The government’s guide to working safely during the pandemic has changed since restrictions were lifted on July 19. With COVID-19 still a threat, it is important that everyone in construction continues to do their bit to protect our colleagues and customers. After speaking to Travis Perkins and Bradfords Building Supplies, we now hear the story of Merritt & Fryers.
Family-owned merchant, Merritt & Fryers, employs approximately 55 people across two sites in the North of England. They have grown from a one-time building company into an expansive timber, building, plumbing, hardware, and decorators’ merchants, serving both the professional trades and the public for over 85 years. We spoke to their representatives about how they’ve adapted during the pandemic.
“On 23rd March 2020, we closed, initially for four weeks, until we had clarity on how we could open in a relatively safe way. Guidance was then issued by the Builders’ Merchants Federation. We have a social responsibility to our local community and were reluctant to open without this higher-level support. We were anxious that our community would not have welcomed our reopening. Since March 2020, we have held regular director and senior-management meetings to discuss any COVID government proposals and subsequent changes to advice.”
Despite guidelines changing, Merritt & Fryers say they will continue to encourage social distancing and the wearing of face masks, which have been made available for free for customers and staff. Hand-sanitising stations are still found throughout their premises and at all points of entry and exit. One-way systems, screens and increased cleaning procedures will also stay in place.
Behind the scenes, Merritt & Fryers say they have “identified one employee as a primary contact for COVID-related queries and ensure this person is kept up to date with government and industry guidelines.” They go on to say that they have also “rearranged working areas and created new workspace with better ventilation. Plus, simply putting posters up around the site, such as those that encourage vaccination and best practice for Hands, Face, Space, Fresh Air.”
“We keep up to date on guidance on overseas travel, including possible isolation on return. We ask employees to discuss their travel plans beforehand with management and believe holidays are essential to employees’ mental health and wellbeing. We support a charity that provides a 24/7 confidential helpline for the construction industry. They offer advice on wellbeing and mental health, finance, or anything that people feel they need to discuss. All employees have access to this.”
Merritt & Fryers have lots of advice to share with the construction industry. “Set a clear example. Our management are all double-vaccinated, which encourages others to do their bit. Communicate, communicate, communicate. This reduces uncertainty in the workplace and helps individuals feel supported. Take everyone’s wellbeing seriously. The aftereffects of COVID could be around for much longer. Make time for people. They might just need a little extra support at the minute.”
Whatever your business is facing, there are actions you can take to keep everyone as safe as possible. For further guidance and advice, you can visit gov.uk/workingsafely.