Hardware stores, plant and tool hire outlets exempt from closure, govt confirms

GOVERNMENT ministers have confirmed that hardware shops and equipment, plant and tool hire retail businesses are exempt from closure during the COVID-19 crisis.

While many non-essential retailers have been forced to close - including the likes of hairdressers and beauty salons - notable exceptions have been made for retail businesses that provide essential services such as car garages, supermarkets and veterinary surgeries.

Hardware stores and equipment businesses, along with plant and tool hire services, have now been officially named among the essential retailers allowed to continue trading during the coronavirus pandemic.

Previously, guidance was unclear regarding closure of these businesses, many of which are critical to keeping the country operational and supporting vital services like the NHS.

Graham Arundell, CEO at Hire Association Europe, commented on LinkedIn: “There is still a great need to provide equipment for maintenance and support of NHS and critical infrastructure. However, some members working to maintain support of the national Covid-19 effort were getting unwarranted criticism in the media for continuation of operations.

“Consequently we took this up with government, who recognised the vital part of the hire sector, and the designated premises list was altered to include equipment, plant and tool hire.”

He went on to stay that remaining open would be a choice for each business rather than a decision to be made by a trade body on the industry’s behalf.

"Those businesses that continue to trade will prioritise the safety and wellbeing of their staff and customers by following guidance from Public Health England in relation to safeguarding and social distancing," Mr Arundell added.

The updated official guidance regarding closure of certain businesses and venues can be found HERE.

Self employed workers' relief at government aid

CHANCELLOR Rishi Sunak today announced a support package for many self-employed people across the country.

The Government will provide grants of up to £2,500 a month, to be paid in a single lump sum, although this will not begin to arrive until June at the earliest.

The Chanellor claimed that 95% of people who earn most of their income as self-employed would be covered.

The Government has weathered repeated calls to provide for self-employed workers since it announced plans for 80% wage subsidies for staff kept on by employers last week.

Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB, welcomed the news saying: “Construction workers across the country will now be taking a collective sigh of relief knowing they will now be protected in the sme way that employees will be if they lose work due to COVID-19.

"I am delighted that the Chancellor has heeded our calls to be generous with his offer to the self-employed, who make up almost 40% of those working in the construction industry. Building companies will now also be able to close sites to protect workers and public health without having to worry about the losses faced by self-employed workers on those sites.

"We now urge the Treasury and HMRC to ensure that all support packages are up and running as soon as physically possible.”

FMB backs calls to stop non-essential construction

THE Federation of Master Builders (FMB) has backed calls for the Government to close construction sites doing non-essential, non-emergency work - thereby granting them financial support - during the coronavirus crisis.

It also reiterated that self-employed should receive financial support from the Government as well.

New research conducted by the FMB has found that:

  • More than half (60%) of builders have already ceased between 76% and 100% of their work;
  • Of those, 80% are in the domestic repair, renovation and maintenance sector.
  • Almost two-thirds (63%) of builders believe that the Government is not doing enough to support them;
  • 80% of builders would apply for the £25,000 grant, currently only available to retail, leisure and hospitality firms, if it were made available to them; 
  • Of those 303 firms who said that they would apply, they employ a total of just under 2,000 people (1,956) and most commonly said that the grant would help them survive another two to three months.

Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB, said: “Most FMB members have already taken the lead and ceased the majority of their work. It is almost impossible to follow Public Health England’s social distancing advice on many sites, and it would therefore be safer to close them.”

“However, the Government must ensure that these firms don’t face a cliff-edge while doing the right thing and should ensure that grants of £25,000 are made available and that ample support is extended to the self-employed who represent 37% of construction jobs.”

“No one should have to choose between feeding their family and protecting their health and yet that is the position many builders currently find themselves in. There is a clear appetite for greater Government support among builders, as demonstrated by the fact that 80% would apply if grants were available.

