Construction, automotive and hospitality firms reopen sites

HRH Prince of Wales at the Aston Martin Lagonda plant in St Athan, Wales, in February 2020. Photo: Aston Martin

Construction giant Taylor Wimpey, which has announced a phased reopening of its building sites from Monday 4 May, is among a number of firms to reopen for business with social distancing measures.

On 24 March Taylor Wimpey announced the closure of building sites, show homes and sales centres to protect the health and safety of its customers, employees and subcontractors across the UK. While construction has been deemed a permitted activity by the government, the house builder said it needed to be “confident that we could modify our working practices to adhere to strict social distancing guidance” and that this required time and careful planning.

At its annual general meeting this morning, which was held virtually, it announced that its site management teams would return to work on-site on 4 May, with a view to allowing the first sub-contractors to join them the following week.

To help protect its workers, Taylor Wimpey is manufacturing a face-shield it has designed to attach directly to a hard hat. It will be used on all sites for “key two-person tasks”.

“We have worked closely with our partners, reviewing guidance issued by the Construction Leadership Council and taken advice from the Health and Safety Executive, to assess each and every aspect of our site activities and address the changes that need to be made to fully comply with the restrictions imposed by social distancing requirements,” it said in a statement.

It added that the “phased nature” of its remobilisation is key to making the necessary adjustments to site safety and to properly train employees, suppliers and sub-contractors in new ways of working.

Last week Bentley Motors said it will begin ramping up production from Monday 11 May with full production anticipated to resume on Monday 18 May, adding that a number of staff continue to work remotely to ensure the business is ready for a fast, safe, effective and successful ramp-up once restrictions are lifted.

Adrian Hallmark, chairman and CEO, said: “As the threat persists, so must we with the robust safety measures put in place to ensure we protect as many people as we possibly can, now and when we return to full operations.

“Like so many other businesses affected by this challenging time, we are working hard to safeguard the business, however we still look ahead with confidence that we can prevail and continue our journey to be the leader in sustainable luxury mobility.”

Another luxury carmaker, Aston Martin, has worked closely with employees and trade unions to develop and implement protocols to protect health and safety in its production facilities so that they are able to return to work.

A statement today said: “[Aston Martin] is now pleased to announce that it intends to reopen its St Athan manufacturing facility on May 5 following Public Health Wales and England guidelines which protect the safety of its people.”

It said lessons from reopening St Athan will lead to other sites reopening in due course.

The majority of Aston Martin’s workforce is currently furloughed, while senior leadership has agreed to a voluntary reduction in pay. Non-executive directors are waiving 35% of fees and the chief executive is taking a 35% cut in salary. Other members of the senior leadership team are taking 5-20% pay cuts while the executive chairman has elected to receive a nominal salary of £1 per year.

Other examples of businesses expanding operations include in the hospitality sector where Pret-A-Manger, Five Guys, KFC and Burger King have increased the number of outlets providing takeaway, particularly those close to NHS hospitals.

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