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Covid-19: Who’s doing what

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LOCKDOWN: DAY FOUR

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By Mike Travers

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Plant still on sites?

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Guidance has been issued for plant hirers who are concerned about equipment which may still be on customers’ sites.

In the current situation operations may be shut down by either the client or Governments with little or no notice and the Construction Plant-hire Association has recommended that “as a minimum”, the plant hire company and customer should try to reach agreement whereby:

1 – The plant remains on hire during the closedown period

2 – The hire company charges an agreed rate (this may be significantly less than the 2/3 rate allowed in the CPA Model Conditions)

3 – The contract and its conditions therefore remain in force

4 – The customer remains responsible for safety and security of the plant while it is on site

5 – If the plant is to be collected, the hire company and customer will agree when and how this will happen and the customer will allow access to the plant.

Other issues to be considered by hirers include how long the site may be closed, whether the customer has hired-in plant insurance that will continue during shutdown, and the practicality of collecting plant from sites.

CPA Model Conditions

You may have an instance where your customer wishes to ‘off-hire’ the plant immediately, but clause 24(a) requires the customer to give seven (calendar) days’ notice, if the hire agreement is for an indeterminate (open-ended) period. After receiving the ‘off-hire’ notice, you should remove the plant within those seven days, if this is possible. However, if the plant is not available for collection, for example because the site has shut down, then the plant remains on hire as per clause 23(b), and the customer is charged accordingly.

Under clause 25 of the Model Conditions, the customer can be charged two-thirds of the hire rate. If you are supplying an operator with any plant, then refer to the ‘All-in’ rate in the final line of that clause.

Certain items of plant and equipment, for example generators, lighting towers, etc., may still be utilised by the customer during the shutdown, and may be charged at the full rate.

Whilst the plant is still in the customer’s care during this period, then clause 13(b) would apply. If the customer has ‘hired-in plant’ insurance cover, this should address any losses or damages to the plant, should they occur during this time.

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‘Heed advice’ says new forum

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Scotland’s new Construction Industry Coronavirus Forum (CICV) is working to provide clarity for the sector following First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s advice that all building sites with the exception of hospital works should close.

The group, made up of industry bodies including civil engineers and builders, wants to end the uncertainty around which works can be undertaken. It was formed at the same time as health secretary Matt Hancock said people who couldn’t work from home should “keep the country running” and UK housing secretary Robert Jenrick insisted work in people’s homes was permitted if done safely.

One of the CICV’s first actions was an appeal to the Scottish Government to help with cash flow and to protect construction jobs against the “crippling” background of coronavirus. It has since issued guidance to companies and employees as well as drafting an explanatory letter that can be given to customers.

The forum has recommended members follow the First Minister’s advice about closing non-essential building sites and to only carry out required repair and maintenance or any emergency work until further notice

The 16 trade bodies in the group include the Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA Scotland), the Scottish Building Federation and the Scottish Contractors Group.

Grahame Barn, chief executive of CECA Scotland, said: “We were in danger of damaging confusion around what is regarded as safety critical infrastructure work. This new guidance puts us in a position from which we can plan and move forward.”

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CITB suspends levy

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The Construction Industry Training Board has suspended the issue of levy bills for an initial three months in a move to give immediate relief to employers.

Chief executive Sarah Beale said: “Everyone in construction is facing extreme pressure at the moment and it’s right that we provide the financial relief we can to protect employers and ensure that the industry is as prepared as possible for the economic recovery that will come when the crisis lifts.”

In normal times the CITB sends out levy bills in April and those are usually due for payment in May but collection of suspended bills will not now be sought on the until August, or later if possible.

Employers have been promised further details soon. “We understood the need to provide early information, even before all details are available,” the board said.

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LOCKDOWN: DAY THREE

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Breedon closes sites..

Breedon has closed all its UK sites apart from one cement plant and any operations that serve critical supply requirements. The virus pandemic is also likely to delay its acquisition of certain assets of CEMEX UK.

Completion of the acquisition remains subject to conditions being met, including a TUPE consultation and IT migration.“In light of Covid-19, completion may take longer than originally anticipated,” the company said.

“During the course of this week we have begun gradually winding down the relevant sites, whilst ensuring that they are in a condition to be quickly and safely brought back online at the appropriate time,” the company said.

Operations in the Republic of Ireland continue to operate pending further guidance from the Irish Government.

Trading performance in 2020 was, until this week, broadly in line with expectations but with the more stringent measures introduced by the UK Government there has been an “immediate and significant” reduction in demand for products.