"Later today, the Chancellor must avoid any halfway house measures and ensure that he delivers equal support for the self-employed as those on PAYE. This package needs to cover the breadth of people who are self-employed not just a select few.”

www.fmb.org.uk

Government update clarifies work sites may remain open

THE government updated the guidance on their website for working through the current COVID-19 pandemic, which can be read in full HERE.

The new guidance clarifies that construction sites may remain open and tradespeople carrying out important repairs and maintenance may continue to operate - as long as they follow the appropriate instructions.

 

WHICH BUSINESSES NEED TO CLOSE?

On Monday, 23 March, MP Boris Johnson ordered certain businesses were to close. These include:

  • Pubs, cinemas and theatres;
  • Retail stores selling non-essential items;
  • Libraries, youth centres and community centres;
  • Restaurants and nightclubs;
  • Indoor and outdoor leisure facilities;
  • Hotels.

A full list of businesses ordered to close - as well as exemptions to the order - can be found HERE.

The government has not required any business which is not on this list to close.

 

CONSTRUCTIONS SITES

Construction sites are not on the list of businesses ordered to close, and thus may remain open. Workers who are unable to work from home are permitted to travel to get to and from work.

However, employers on construction sites should still ensure they are following the Public Health England guidelines, which can be found HERE. This includes ensuring workers regualrly wash their hands with soap for 20 seconds and maintain a 2 meter distance wherever possible.

The Construction Leadership Council has published Site Operating Procedures, developed by Build UK, which gives advice for construction companies remaining open.

 

TRADESPEOPLE

Work that must be carried out in people's homes is also permitted and such workers are allowed to travel to get to and from work.

However, no work should be done in the property of someone who is isolating  "unless it is to remedy a direct risk to the safety of the household, such as emergency plumbing or repairs", and only if the worker consents.

No work should be carried out by any worker who displays any coronavirus symptoms at all.

Workers should also consult the Public Health England guidelines, which can be found HERE.

The Construction Leadership Council releases Site Operating Procedures during COVID-19

THE Construction Leadership Council has stepped forward to produce a guide, titled Site Operating Procedures, for builders who are continuing essential work while the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread.

Many workers have been left confused as current events have moved faster than our ability to prepare for them.

In a statement posted to their website, Andy Mitchell co-chair of the Construction Leadership Council said of the launch of Site Operating Procedures:

"We are in exceptional circumstances, and are doing our utmost to keep construction sites operational wherever it is practical and safe to do so. Whilst the guidance from Public Health England may change in future, for the time being construction sites of any size that are operating during the Coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic need to ensure they are protecting their workforce and minimising the risk of spread of infection.

"To implement the Government’s social distancing recommendation the Construction Leadership Council has now published Site Operating Procedures. I would strongly recommend that these procedures are implemented by every operational construction site, with the aim of us having a standard approach across the industry that all firms and workers can adopt.

"It is also vital that the health and safety requirements of any construction activity must not be compromised at this time. If an activity cannot be undertaken safely due to a lack of suitably qualified personnel being available, or social distancing being implemented, it should not take place. We are aware that emergency services are also under great pressure and may not be in a position to respond as quickly as usual."

You can view and download the document HERE.

HHIC issue advice to heating engineers on working during COVD-19 crisis

FOLLOWING a month of unprecedented upheaval, the Heating and Hotwater Industry Council (HHIC) has released a statement offering advice and clarity for baffled heating engineers.

The government have been increasingly urging people to socially isolate themselves to help arrest the spread of the coronavirus (CORVID-19) pandemic. Last night (Monday 23 March), PM Boris Johnson went further than ever by declaring it a national emergency and banning social events.

Work in essential sectors is still permitted, but many key workers are still searching for guidance on how to go about their work.

The statement can be viewed in full below:

 

The global pandemic COVID-19 has had unprecedented effects on the lives of us all. These are unchartered times causing untold uncertainty and fear amongst us all. The heating and plumbing industry carry out essential frontline work to maintain the supply of heating and hot water to UK homes, schools, hospitals and businesses. It cannot simply cease to operate.

