All this week on the blog, we’re focusing on how the lockdown has changed the landscape of work for our students, graduates and staff. The first story is from Kiram Hussain, a Civil and Structural Engineering #teambradford Graduate in 2017 who is now working as a Graduate Engineer at Colas in Leeds:
For those who may not understand why the construction sector remains under the status of key workers – we are involved with providing vital service towards the maintenance and upkeep of the network passage for all transportation means, and importantly supplies of everyday goods.
There may be mixed feelings about this statement, but in all honesty, when I was told I’d still be working on site and in office during the lockdown, I breathed a huge sigh of relief. At the time, I did have thoughts in the back of my mind about whether I’d be putting my family members at risk whilst they were staying indoors and I was going back and forth from home to work. However, I also understood the importance of being an essential worker, not quite the same as an NHS worker of course, but still contributing to my duty within a critical sector.
And so, it began, the BIG change… ‘Business Continuity Plans’ were prepared and implemented for our base to stay up and running throughout the lockdown:
- Staff members classed as high-risk individuals were told to avoid the office completely and work from their homes
- The commercial and admin teams were also told to work from home
- As for the remaining staff (project managers, site managers and operatives, etc), we were split up to limit the number of people in one office. I was moved to another compound with one of my fellow colleagues.
- On site, the operatives were given extra PPE (masks, gloves) and extra cleaning supplies (hand sanitiser, soap, anti-bacterial wipes) and told to observe 2m distances between each other. This isn’t always possible, especially during kerbing and drainage works, hence the masks and gloves.
- Our HSE advisors have made visits to each compound and site to ensure we’re all following the rules and weekly safety reports are filled out to inform them of any issues or changes on site.
For the first couple of weeks, whilst adjusting to the changes at work, I felt slightly gloomy not hearing the usual chatter and laughter I was used to. My workload was the one thing that took my mind off everything, including the worries I had regarding the pandemic and its potential impact on my family and friends. Me and my colleagues also continued to have our weekly progress meetings through video call on Microsoft Teams; something I look forward to now since I get to see everyone through the screen.
I was supervising a small remediation scheme that started a few weeks into the lockdown; being on site in the fresh air with my team (whilst adhering to our social distancing guidelines, of course) was pretty good. I’d finally adapted to the new circumstances in the office, however, the lockdown had made a huge difference outdoors. There was no usual hustle and bustle of people walking by and all the nearby shops were closed, it was like a ghost town around Leeds. I won’t deny how much I enjoyed driving to and from work on an empty motorway, less traffic meant less road rage from me and I’d get to work in a very cheerful mood! The quiet roads have had a positive impact on our works too, as we can have more lane closures without them causing a build-up of congestion around our construction sites.
Seven weeks on, I’m still missing the normality but I’m extremely proud of the way our base has kept itself going during this daunting phase. We’ve worked extremely well as a team, with an ongoing commitment towards our highway projects; this has proved to have its advantages and positive moments. Our management team have continued to review mitigation measures to ensure our health and safety is in good hands. Our operatives are out there day in, day out, continuing to work hard. Those working from home have done so as if they are still in-office, keeping a professional attitude. It’s made me appreciate the opportunity I’ve been given by my organisation to continue earning a living whilst there are some unfortunate people working for other companies, who have either lost their jobs or been put onto the furlough scheme.
Thanks Kiram! Kiram also kindly shared her graduate journey with us recently, read it here.