Clive Bairsto CBE, Chief Executive of Street Works UK, has given his thoughts on how the street works sector has risen to the challenge of COVID-19.
As I write this, large swathes of our nation are unable to leave their homes as COVID-19 continues to have a profound impact on the way we conduct our daily and working lives.
With many of us now spending more time at home, the vital work of the street works sector has come into the spotlight – as we all take available utilities as a given – and in some areas rely more heavily on our utility services. In all, through these uncertain times, I am proud of the way our industry has risen to the challenge to help keep essential services running, and over the last two weeks we’ve achieved a lot to keep Britain moving forward.
To ensure that our members continue to serve the nation, it was vital that clear guidance was developed and issued to local authorities and practitioners on how they should be working safely. After working closely with government and our colleagues at the Joint Authorities Group, we were able to issue guidance on street works and advice to practitioners on operating responsibly to help control the spread of COVID-19. After speaking with practitioners, it is clear the guidance is helping those vital and essential works continue – and I am in regular discussions at a governmental level to raise issues our members are facing as the situation unfolds.
Alongside this, one of our primary concerns was the Street Manager go-live date, originally set for 1st April, given the strain this would place on members when working practices have altered so drastically. Through close co-operation with the Department for Transport, the government agreed to our request by delaying the implementation of Street Manager until 1st July 2020. I’m delighted about this decision because this will provide our sector with much needed certainty, to help ensure essential works can still take place at this difficult time for our country.
Although we’ve been working to provide reassurance to our sector, I fully understand that each members’ approach to dealing with COVID-19 will be different. Due to the nature of the different types of works that are undertaken and differing regulatory requirements, there will be small variations in how we classify essential operations across the sectors. These decisions are all being undertaken to balance the care of our staff, their safety and welfare, and the general public’s demands, to ensure we keep the lights on; gas running; water flowing and households online. In discussions with government, we will continue to highlight the unique challenges facing every part of our membership to help ensure the right approach is taken.
This is an extraordinary time in our nation’s history, but it has also shown our sector at its very best. It would be foolhardy to predict the outcome from COVID-19, but we know some things will never be quite the same again in how we work, meet and travel. But that aside, I am deeply reassured by the way governing institutions and industry have pulled together. At Street Works UK, my team and I are on hand to guide our membership through these uncertain times and I look forward to continuing our work to help and assist, as we sustain and then rebuild the prosperity of our country, in the weeks and months ahead.