Measures taken by the Construction industry to tackle the epidemic
Many industries, including the construction industry, have been affected by the novel coronavirus epidemic. The Government has launched two rounds of the Anti-epidemic Fund (AEF) earlier, offering a total of more than $5.5 billion to support the construction workers and enterprises in strengthening anti-epidemic measures and tiding over the economic hard time brought by the epidemic. At the same time, the Works Group of Departments and the contractors have been committed to minimising the impact of the epidemic on the works progress through project management and rearrangement of work procedures. This time, I have invited a colleague from the Civil Engineering and Development Department (CEDD) to talk about the details while a contractor’s representative will share how the AEF is used to strengthen disease prevention on construction sites.
The epidemic affects supply of construction materials
Earlier, the supply of construction materials was affected by the temporary closure of some Mainland enterprises under the epidemic, which in turn affected some projects in Hong Kong, such as the formation, roads and drains for the public housing development in Area 54, Tuen Mun. Engineer of the CEDD, Ms WAY Yuet-wah, says that the project was originally scheduled to commence the construction of manholes and road paving with bituminous materials after the Lunar New Year’s holiday. However, the Mainland quarries were unable to supply aggregates due to their temporary suspension of operation amidst the epidemic. The supply of raw materials was then affected, which led to a shortage of concrete and bituminous and hence affected the original plan of the project.
Rearranging procedures to reduce impact on works progress
In view of this, the project team immediately discussed with the contractor on measures to respond to the situation, including the co-ordination with the suppliers of materials. The contractor also proactively reviewed all of its works contracts and flexibly redeployed the limited concrete to the construction site for the construction of manholes to proceed. Regarding the road paving work, in the face of uncertainties looming on the supply of bituminous materials, it was decided after discussion that the work procedures should be arranged by, for example, advancing the manhole and drainage works of the next phase and dispersing work sites, in order to catch up with the progress and reduce the impact of the epidemic on the project. The contractor also kept close contact with the suppliers to ensure sufficient supply of bituminous materials for road paving in March and April.
The Project back on track
According to Ms WAY Yuet-wah, with frontline workers having completed the self-isolation and compulsory quarantine period after returning to Hong Kong from their stay in the mainland for the Chinese New Year holiday, the construction site has also been equipped with more supplies to enhance its capability in combating the epidemic. Besides, as mainland workers have returned to work and production has resumed normal, the supply of construction materials is also gradually returning to its normal level. The project has been back to its normal track. To ensure that our workers are adequately protected, the construction site will continue to implement a number of anti-epidemic control and protective measures. Social contact will be minimised by, for example, arranging project staff to work shifts, implementing flexible working hours and lunch hours, keeping an appropriate distance between workers, and implementing stringent cleaning and sanitising procedures.
The purchase of anti-epidemic supplies using the fund
According to Mr Ken WONG, a contractor’s representative, after the first round of the AEF was launched, they immediately made an application and received subsidies from the Government quickly. Using the subsidies, his company bought surgical masks, hand sanitisers and disinfectants for immediate distribution to staff. The cleaning and sanitising of construction sites and offices have also been enhanced. He says that at the beginning of the outbreak, the contractor were worried that the shortage of workers and materials would cause delays in the progress of works projects. However, the Government’s granting an extension of time for project completion by up to six months has helped ease the anxiety of enterprises. By actively studying all possible ways with the Works Group of Departments, they will try their best to catch up with the progress and complete the project as scheduled.
As of 29 May, more than $2.1 billion in subsidies has been disbursed to about 240 000 construction workers under the two rounds of the AEF. Together with the subsidies dispensed to the construction industry under the first round of the AEF, a total of more than $2.4 billion in subsidies has been disbursed. Faced with the unusual circumstances over the past few months, the Government and the construction industry have united to combat the epidemic on all fronts and offered help to workers and enterprises in need to ride out the storm together. I look forward to the smooth completion of all projects so that members of the public will be able to enjoy the benefits delivered by these projects.
31 May, 2020