London City

What does the future hold for UK Commissioning?

John Purcell- Helvar
John Purcell is UK Head of Technical Operations at Helvar, providing leadership, design strategy, inspiring teamwork and facilitating the tech ops process to achieve high-performance standards, company and staff pride. John has over 30-years’ experience of managing and leading teams, programs, planning, projects and operations through a catalogue of industries such as Building Management Systems (BMS), Power Monitoring Solutions (PMS) and currently Lighting Control Systems.

What does the future hold for UK Commissioning?

COVID-19, a term we won’t forget for a long time. A pandemic that has affected every aspect of normal life and changed how we operate in our daily lives. The lighting industry is no different. In the pre-COVID-19 world, bustling working environments with multiple disciplines and personnel working very closely and often invading each other’s personal space was the norm. And then, a deadly virus came and turned that world upside down.

Adapting to a new reality  

Generally, in the UK commissioning is completed at the end of a phase or project. As you can imagine, having other workforces still on-site finalising their responsibilities can create a hectic and stressful environment, not only for commissioning engineers but for other delivery teams such as Technical Support Specialists. Having free access to perform commissioning duties is essential to satisfy the expectations of customers, clients, facilities management and/or on-site operations teams.

COVID-19 has provided an incomparable experience in an unforeseen timeline as the UK and Global working environments/practices must change to complete their working activities. The hustle and bustle of a construction site can be populated by various large workforces. In addition, the diversities of activities on-site often lead to multiple people/teams working to a common goal of completing their work as efficiently and swiftly as possible, with the driving factor on every site often being Health & Safety.

Today, factoring in COVID-19 creates a further consideration – the movement and population of the workforce in an active construction site and ensuring that they meet the new social distancing rules.

Responding to changing commissioning practices

With information on the continuing developments of COVID-19 through communications from the UK government, scientists and others such as SAGE and COBR, it was clear that Helvar needed to react quickly. With information monitored internally, the government briefings early on enabled Helvar to modify the safety and working practices of our on-site teams. The discussions lead to an immediate alteration to develop our RAMS (Risk Assessments & Method Statements) and put in place measures based on UK government advice to “Stay home, Protect the NHS and Save lives”.

These necessitated changes to how our commission engineers travel to a site, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and safety measures to protect our teams and others around us. We reviewed our documentation and added elements to the post-COVID-19 PPE requirements; the standard 5-piece PPE industry recommended requirements were enhanced through the advent of wearing face masks, visors attached to hard hats, the use of hand gels, sterilised wipes to our staff and other measures to adhere to the directive from the government.

Helvar NHS NightingaleThe driver to modify our travel and working practices were high on the agenda in the very early stages of the pandemic lockdown. The initial concern was the Technical Operations staff safety who were travelling to the office or site. We early on recommended our people not to use public transport and/or private cab hire. We requested that they use their own transport to travel from home and/or office to site. Where the only travel arrangements are to use public travel, we strongly recommended wearing a face mask throughout the journey.

The advent of the amended government slogan to “Stay Alert, Control the Virus and Save lives” has raised further issues as the number of people on site has increased. We have reviewed our current documents to ascertain whether additional changes to our RAMS are required. For our commissioning engineers, the biggest risk is increased work banks, foot and/or plant traffic flows during commissioning. When requested to attend site, we discuss with the customer, client and/or end-user any additional measures implemented due to site specifics, client requirements and parking arrangements for our staff vehicles. All of this is to ensure the safety of our staff.

The future — living in a new reality of social distancing

The major factor now and moving forwards is the future norm of social distancing, and the impact this will have on project timelines. Without the aid of a crystal ball, we do not know what is around the corner relating to not only construction but all forms of manufacturing services. Thinking out loud suggests that social distancing may be with us for a longer period than we first thought. If this is the case, we would see an extension of time for all forms of construction as the new distancing areas could not cope with the pre-COVID-19 planned working planning, initiation, design, delivery (the commissioning stage) and handover to the end-user/owner.

Moving on from COVID-19 will see a new planning phased approach with logistics taking a higher priority in the planning and design of the build. Other factors would be the availability of specialist resource due to the lengthened approach we may witness in the construction industry. It is uncertain what the future holds and only time will tell what impact COVID-19 will truly have on the construction industry.

Helvar NHS Nightingale