A major north construction company will have half its staff back at work within a month.
Tulloch Homes yesterday began the process of taking staff off the furlough scheme as they phase return to building sites as part of their “safe restart” approach.
The major housebuilder in the north has said it will return 50% of its workforce to building sites over the course of the next four weeks after investing significantly in practices to ensure the safety and wellbeing of those working on building sites is maintained.
Tulloch Homes has said it is beginning the process as it gears up to play its part in boosting the Highland economy as the nation begins to return to a new normal once lockdown restrictions are relaxed.
Trial runs at a development in Wester Inshes in Inverness and at the Woodlands site in Carrbridge have allowed new systems to be tested, which Tulloch Homes say will become compulsory for employees and sub-contractors on sites.
Chief executive George Fraser said: “Safety is our number one priority.
“Our team has worked intensively in preparing these three sites for return to work.
“We have begun taking tradesmen off furlough from yesterday and as the Scottish Government progresses through its phased return to work plan, we anticipate that the majority of our 160 staff and workforce will be unfurloughed and return to work over a four-week period.
“With this unparalleled health and safety system ready to go, our restart strategy is in place towards getting all sites operational – and we’re keen to play our part in rebuilding the Highland and Scottish economy.”
The safety measures, which will require workers to use hand sanitiser, arrive and depart at staggered times and wear safety clothing, have been developed over the course of lockdown to comply with recommendations by Construction Scotland and Homes for Scotland, in addition to government advice.
A video will be shown to workers as they return to building sites to ensure they adhere to the new practices, with group construction director Billy McKay emphasising: “The health and wellbeing of our employees, their families, our clients and the general public is our absolute priority.”
He added: “We have commissioned a video of the new working system which must be viewed by those returning to sites for their own safety.
“Safety clothing and hand sanitiser systems are in place along with a signage system which ensures that anyone working on a Tulloch Homes site will have the correct understanding to comply with the new standards.”
Wester Inshes site manager Cameron Brand, who has worked throughout lockdown on the site reopening strategy, said: ”We’ll be putting the emphasis on completing new homes which clients bought before lockdown and which have been at a standstill since.
“There are 103 houses and flats in this phase of a very popular site and we look forward to a safe start to construction.”
Local politicians last night welcomed the announcement.
Highlands and Islands MSP Rhoda Grant said: “I welcome people going back to work if the right precautions are in place but the argument is not one between health and the economy. The economic recovery is wholly dependent on getting Covid-19 under control and stopping the spread.
“When it is safe to do so and it complies with the route map, I am delighted that people can get back to work and badly needed homes can be built.
“Tullochs would appear to have a robust health and safety policy in place.”
Fellow regional MSP Edward Mountain added: “This is good news for the construction industry in the Highlands.
“Building homes again will be a big boost for the economy and should help the local housing market to begin its recovery.”