“The group is well invested, which has enabled us to immediately restrict capital expenditure solely to committed and critical projects without compromising the longer-term performance of our operations. In addition, we have halted all discretionary expenditure and continue to apply robust discipline to our management of working capital.

“We will make full use of any government support, including tax reliefs and other forms of financial aid, as they become available.”

Emissions situation is ‘critical’

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European equipment manufacturers have demanded a moratorium on imminent changes to exhaust emissions. “The situation is critical,” they have warned.

Associations representing the non-road mobile machinery (NRMM) sector are calling on the EU to adopt “swift measures” in response to disruptions caused by Covid-19.

In a joint letter to the European Commission, organisations including the Committee for European Construction Equipment (CECE) are seeking a temporary moratorium on the application of 2020 and 2021 deadlines for exhaust emissions from NRMM and agricultural vehicles.

This year is the transition phase for certain Stage V engines but the associations say the COVID-19 outbreak is causing “complete interruptions” of supply of parts and components. That was the case from China for several weeks and has started for components from Italy and other member states. And as the pandemic progresses, further interruptions are being put in place, are planned or expected in Europe and in the US.

“Without essential parts like tyres, axles, hydraulics, lighting and electronic equipment, manufacturers are effectively prevented from completing the construction of the machines by the imposed deadlines,” said a CECE spokesman. “As a result, they will not be able to place the machines on the market with the transition engines they had already acquired. Since it will be no longer possible to use them, these engines will have to be scrapped, which will lead to avoidable economic damage and unnecessary waste of raw materials and resources.”

CECE added: “The situation is critical. A temporary moratorium must be granted, with deadlines postponed until the situation can be reassessed.”

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Emergency CPCS cards available

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An emergency document is to be issued to workers who face problems renewing or updating their CPCS cards because of Covid-19.

NOCN Group, which bought the Construction Plant Competence Scheme from the CITB, has responded to industry pressure to make a temporary ‘passport’ available to individuals who are unable take HSE tests or renew cards because many Internet test centres are closed.

A spokesman said that while there had been relaxation by sites on cards that have expired, some employers required a more controlled and longer-term solution.

“Due to this and after strong industry direction, CPCS is providing the ability to apply for an Emergency CPCS Card which would be valid for 12 months for those unable to renew cards or upgrade cards due to not being able to renew their HSE test or Renewal Test.”

The card will also be available for individuals on a Red card which is expiring and who have been prevented from completing their Vocational Qualification because of the virus crisis. “Proof of Qualification Registration is necessary, however, if this is with Cskills Awards/NOCN then this can be done digitally without the applicant needing to provide anything,” said the organisation.

The card, which will cost £15, is to satisfy employers and individuals who won’t accept expired cards.

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Scottish Plant will continue to update this post with any developments. Got something to tell the industry? Email miketravers@scottishplant.co.uk

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©Scottish Plant.  Article updated 26/3/2020

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LOCKDOWN: DAY TWO

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From the BBC.  Read more…

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With conflicting advice on construction working from Scottish and UK governments, Nicola Sturgeon today said sites should not be operating unless for essential projects such as hospitals.

In her briefing today the first minister said she will look at providing guidance but that sites should remain closed. Many companies are making their own decisions and opting for safety first.

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BALGOWNIE North of Scotland supplier of Doosan, Bobcat and Case Agri products. Open with minimal staff at depot, engineers working from home on standby, stores open, sales personnel on mobile or e-mail working from home. E-mail info@balgownieltd.co.uk for up-to-date details. Mike Singer, managing director, Balgownie Ltd, Inverurie

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FRASER TOOL HIRE “… given the health and well-being of our staff and customers is of paramount importance, with this in mind, as of today, our depot will be closed. All plant and equipment currently on hire will be suspended for the period of the ‘lockdown’. Michael Lydon, Fraser Tool Hire, Hamilton

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MILLER PLANT …will be closed during the Covid 19 pandemic. We will be following Government guidelines and reviewing things in due course. Stay safe and stay indoors. Ian Miller, managing director, Miller Plant Ltd, Inverurie

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VOLVO Due to the current situation with Covid-19, Volvo Group has decided to suspend activities across the group – in Sweden – until further notice. This means we have paused all activities.

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NIXON HIRE …Still open, following all hygiene and social distancing policies. Depot teams working to fulfil as many orders as possible and will continue to do so until the Government say otherwise. Use email where possible

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W. M. DONALD…Due to the Coronavirus we have shut down our business following Government guidelines. This is very much for the safety of our workforce and their families. We will keep you updated as frequently as is possible on the situation. Please keep safe. Willie Donald, CEO, W M Donald, Stonehaven

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D.A. MACDONALD All work ceased with immediate effect but will continue to offer emergency assistance “for as long as we can”. Call emergency number 07768 296 718 – this is not a general enquiry line, the offices will be closed and we will not be able to deal with any general enquiries. “We hope to be back with you soon.” D.A. Macdonald Contractors Ltd, Lochgilphead

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JCB extends shutdown

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JCB has extended its UK production shutdown until “at least the end of April” but will continue to pay those employees unable to work.

