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14 April 2020

Planning for the Return to Level 3 for Construction and Architecture Businesses

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Note: This blog post was published prior to updates made on 16 April. For the government's latest information on the lockdown, please view the NZ Covid-19 website here. We'll update this blog post shortly to reflect key information shared in the latest government update. 

With a drop in new Covid-19 cases over the last few days, the government is confident that we’ve passed the peak of the Level 4 lockdown. This means we are now looking towards returning to Level 3 measures at a soon to be confirmed date.

When this time comes, businesses will need to be ready to ensure they can step up to meet the restrictions of Level 3.

What is Level 3?

According to the Covid-19 NZ website, at level 3, we will still have restrictions placed on us either locally and/or nationally, including:

  • Travel restrictions in areas with cluster or community transmission
  • Closure of educational facilities
  • Restriction of mass gatherings
  • Closure of public venues

We can expect to see more detailed info on Level 3 over the next week.

What does this mean for architecture and construction businesses?

This is likely to mean that businesses that can operate from home (such as architecture practices) will be asked to continue to do so during Level 3, while businesses that cannot (such as construction firms) may be allowed to return to work. This will be very positive for the architecture and construction industry, but we must remember that it is not a return to ‘normal’. Businesses will need to take a step-by-step approach to returning to Level 3.

Step 1: Consult with staff, suppliers and clients

Both architecture practices and building businesses will need to contact their respective suppliers and clients in order to find out what limitations they are under and how this will impact their ability to return to Level 3. Identify who in the chain would need to start first in order to gradually come out of the Level 4 lockdown.

Employees should also be part of this consultation process as they may be able to point out workplace challenges that management don’t identify. 

Step 2: Develop a step-by-step plan

Once you’re aware of any challenges or hold-ups to returning to Level 3, you’ll be able to create a plan to return to operations in a staged manner. For construction businesses, step 1 of this plan may be health and safety inspection of all sites and equipment before staff are allowed to return to work.

Step 3: Set social distancing and hygiene guidelines

The next step is to consider how to implement social distancing in the workplace. For architecture practices, this will likely mean continuing to work from home. In those instances where certain team members need to visit a site or the office, social distancing guidelines must be implemented.

For builders, this could mean having fewer builders on-site in order to maintain an adequate distance (and accepting the lower productivity rate). Perhaps builders could work on a rotating roster, or perhaps the plan will involve only one trade on-site at a time. What’s important is that the guidelines are set from the start so there is no confusion amongst staff.

Additional disinfecting and washing facilities will also be required so that staff can safely work while maintaining the increased level of hygiene needed during this time.

Step 4: Communicate with the team

Once a timeframe has been given by the government, it will be time for employers to communicate with their employees about the transition to Level 3 within the businesses, making sure they understand the plan and new rules for social distancing and hygiene.

Once any employees are back at the office or on-site, it will be important to communicate regularly. Building business should have daily toolbox talks to ensure staff are up to date and consistent with health and safety requirements, and that they can air any concerns.

Operating at Level 3

At Level 3, it will be extremely important that businesses do not tolerate any disregard for social distancing or hygiene measures. Staff should be aware that breaches of these guidelines will be treated as serious misconduct.

Businesses should be prepared to stand by the measures they’ve taken should there be any outbreak cluster associated with the workplace. This means taking health and well-being seriously, ensuring staff with any symptoms stay at home and get tested, and that contact-tracing records are kept.

By maintaining caution at this stage, we will be giving ourselves a much better chance to return to Level 2 and Level 1 in the near future. 

As this situation progresses, we'll continue to share key information and offer advice and support to architects and builders. If there's something you would like us to investigate or cover, feel free to get in touch or comment below. 

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