Therefore, the heating industry has identified a number of actions that frontline engineers- who are currently still operating - can take to help protect themselves and their customers during the COVD-19 outbreak. These are based on Government recommendations, which change daily. HHIC will keep this page as up to date as possible.

Key considerations:

  • When discussing an appointment with your customer/s, ask if they or any occupants are self-isolating, displaying any symptoms of COVID19, and/or have received a positive diagnosis.
  • Where the householders are not self-isolating, displaying any symptoms, and have not been diagnosed with COVID19, there is no reason not to undertake the planned work, whilst exercising general best practice in line with the latest Government guidance for the public: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-information-for-the-public
  • If householders are, then there is a need to consider the nature of the work, and also the vulnerability of the householders. Additional precautions should be taken if the work is to proceed, which could include additional PPE, such as disposable overalls, disposable gloves, eye protection, and suitable face mask.
  • Government guidance is continually evolving, but be especially vigilant of those persons currently identified as most at risk, such as the over-70’s, and/or with underlying health issues.
  • As well as protecting yourself, and householders, you should also consider the welfare of any colleagues, especially if they fall into one of the vulnerable categories.

Practical steps to take when working in the field:

  • On the day of the work, call ahead to your customer to ask if they or any occupants have signs of the virus, have been diagnosed, or are self-isolating, and to check that they are comfortable with your visit to take place.
  • Explain to your customers what you will be doing, and why, and that you will need to maintain a safe distance from them (2m or 6 steps away is current Government advice), including when waiting for the customer to open the door.
  • Do not shake hands with the customer or other occupants.
  • Ask if the occupants can stay in another room, away from the work area(s) whilst the work proceeds, and with permission ventilate the work area where appropriate, e.g. by opening a window.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds, at the start of the job and after (also during the work). It is recommended to carry your own hand-towel with your equipment. Wash/replace hand-towel at end of each day/shift.
  • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Wear suitable work gloves.
  • If you feel unsafe or at risk at any point, undertake a personal risk assessment and leave the premises if necessary. You can re-plan for a future date if appropriate, after ensuring everything is made safe.
  • Customer/Engineer signature – is this required by the work?....can it be avoided, or an electronic copy can be sent on the day, or at a later date (use and/or sharing of pens, tablets or mobile phones may pose a risk of contamination/infection).

Job completion

  • Wipe down any operational rubber gloves, tools and instruments used within the premises;
  • Remove and place into a plastic bag any wipes, disposable gloves and overalls used, whilst trying not to cross-contaminate onto existing clothes or persons;
  • Do not touch your face;
  • Ensure you then clean/wash your hands, and where possible/appropriate any reusable PPE (e.g. safety glasses), using soap and water, or use suitable hand sanitizer on hands before moving to your next job;
  • At the end of each day and following the appropriate local waste regulations dispose of any bagged waste in line with any existing business process and/or Government guidance

*Note- this guidance is to assist the business/individual. It does not form an official process.

www.hhic.org.uk

Lighthouse keeps shining for workers in crisis

THE Lighthouse Construction Industry Charity, which provides the 24/7 confidential Constrction Industry Helpline, has released a statement urging workers affected by the recent pandemic not to forget them in times of trouble.

The helplines provides a first point of contact for employers and employees who require extra assistance with matter of finance, occupational health and mental wellbeing.

The statement comes as many workers report hightened anxiety about work, finances, as well as mental health issues stemming from social isolation.

The statement can be read below:

 

During these difficult and uncertain times we would like to reassure everyone that our 24/7 Construction Industry Helpline and complementary app are still fully operational to support our construction families in crisis. All calls are free and 100% confidential.

If you have been affected by the impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) please do not hesitate to get in touch with us and we will support you and your family in any way we can.