The company’s nine manufacturing plants closed on March 18 at which time only shop floor employees were affected by the move and were paid in full during this period, while office staff continued to work a 39-hour week from home.

Today’s extension will see the vast majority of the 6,500 workforce stop working. All affected employees will be paid 80% of their basic pay while senior directors will not take a salary until further notice.

JCB intends to make an application to the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to help offset the cost The scheme pays 80% of an employee’s salary up to a maximum of £2,500 per month. However, the manufacturer has set no cap and will pay 80% of each affected employee’s pay.

©Scottish Plant.  Article updated 25/3/2020

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LOCKDOWN: DAY ONE

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SITES: Plant hirers have started suspending hires and uplifting plant as building and civil engineering operations across the country are being shut down. Nicola Sturgeon told Scottish Parliament this afternoon she is advising that sites other than emergency projects should not continue.

ADVICE: A number of trade associations including plant hirers and civils contractors have joined forces to brief the industry on the continuing impact The group, which includes the Construction Plant-hire Association, the Civil Engineering Contractors Association and Build UK, has collated information on issues such as the UK Government’s job retention scheme, VAT deferral and business interruption loan scheme. Build UK has issued a guide to Site Operating Procedures and has just announced a dedicated coronavirus webpage for the whole construction industry. It will be updated daily. click here

THE GEDDES GROUP: Operating with minimum staff numbers who are compliant with precautions regarding self-distancing, sanitisation etc. During the lockdown period no quarries will be open to the general public for uplifting of materials. Will continue to support and provide a service to essential industries below:

  • agriculture
  • transportation of bulk household/domestic waste to landfill sites (excluding skip hire)
  • utilities (for emergency work and continuing authorised essential works)

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MOLSON EQUIPMENT: Remains in an operational status with all staff working from home where possible. Phone lines will continue to be answered but customers are asked to make contact via email. Sales team is available to answer questions and provide information on equipment, parts staff will continue to fulfil parts orders in line with guidance on social distancing and hygiene, and the service team will continue to provide an emergency breakdown service.

EAGLE PLANT HIRE: Clients, suppliers and any potential visitors are requested not to visit depots. “It’s very much business as usual and we’re more than happy to deliver and collect equipment. The health of our staff, customers and suppliers has to be our priority and this measure will benefit everyone.”

CENTRAL DEMOLITION: Closing down all operations. “We understand that some sites are open but we have decided that the safety of our colleagues, families and the longevity of the business is paramount.”

LIEBHERRR GB: Liebherr Rental has implemented a home working policy. Scotland & Northern England contact is Carl Cunliffe on 07912 577609.

FINNING: “We have put in place robust contingency plans to minimise any disruption to your business. Our business continuity plan is focused on prioritising critical customer applications and continuing to support our customers wherever possible, with the full support of Caterpillar. We are working closely with Caterpillar to ensure supply chain continuity, with adequate inventory at our major branches and ability to move parts fluidly throughout the system.”  David Primrose, managing director, Finning UK & Ireland

SCOT JCB GROUP: Currently all 17 depots remain open but the situation will continue to be monitored. Customers asked to use the following precautions:

Minimise non-essential interaction with staff members using phone, email etc. where possible

  • Keep a two-metre separation from staff and other customers
  • Use hand sanitiser at the counters and workshops
  • If you are experiencing any symptoms do not go to any depot...

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WORSLEY PLANT: Sales team is still on hand and can be in contact by phone or email or can organise video calls via Skype or What’s App. Engineers are available for on-site installations, breakdowns, service and repairs but will be following safety advice. Parts and spares can still be delivered.

HILL ENGINEERING: Northern Ireland head office operations continuing as normal but with special arrangements in place for some staff. The production facility will operate on a three-day week from March 30. Products and parts can be shipped as usual. Field sales team will be available to customers and will respect specific requirements such as restricting personal contact.

EVENTS: Aerial platform exhibition APEX and the International Rental Exhibition (IRE) scheduled for June 9-11 in Maastricht, The Netherlands, are postponed to September 8-10. The European Rental Association is also rescheduling its annual convention to the same dates. European Rental Awards will now take place in Maastricht on September 9.

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©Scottish Plant.  Article posted 24/3/2020