The unprecedented issues surrounding the UK’s response to Covid-19 have forced project and programme managers to re-evaluate their approach to risk management. The shifting rules and regulations about how to protect workers and minimise spread of the infection have brought risk considerations to the top of the project agenda.

How should project managers and contractors react to the current situation and could risk management best practice help?

Use agile risk management techniques

While tightening up site operating procedures was an essential move in preventing the spread of coronavirus, it has already caused significant disruption, both for projects that are underway and those that haven’t yet started.

Many projects were put on hold during the lockdown, which means completion dates may need to be extended and increase the cost of project delivery. Works package plans need to be kept under review and revised on a daily, weekly, or functional basis, depending on the latest advice and guidance from the Construction Leadership Council.

Occupational health considerations are a primary focus and works package plans need to ensure risks are identified and mitigated properly, through the provision of PPE and supporting workers with their travel plans. Onsite logistics will also need to be reviewed carefully to provide clearly defined entrance and exit routes and support workers in observing social distancing.

Project managers should revisit their quantitative scheduled risk analysis regularly, taking account of any changes to the regulations and guidance available. They should consider the impact of the pandemic could have on key deliverables as ultimately, this could impact the viability of the project.


Take advantage of new technology

Drones can help to provide a 3D view of the site, identifying high-risk areas, such as busy passing points and enabling the project team to take action. Project managers can also help reduce the number of people onsite through greater use of building information modelling (BIM). This technology allows contractors to plan or amend any existing designs without having to visit the site.

Resources such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom have also changed the way people are working, increasing flexibility, improving communication, and cutting costs. Where materials are late or unavailable, agile scenario analysis can also enable project managers to reassign tasks to their workforce at short notice.


Increase flexible working on site

With many sites operating at reduced capacity, double or split-shifting, while keeping workers in the same teams, could provide a practical solution. Alternatively, where specialist contractors are unable to work, either due to the inability to get materials or because specialist workers are off work, innovative shifting patterns could help to introduce greater flexibility.

On projects with more risk management issues than others – i.e., in confined spaces and environments – workers may need to wear additional PPE and cleaners should be available to decontaminate equipment and plant after each shift.

The coronavirus crisis has re-written the risk management rulebook. While its impact has been widespread, the pandemic has undoubtedly forced the sector to pursue a healthier, safer, and more efficient way of working.


First published at Construction News