The National Federation of Demolition Contractors launched an online survey to its Membership on Friday 3rd April in an attempt to uncover the impact of COVID-19 on UK demolition operations thus far.
As of Thursday 9th April, 96 NFDC accredited demolition contractors operating nationwide responded to the survey – equating to 66% of the Federation’s total membership.
With initial confusion arising for the sector amidst government lockdown instructions to the nation, followed by evolving guidance for construction workers to continue work considered important to the UK economy, demolition contractors have been making independent decisions as to whether their sites can, or should, remain operational during the Coronavirus outbreak.
NFDC’s voice throughout the pandemic has been clear and consistent. The Federation is not an enforcement body and cannot force demolition contractors to cease working under any circumstances. However, NFDC exists to advocate for the safeguarding of the demolition workforce and the general public – and to maintain the highest industry standards. NFDC advises Members who are not able to practically comply with Public Health England guidelines and the Construction Leadership Council’s Site Operating Procedures on any specific site to close that site down safely, in order to protect Operatives and the public.
The Federation has disseminated an armoury of resources for demolition contractors, including the signposting of third party guidance and the issue of Federation Letters of Support to share with Clients expressly requesting that proposed site closures due to safety and welfare concerns should be respected and allowed, without fear of penalty during these unprecedented times.
With so many variables in place, due to the uniqueness and criticality of demolition sites and the different main contractor’s positions on the continuation of work, it is not surprising that a significant 38% of the respondents noted that ‘some sites were open, some sites were closed’.
With positions changing on a daily basis – some Members report they are being requested back to site, whilst others have elected to close sites down even during the data collection period – it’s an ever-moving target, rendering statistics out of date very quickly. For this reason, NFDC advises that the following statistics generated from their online survey of 96 UK demolition contractors represent no more than a rough snapshot of the impact of COVID-19 on the sector at this time.
The one-question Member survey, designed to take no more than one minute of a demolition contractor’s time, simply asks ‘Do your demolition sites remain open?’ with three available responses: ‘Yes’, ‘No’ or ‘Other’.
Just 17% of NFDC accredited demolition contractors who responded to the survey answered ‘Yes’, confirming that their sites remain operational and that they are able to comply with both PHE guidelines for social distancing and CLC Site Operating Procedures.
Almost half of the responding membership at 45% said ‘No’, indicating their decision to fully close all of their demolition sites due to Coronavirus.
38% of NFDC Member respondents shared that ‘some sites are open, some sites are closed’, with many providing explanatory comments on their operational status.
Taking a deeper dive into the 38% of NFDC demolition contractors who are partially operational during the COVID-19 outbreak, it is important to note that demolition contractors’ responses here represent considerable variance in terms of the percentage of works that are actually taking place. For example; ‘95% of sites are closed’, ‘we are operating at 50%, but likely to be closing all sites’, ‘1 out of 5 sites is operational’.
All Members in this category have reduced operations dramatically – the overall percentage of sites operating is extremely low, with many reporting that works continue for emergency sites or small sites only – where safety measures can be effectively enforced.
In terms of the sites that remain operational, member comments included;
- “All normal demolition sites are closed, we are only conducting emergency rail & reactive works at the moment.”
- “We are working on just two sites where operatives are able to work in accordance with government guidelines, all other sites have been shut down by clients.”
- “Only emergency sites are operational.”
- “One out of our five live sites is still operating, the rest have been safely shutdown.”
Looking forward, Members are admirably adopting a positive outlook and proactively looking at safe ways to secure business post COVID-19. Pragmatic members are taking opportunities for estimating works (with lone travel by car to assess jobs, whilst meeting the required social distancing) and welcoming clients’ signs of optimism with project start dates being confirmed for later this year.
NFDC wishes to thank its Members for their valued feedback – and for their care and resilience during this most challenging time.