BMF publishes Branch Operating Guidelines during COVID-19

THE Builders Merchants Federation (BMF) has published Branch Operating Guidelines for the safe operation of builders’ merchants while Covid-19 restrictions continue. 

The 18-page document sets out guidelines and additional precautions to follow in the office, at trade counters, during customer and supplier deliveries, customer collection and tool hire. 

The Guidelines incorporate Public Health England (PHE) social distancing and hygiene procedures and have been prepared in consultation with merchants, Highways England and the Construction Leadership Council, which has itself published Site Operating Procedures for use on all building sites to facilitate safe working.  

Two-metre social distancing is absolute between merchant staff, customers and suppliers - and information is included on detailed cleaning routines and mandatory compliance to avoid transmission of the virus.

John Newcomb, BMF CEO said: “The Government has made it clear that merchants are a vital part of the construction supply chain and, if it is safe to do so, it is important they are able to support the construction industry as work continues and more sites reopen.

“We have worked with the industry to develop a new operating model to minimise the risk of virus transmission. The new model centres around trade customers using call and collect, click and collect and pre-arranged orders, with no public access into branches.

“The safety of merchant staff, suppliers and customers is paramount and every merchant must make the best decision for their individual business.  We hope these new Guidelines will show how risks can be managed if these safe systems of work are in place and remain effective until further notice.”

The BMF website includes a list showing the current operational status of merchant and supplier members during the crisis. The BMF has asked all members to advise them of any changes to ensure the list is accurate and up to date.

Visit the BMF website HERE

'Builders were struggling even before COVID-19', says FMB

NEW data published today from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed a 5.6% fall in private housing repair and maintenance in the three months to February 2020, the largest fall in this series since October 2012. 
Brian Berry, chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders (FMB), said: “Repair and maintenance plummeted during a wet winter, and builders have not had the opportunity to revive workloads due to the coronavirus lockdown. They have been suffering due to conditions outside of their control, and further Government help is needed to get this important sector through the crisis.”

“The Government must ramp up its support for builders by allowing Directors of small Limited companies to use their dividend payments in their Job Retention Scheme claims. A cash grant mechanism to get builders through this tough time should also be developed, and all financial schemes must come on line as soon as possible.”

Free online wellbeing workshops announced for construction workers

CALLS to the UK’s ‘Construction Industry Helpline’ have increased 25% over the past 10 days which reflects the rising levels of anxiety and insecurity within the construction industry.

To help offer support and wellbeing during these worrying times, a series of free online lunchtime workshops has been announced for people working in any capacity in construction.

From mindfulness and meditation to resilience and controlling stress, anyone can take part in these bite-sized online sessions as long as they have access to an email address and access to the internet, whether via smartphone, tablet or laptop.

Sessions, which last for 45 minutes, will run weekly starting from Thursday 16 April - each starting at 12 noon:
Thurs 16 April / Top Tips for Resilience more
Fri 24 April / Build a Work Life Balance more
Mon 27 April / How to Meditate more
Tues 5 May / How to Handle Stress more
Wed 13 May / Mindfulness for You more

The ‘Wellbeing workshops’ are the result of a new collaboration between UK’s Lighthouse Construction Industry Charity and leading construction software firm Construction Industry Solutions (COINS).

Bill Hill, CEO of The Lighthouse Club charity commented: “Our charity exists to support the welfare and wellbeing of all construction workers and their families in the UK and Ireland. COINS are a technology provider with a big heart and a huge social conscience. We are delighted to be collaborating with them to deliver this series of free wellbeing life skill workshops to help everyone in our industry cope and navigate through these distressing times.”

Although the construction industry is rising to the challenge of creating a healthier workplace, finding the right support is not always easy and is currently more important than ever before.

Another vital source of information, advice and guidance is The Lighthouse Club’s ‘Construction Industry Helpline’ (Tel 0345 505 1956 or mobile app for Android and iOS) which helps people experiencing stress, anxiety or depression as well as providing access to other areas of support such as anger management, drug and alcohol dependency, debt management, legal advice, and emergency financial aid.

COINS, with over 35 years of developing software solutions for construction companies, is also passionate about giving something back to the industry. Its CEO, Robert Brown, added:“The Lighthouse Club has been providing immensely valuable services to support construction workers and their families for many years. We are delighted once again to have the opportunity to collaborate with them in the delivery of a series of invaluable webinars which will provide construction workers with vital health and wellbeing skills during these most difficult and challenging times.”

For full details visit

Snickers’ work gloves for healthy hands

THERE'S one thing that professional tradesmen and women can’t do without if they want to get their jobs done properly: healthy hands!

So take good care of your most important tools and choose a pair that’s right for your work to ensure the ultimate in dexterity, durability, comfort and protection.

With advanced designs, features and material combinations, there’s something to suit most trades, from bricklayers and roofers, electricians and plumbers, painters and mechanics, facilities and transportation.

