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July 22, 2020

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Fast tracking the construction industry back to work

SHP speaks to Ian McKinnon, Managing Director, of CHAS, about how the supply chain risk management firm has been supporting the construction industry in getting back to work safely – from helping members demonstrate they are COVID Secure to enabling organisations to monitor worker health.

How did CHAS cope as a company during lockdown?

Ian McKinnon (IM): “It was a test of our business continuity plan and it passed with flying colours. We were able to continue to offer all of our services effectively. CHAS has a reputation for excellent customer service so we were delighted when our Feefo scores actually improved during the lockdown period.”Ian McKinnon

CHAS is going through a period of rapid growth, transforming from a health & safety accreditation specialist to encompass a broader supply chain risk management offering – did you have to put the brakes on in response to the coronavirus outbreak?

(IM): “No, thankfully we’ve been able to do everything we planned and more. This was really important because strengthening our own organisation has meant we have been in an even better position to support our members and make sure they come out of the crisis in the best possible shape to build their businesses.

“We have developed new services, adapted existing products and made several key appointments. We were also in the process of agreeing a number of collaborations many of which have now come to fruition, including agreements with the construction software specialist, Causeway Technologies, the cloud-based supply chain platform, Local Supply Chain and the trade directory Checkatrade. This will further enhance employment prospects for our members and ensures contractors who are committed to operating to high standards of health & safety have the best employment opportunities – which is only right.”

 How do you think the construction industry coped with the coronavirus?

(IM): “The response from the construction industry has been excellent. The Construction Leadership Council quickly produced clear and detailed guidance on how the industry could operate safely which has been regularly updated and is complemented by more bespoke guidance from other trade bodies. Combined with the Government’s guidance for the construction sector and advice from the HSE the industry has a thorough framework for operating in a way that is COVID Secure.”

What has CHAS been doing to help?

(IM): “As well as keeping our members up-to-date with the latest industry guidance, we have added a Statement of Best Practice (COVID-19) to our member packages so CHAS contractors can quickly and easily demonstrate that they are COVID-Secure and clients have an efficient way of sourcing compliant contractors.

“For contractors to comply they simply need to login to the contractor portal and upload and submit evidence to show they meet the necessary requirements. Meanwhile CHAS clients log on to the CHAS Client Portal and they can instantly see whether a contractor has completed their Statement of Best Practice (COVID-19).

“For organisations who aren’t already CHAS Clients who would like to access our database of COVID-Secure contractors, it is quick, easy and completely free to register to become a CHAS Client and includes a range of business benefits.

“We have also extended our CHAS People worker verification tool to include a Health Wallet so that the industry can track worker’s symptoms and upload COVID-19 antigen or antibody test results to track their fitness to work if and when this is required.”

 What issues are front of mind as the construction industry adjusts to a post-lockdown world?

(IM): “While infection rates have dropped, experts believe further outbreaks in the future are likely so the industry must stay firmly focussed on remaining COVID-19 Secure. Close attention to health & safety in general is also paramount because history tells us that when the economy picks up, accidents rise.

“The coronavirus crisis has also highlighted the need for the industry to be able to quickly and easily demonstrate and share evidence of compliance so we will likely see a further increase in uptake in accreditation schemes. The Common Assessment Standard, which is a streamlined industry-led system that was introduced in 2019, is fast becoming the gold standard for third-party accreditation in the construction industry and is already being specified by leading employers including the Crown Commercial Service (CCS) and HS2.

“The Common Assessment Standard also has the benefit of covering other compliance areas which are rising up the agenda such as financial stability, sustainability and modern slavery – which has been making the headlines recently. In fact businesses can expect to see closer scrutiny around the issue of modern slavery as we have seen increased demand for our worker verification tool, CHAS People, in recent weeks which can help with compliance in this area.

“What is encouraging is that in general the construction industry is seeing much closer attention being paid to how workplaces can be kept safe and hygienic with an increased focus on whether people feel safe at work so the challenge now is to make sure this is sustained through the post-lockdown period and beyond.”

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