For companies wanting to ensure that their employees know where to turn to for help, our helpline packs can still be ordered and will be dispatched to you as a matter of urgency.

In the meantime, the postponement of our many events and fundraising activities across the country is having a devastating impact on our expected income. So, now more than ever, we need companies to pledge an annual donation and become a Company Supporter so that we can continue our vital work during these extraordinary times. Please help us to help our own and ensure that no worker is left alone in a crisis.

More information can be found at www.lighthouseclub.org/lighthouse-company-supporter/

YOU CAN CALL THE CONSTRUCTION INDSTRY HELPLINE ON 0345 605 1956

OR VISIT www.constructionindustryhelpline.com

 

Axinite work clothes: More competition!

THE work clothing market is a highly competitive one, so any new players have to be pretty sure that what you are bringing to the table is not only high quality, but competitively priced. And like all clothing, it projects an image, so purchasers will have favourites for a variety of reasons: look, durability, comfort, etc.

Axinite has hit the ground running with a range of clothing that feels and looks good and performs well.

The basics – trousers

For me, the fit on trousers has to be very good to ensure all-day comfort. Things like avoiding the constant need to pull at the waistband, tuck in my shirt and pull up the knees when I kneel down, are key.

My first impression of the trousers as I opened the pack is that they are well-designed for the intended purpose. Made from heavy duty polyester/cotton fabric, they have reinforced knees, tough fabric lippings on the capacious rear pockets and seven belt loops. They don’t feel lightweight and flimsy, which might be good in summer, but is definitely not what I wanted in the cold and wet we have been experiencing recently.

It was only after I had been wearing them on the jobsite for an hour or two that I started to understand that some of the details on these Axinite trousers are pretty handy. Around the waistband is a grippy strip that helps to keep your shirt tail in when you bend and stretch. I hate the cold draft on my kidneys!

The two front holster pockets are nicely designed to be optional. If you want them, simply undo the press stud and pull them out of the main pockets where they are ready to accept all the usual stuff that I put in them like pencils, knives, a tape measure and work gloves. When tucked in, they function like smaller pockets and don’t get in the way.

There are a few smaller pockets on the legs for rulers and possibly a mobile, but I think you can overdo the pockets (as some brands do) because the combined weight of all the stuff in them can cause discomfort at the waistband. Axinite doesn’t fall into that trap.

One of my design necessities is the capacity to fit kneepads on trousers because, put brutally, my knees hurt after unprotected kneeling on the jobsite. The Axinite kneepads supplied with the sample trousers are made of natural black rubber and strike a good balance – hard enough to not feel every stone under your knee, but soft enough for comfort and relief.

The kneepads are easy to fit and I am told that they can stay in place while the trousers are washed. It is quite rare that kneepads don’t have to be adjusted when you kneel down – usually pulled up a little, to engage with the knees. Mercifully with the Axinite trousers, as I knelt, the pads found their place over my kneecaps. Result!

Some readers may have noticed that we have had quite a lot of rain recently – so I am happy to report that the fabric on these trousers has a slight water resistance that keeps you dry for short exposures to wet kneeling on the floor or rain on the dash to the van. The rubber kneepads don’t act like spongers either.

Overall, I found these trousers practical and comfortable, and I am sure they will be hardwearing. They wash and dry easily making them perfectly suited to the jobsite environment.

Shirts and customisation

Axinite has a couple of shirts in the range – a polo shirt and a T-shirt. I was sent the polo shirt to try. Made of 100% high wicking polyester, it is easy to wash and dry, crease free and comfortable to wear. The side panels in contrasting grey are stretchy and help make it easy to move around and lift your arms.

