we have always looked at ways we can support this, and I think many companies now have it as a priority and are aware of the actions they need to take to improve their sustainability performance.

This report is important because it looks as much to an external audience, as to the industry itself. It addresses government and legislators, making plain we understand the issues and we’re trying as an industry to do something about them, to put in place a programme of improvement.

Many manufacturers are recycling products like vinyl and carpet tiles, as well as cardboard – and there are organisations which exist to help with this.

One major issue is cleaning plastic buckets which are used on-site for adhesives, levellers and other chemicals used on-site, and I know Recofloor is looking at solutions for this. As contractors, we need to support these efforts as part of our contribution.
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