Covid-19 construction case study

From Keith Maplethorpe, Project Manager

“We are currently working on a runway reconstruction project in Scotland with a workforce of over 250 people on site.  We recognise we are a large travelling workforce coming into a small community. During the national Lockdown, our project was deemed to be critical infrastructure and we were instructed to continue working and given Key Worker status.  We realised this could lead to anxiety within our workforce, their families and also the local community.

“Once we became aware of your Covid-19 antibody test, we decided to introduce a programme of testing for every person on site on a weekly basis to allow me to track any change in antibodies in the workforce. This was introduced on a voluntary basis but was taken up by 100% of the workforce.

“We set up a dedicated testing area, and used your online training module to train one of our staff to run the testing programme.  Having results from the test real time allows me to investigate and trace what has happened and informs me how to deal with a situation quickly and effectively.

“When we started the testing process, we immediately detected two cases which indicated that the individuals had previously been infected with Covid-19. This was confirmed through conversation with the individuals and this gave us confidence in the accuracy of the testing kit.

“We had no further indicators over the next 4 weeks, but then we detected a further two individuals who both tested positive. They had tested negative the week before, and this suggested that they had previously come into contact with Covid-19 and were now developing antibodies. They were displaying no symptoms and without the testing kit we would have had no indication.

“We immediately isolated the individuals in our designated quarantine house, and organised NHS swab tests to be undertaken.  We closed the site for two days and instigated a deep clean of all areas where they had been working.  We interviewed them to see if they had been in close contact with any other individuals and we were satisfied that through our social distancing regime on site they had only been in contact with each other.

“Two days later, their NHS tests came back as negative indicating the individuals were no longer infectious, and under NHS guidelines they were allowed to return to work.  No further positive tests were identified in the workforce over the following weeks.

“I feel our testing regime worked exactly as we had planned.  It allowed us to rapidly identify and isolate the individuals involved, notify the workforce of an increased level of risk and instigate a focused deep clean of our facilities.

“Even though I felt our process had worked exactly as we planned and that we were effectively managing the risks, given the sensitive nature of the project it was picked up by the local and national media and portrayed as an outbreak on site.  At one point, I had to brief a Government Minister regarding the outbreak

“I explained that the testing process is precautionary not reactionary. We do it every week looking for suspicious markers. We continue to test. We took the two men who’d tested positive straight to the NHS and thanks to our rigorous processes we found no-one was contagious. This process gave us an early warning that the coronavirus had come onto the site. We raised the awareness, isolated the staff members and traced their contacts and there were no further incidents.

“Once I started to brief people on what we’re doing, we received a lot of praise – from our client, from the Minister and also Scotland’s public health officials – they were very impressed with what we are doing. Even Nicola Sturgeon mentioned us in her daily briefing, saying: ‘That is ultra -precautionary and all of the steps that would have been taken had these been positive antigen PCR diagnostic tests are being taken, anyway. I hope that should give local people some assurance.’ The local community were reassured, we’d set a really good example, being responsible employers.

“The other big benefit of the testing is to the morale of the workforce. They say it’s brilliant. They’ve spoken to me about the fact that they have to go back to their families and it gives them confidence to know they don’t represent a danger when they walk back through the door. One of my team has a pregnant wife, and has told me that they find the testing a real comfort.  

“I have never wanted to compel people to undertake the tests and I made this voluntary – and months after starting the regime we still get people queueing for their weekly test. Everyone gets a timeslot. They have their test and they receive their results within minutes.  I thought demand would fall away and there would be a natural point where we longer continued with the regime but now the workforce sees a real benefit of being testing, they all want the service to continue. I’ll carry on with the tests for the rest of the time we’re on site – it’s a personal decision I made to keep my workforce and our local community informed and safe.

“Thank you so much for the valuable service you’re providing.”