It’s been a very busy few weeks at Assured since the lock down. I can’t say how many weeks as I don’t actually know the date or the day of the week. I heard someone say there are only 3 days in lockdown: yesterday, today and tomorrow. I’d have to agree.
Before lockdown, we secured our sites and set up our team to work from home. In fact, we were already working from home before the lockdown announcement was made, it seemed like the right thing to do, to keep the team safe. As our office systems are all in the cloud, the move to working remotely wasn’t a difficult one.
What has been difficult is the uncertainty. How long is lockdown going to go on? When can we get back to work on our sites? What do we tell our customers who have purchased property off the plans when they ask when their property will be completed?
Being a building and development company, there are some things we can do remotely, like planning, design, consenting, quoting etc. but the building side of the business had to shut down completely. We had to down tools on all sites and send all of our builders and contractors home. That’s tough when most of our builders and contractors are small businesses and if they stop working they stop getting paid. With 11 developments under construction, a lot of people have taken a major earnings’ hit.
Fortunately, it’s looking like we might be able to get back to work soon. Not work quite as we knew it before, but a return nonetheless. The rate of new cases seem to be stabilising at a new low level and, with the guidance produced by the Ministry of Health and Master Builders, we now have the details we need to develop new work procedures to get our teams back on site safely. We need to consider both our staff and the wider community and encourage a safe and respectful working environment with good communication between all stakeholders.
Some of the changes to the way we will work on-site include:
- Hand washing stations with soap, hand sanitiser and paper towels at the entrance to the site. The number of entrances to a site will be reduced to a minimum.
- A sign in register recording the person’s name and their health status. It will also capture how they travelled to the site and who with. Where possible everyone should travel to and from site in their own vehicle.
- Building sites will be closed at all times. Only authorised personnel will be allowed on site.
- All meetings will be held by phone or video conference where possible. If on-site meetings are necessary, then numbers will be kept to a minimum and meetings held outdoors staying 2m apart.
- Sites will be kept clean of rubbish and food waste and things like door handles, light switches and bench tops will be wiped down daily.
- We will maintain an up to date site plan that is communicated with our teams showing where entry points to the sites are, hand washing stations, health & safety equipment, PPE gear, sign-in register etc.
- All work will be undertaken in a way that will promote physical distancing.
- We will have a COVID-19 emergency response plan in case of anyone suspected of being infected on site. If this occurs an Exposure report will be produced and steps taken to ensure the person is isolated and information can be delivered to assist in track and trace.
- We will assist workers to access mental health and wellbeing information e.g. Mates in Construction etc.
All in all, it’s about minimising work health and safety risks as much as possible. While the measures may seem onerous, there is no alternative. We need to keep a lid on this thing. And while it will initially mean a big change to the way we work on site, we will get used to it. And to be fair, we have been working under quite stringent health and safety regulations for some time now. We know how to manage our teams and keep them safe, COVID is just adding another layer of precautions to what we already do.
The fact remains that New Zealand still needs affordable housing, especially rental housing, so we will keep developing it. We have a large pipeline of work for the remainder of the year and another big year planned for 2021. While property prices will likely pull back a bit in the next few months, for those planning on holding property for the long term, this will eventually seem like a bump in the road. The fundamentals have not changed. In fact, I believe that the huge fiscal and monetary stimulus being carried out by the NZ government and practically every other government around the world will eventually lead to price inflation. All of the extra money will find a home, and after the recent reminder of how volatile the share market can be, more people will prefer to invest in the relative safety of property.