Added to which the unique ‘curved’ designs ensure strong, secure grips while sophisticated patterns, vents and ribs combined with durable materials that provide cut protection, knuckle protection, ventilation, water and wind protection, even features so you can use your mobile phone. What’s more, for specialist use where health and safety standards are key requirements, all of our Work Gloves are EN certified for performance and protection.

Getting more information on the Snickers Work Gloves Range is easy. You can call the Helpline on 01484 854788; or check out where you can download a digital catalogue

How to secure your construction site during the lockdown

Christian Matenaers from tool and personal protective equipment provider Zoro shares his top tips for protecting your construction site.


CONSTRUCTION sites aren't on the list of businesses that need to close during the UK's coronavirus lockdown. And, in a letter thanking construction employees for continuing to work during the outbreak, our Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Alok Sharma, said those working onsite are permitted to continue doing so.

However, many site managers are sending their staff home anyway, which is arguably the most responsible thing to do.

But this does mean that many UK construction sites could be sitting unoccupied for months. While everyone should be following the latest guidelines when it comes to social distancing and staying home, people might still use this opportunity to steal from or vandalise construction sites. So, you need to ensure yours is secured.

Organise access to your CCTV from home

While you might not be working on your construction site for the foreseeable future, you'll still want to check in on it from time to time. This will make it much easier for you to contact police as quickly as possible if you think there's a problem and will also help to put your mind at ease.

So, before you completely shut up shop, it's a good idea to look into whether you'll be able to gain access to your CCTV from home. Most leading CCTV providers will allow you to tap into your system through your phone or home computer so you can keep an eye on things.

Make a special effort to secure your perimeter

There's no telling when the UK's lockdown will be over, so you could be away from your site for weeks — or even months — to come. So, you want to be especially confident that nobody will be able to gain access to your premises.

It's important that you assess whether your existing security precautions are fit for purpose. For example, it's usually considered acceptable for the hoarding around a construction site to be 2.4m tall (PressOn), but some sites do opt for boards that are 3m tall for extra protection. If your site is mostly open plan at the moment, it's also worth compartmentalising it in order to put more obstacles between thieves and your most valuable equipment.

Finally, check all your locks, alarms, and other security systems to make sure they work as they should. It's easy to become complacent with this, but you're going to be relying on them now more than ever.

Consider having a security guard

If these measures don't put your mind at ease, consider keeping one or two people onsite to keep an eye on things.

You could ask your existing security team to keep working, although it's important you check whether their situation will allow them to do so. Another option is to hire new security guards from a firm that specialises in looking after construction sites. Many are looking for jobs, so you could be helping someone out. Just make sure whoever agrees knows that they must abide by all of the government's latest advice.

Take these tips on board to help protect your site through the lockdown.

Dickies puts your hero tradesperson in the spotlight

GLOBAL workwear brand Dickies is putting the spotlight on tradespeople who are working hard to deliver essential projects during the coronavirus outbreak.

Dickies is encouraging anyone who knows a tradesperson carrying out such work to share their stories on social media – using the hashtag #dickieshero – where the company will highlight inspiring examples to its followers.

“During these testing times, many are realising how hard the construction industry works and how essential the trades are in keeping our nation going,” said James Whitaker, marketing director for Dickies.

“Whether they’re constructing new field hospitals, carrying out essential repairs for social housing providers, or continuing to make sure no one goes without hot water, there are thousands of tradespeople up and down the country who deserve recognition and thanks. We’re keen to hear about anyone who is doing their best to carry out essential work at this time and encourage people to tell us of their hero tradespeople on social media.”

Do you know a hero tradesperson who is working hard to help deliver essential services during the Coronavirus outbreak? Share your nomination on social media, using the hashtag #dickieshero, tagging Dickies using the following details:

On Twitter: @DickiesEurope

On Instagram: @dickiesworkwearofficial

On Facebook: @DickiesWorkwear

Free electronic signatures for companies affected by COVID-19 crisis


POINT of Rental Software is making its electronic signature product, Rental eSign, available for free for 90 days for any hire or rental business that needs it, regardless of what software they use.

The setup fee is also being waived and no payment information is required, making it a risk-free option for rental owners looking to keep their staff and customers safe during the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s hard enough for hire companies in this climate. We’ve seen some of the elaborate ways people are getting contracts signed while maintaining their distance, and while the level of innovation was amazing, we knew we could help make it easier,” said CEO Wayne Harris.

“Since eSign works independently of other software products, it’s able to help the entire rental community, not just Point of Rental users.”

eSign allows businesses to collect secure signatures via email or a tablet in-store, which makes it easy to practice proper social distancing and will provide benefits even when the current pandemic is over. It gives businesses the ability to:

  • Make signature collection easier to capture via email;
  • Store signed documents online in a searchable database for easy filing;
  • Access signed documents anywhere with a login and an internet connection.

At the end of the 90-day period, users who would like to continue to use eSign will be given the option to continue using at the regular price.

Point of Rental is also providing quick eSign training for new users in a webinar on Thursday, 9 April, at 3 p.m. GMT. Anyone wanting to sign up immediately for free electronic signatures can register at


'80% of builders left in dark by banks on coronavirus loan', says FMB

THE Federation of Master Builders (FMB) is calling on the Chancellor to address the blockages in the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS), as small builders across the country are struggling to keep their businesses afloat.