Even one-man bands like a bit of branding and customisation these days, and Axinite seems to have this down pat. In order to have a logo, badge, name or brand embroidered to an item of clothing, all the user has to do is to supply a design, with colourways if needed, and Axinite will do the rest. It doesn’t matter if the design is a simple picture taken on a mobile phone, Axinite has the technology to stitch the design where you want it. Hence I am now the proud owner of a polo shirt with the new TOOLKIT logo embroidered on the sleeve – look out for it on the videos.

Padded Body Warmer – Perfect for the current weather

I like body warmers to wear on the jobsite. In my view, they are a practical garment that keeps your core warm while allowing your arms freedom of movement. The result is that I have a lot of body warmers with paint, slight tears and glue stains on them. But my Axinite body warmer will go to the pile that will only be worn on ‘clean’ jobs - for the foreseeable, anyway.

With a polyester construction and quality warm padding, it is easy to wash and dry. It is also very light, considering its warmth, so it is comfortable and moves easily while you are working. I like the zipped side pockets that are big enough for gloves, a tape measure and a few other bits besides. Inside there is also a zipped pocket that will easily take a mobile and/or a wallet.

It zips all the way to under the chin and around the back of the neck and is good at keeping draughts out. Generously, Axinite also embroidered the TOOLKIT logo on the chest and it looks good. The embroidery work does not affect the padding and lining of the garment, so users can be assured that performance won’t be compromised.

Use the net

Most people use the internet nowadays so it makes sense to access Axinite via its website where purchasers can order what they need: shoes, shirts, jackets, trousers, fleeces, etc.

For customisation, simply submit your logo or chosen design and let the Axinite people do the work.

In my view, what you get from Axinite is a range of high quality gear that is up to the demands of the jobsite – it is well worth a look.


www.axinite.co.uk

JCB stops production as global demand for machines reduces

JCB IS today stopping production at all of its UK manufacturing plants as disruption resulting from the worldwide Coronavirus pandemic causes an unprecedented reduction in global demand.

The company is halting production for the rest of this week and the whole of next week at its nine manufacturing plants in Staffordshire, Derbyshire and Wrexham. Shop floor employees affected by the move will be paid in full during this period. No decision has yet been taken on what happens from the week commencing Monday, 30 March and beyond. Office staff will continue to work a 39-hour week, with many working from home, in support of the Government’s social distancing policy.

JCB CEO Graeme Macdonald said: “These measures are unprecedented in the history of JCB but are absolutely necessary to protect the business. As we continue to deal with the health implications of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become more challenging to maintain business continuity in this volatile economic climate.

"JCB is a global exporter and worldwide demand for our products has dropped sharply as customers cancel orders and defer deliveries. This is not just a UK issue, it is worldwide and with countries like France, Spain and Italy going into lock-down, those key markets for construction equipment disappear overnight.

“In light of this fast-changing situation, we need to re-plan our production and, as a result, manufacturing at all UK factories will cease for the rest of this week and all of next week. This will allow us to take stock of the situation, re-plan our order book, prioritise products that are definitely required by customers, and ensure parts and components are reassigned to support the production of these products.”

JCB’s plant in Pudong, near Shanghai, ceased production last month as the impact of the pandemic initially took hold. After several weeks of disruption, the factory is now fully operational again.

www.jcb.com

KNIPEX's American style linesman’s pliers

LEADING pliers specialist KNIPEX has a range of American Style Linesman’s Pliers, designed to make gripping, pulling and cutting so much easier.

With a solid construction to take the heaviest strain, the KNIPEX Linesman’s Pliers require 50% less effort compared with conventional combination pliers, thanks to its optimised transmission ratio.

The KNIPEX Linesman’s Pliers feature an ergonomically optimised handle shape for firm contact with your hand and has a fatigue-reducing operation. A particularly effective cross-hatched gripping zone in the jaws has also been included to enable strong gripping and pulling.

The range includes versions with a fish tape puller in the joint gap and a universal mandrel crimping point below the joint. KNIPEX also has a version with a tether attachment point for mounting a fall protection – perfect for those tradespeople working at height.

www.knipex.com

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