It follows an FMB survey of 579 members this week that found: 

  • Half (50%) of FMB members who have applied for the Coronavirus Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) have found the process either ‘somewhat’ or ‘very difficult’.  
  • So far, 10% of FMB members who have applied for a loan have been rejected with the vast majority (84%) still waiting to hear back from their bank  
  • 29% of SME house builders believe they are not able to apply for a loan through the scheme  
  • Local builders are being asked for a personal guarantee on application, or being forced to take out an overdraft with high interest.

Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the Federation of Master Builders (FMB), said: 

“While we understand the immense pressure banks are under at the moment, the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme needs to be fast-tracked and the criteria clarified as soon as possible to stop small construction firms going to the wall."

“I am hearing time and time again about members who have been told by their bank that they will get back to them and never do, and others who have had to wait for hours on the phone to speak to their bank manager. Others have been told by their lender that they must apply by post. It is no wonder that members are reporting they are finding the process difficult. Sadly, we are still hearing of members who are being asking for a personal guarantee or being forced to take out an overdraft with high interest." 

Berry concluded: “There also seems to be some confusion as to who is covered by the scheme. SME house builders are crying out for financial support, but many are being turned away by lenders. The Government should work with Homes England and the devolved administrations to help find a way to keep SME house builders afloat in this time, ensuring that they are ready to resume building high quality homes after the coronavirus outbreak.”

Lighthouse Construction Industry charity launches crisis appeal

THE Lighthouse Construction Industry Charity is launching a crisis appeal so that they can respond to the needs of our workforce as a result of COVID-19

The charity, is dedicated to the health and wellbeing of construction workers and their families in the UK and Ireland.

In an industry where two workers take their own life every single working day and where stress, depression and anxiety account for a fifth of all work related illness, we are already seeing a devastating impact on the people that keep our infrastructure going, build our energy plants, our homes and places of work.

The charity relies heavily on event income to fund their 24/7 Helpline, but the current COVID-19 pandemic has decimated their national and regional events. So, at a time when the construction community needs their support the most, they simply don’t have the resources to be able to respond in the face of this ever-increasing cry for help.

Bill Hill, CEO of the charity said, “As a result of the coronavirus pandemic the calls to our Construction Industry Helpline are currently increasing by over 25% a week. Many of the calls received are from self-employed tradesmen, agency staff or workers on zero-hour contracts who cope from week to week. They are often only one or two paydays away from poverty. They need our help to feed their families and to pay their bills for heating and lighting.”

The charity also pledged that not one penny of the crisis fund will be diverted to charity overheads and that every penny donated will reach the people that really need it.

Charity CEO, Bill Hill also urged the industry to help spread the word about their 24/7 Construction Industry Helpline and app,

“Whether you’re in a position to donate or not, we are here for you. Our 24/7 helpline and app will enable anyone that needs help to access emergency financial support and mental health and wellbeing information and guidance.”

If you would like to make a donation, you can do so HERE

JCB joins national call to action over ventilator shortage

JCB is poised to re-start production at a factory closed as a result of the coronavirus crisis in order to join the national effort to manufacture ventilators, the company announced today.

JCB received a direct appeal from Prime Minister Boris Johnson earlier this month to help plug the national ventilator shortage and to help save lives of coronavirus patients. Following the approach, JCB Chairman Lord Bamford promised to help in any way the company could and immediately mobilised a research and engineering team to examine potential ways to assist.

Now JCB is ready to restart production at a factory which has been closed for nearly two weeks as a result of the coronavirus crisis. But instead of making cabs for JCB diggers, the plant is being mobilised to make special steel housings for a brand new design of ventilator from Dyson. A minimum of 10,000 of the JCB housings are earmarked for manufacture once Dyson receives regulatory approval for its design.

The first prototypes of the housings have been delivered to Dyson after rolling off the production line at JCB’s £50 million Cab Systems factory in Uttoxeter, Staffordshire, which Boris Johnson visited during the election campaign. The factory fell silent on 18 March along with eight other JCB UK manufacturing plants after a fall in demand caused by the Coronavirus crisis. Mass production of the housings could start in a matter of days.

Today JCB Chairman Lord Bamford said: “When we were approached by the Prime Minister we were determined, as a British company, to help in any way we could. This project has gone from design to production in just a matter of days and I am delighted that we have been to deploy the skills of our talented engineering, design and fabrication teams so quickly at a time of national crisis. This is also a global crisis, of course, and we will naturally help with the production of more housings if these ventilators are eventually required by other countries.”

JCB’s response to the national call to action would see the return to work for around 50 employees affected by an extended company shutdown announced last week. JCB suspended production at its nine UK production plants until at least the end of April as a result of the coronavirus crisis and furloughed the vast majority of its 6,500 workforce. The company is paying them 80% of their basic pay for the next month, regardless of what they earn.

Employees returning to work to help manufacture the ventilator housings will be paid 100% of their normal pay.


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