Social Distancing - The New Normal
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Social distancing - the new normal

The challenge

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a severe impact on the UK economy, with many sectors struggling to re-start operations due to strict social distancing rules being enforced. The implementation and adherence to these rules is a challenge for the UK construction sector, with a large number of sites struggling to operate normally due to H&S concerns. This resulted in a 35.2% decrease in new work, with the largest contributor to that decrease being private housing which fell by 51.2% in Quarter 2 20201.
As we move on with the ‘new normal’ social distancing is now part of life and is expected to be in place for the foreseeable future, in accordance with government guidelines.
The Construction Innovation Hub funded project, investigated social distancing technologies that could be employed in construction, and wider industries, to assist with social distancing and so reduce the impact of the pandemic. The technology can be utilised to help prevent and, if necessary, track outbreaks of infection, aid workers in adopting safer working practices and ultimately save lives. By using dedicated tracking systems it is possible to offer an opportunity to the industry to enable intelligent social distancing, tracking interactions and also giving visual and audible warnings of proximity. Due to the nature of the construction industry most tracking technologies do suffer with interference and mobile based applications are often not accurate, reliable and repeatable enough.
The integration of such technologies has the chance to boost the return to work for the construction industry and be industry leading in social distancing safety. By implementing successful social distancing technologies we can assist in helping prevent the spread of deadly viruses and save lives.
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Project approach

As part of the Construction Innovation Hub, MTC identified viable high Technical Readiness Level (TRL) dedicated tracking solutions which enable intelligent and active social distancing. We researched the technology behind them and down selected them to three technologies which are representative of the market. 
The current readiness and effectiveness of the selected technologies was evaluated to draw evidence based conclusions on the viability of the current off the shelf dedicated social distancing solutions. This enabled us to establish any features that might prevent successful implementation of technologies and feedback to manufacturers the issues that occur with their technologies and why they occur, allowing for continuous improvement.
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Project outcomes

MTC identified key criteria that are required for an ideal system, established qualitative elements that can cause problems or aid with implementation and identified key aspects that make a technology solution advantageous. 
By taking this research we were able to provide feedback to the technology developers to aid with producing a better product. 
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Benefits identified

The MTC tested multiple technologies to assess the suitability in a range of environments and in a range of scenarios to allow for recommendations on what to look for in a social distancing technology.

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 Target Area

 Benefit

 1

 Reduction in delivery time

 By actively encouraging social distancing and being able to rapidly track and trace interactions, outbreaks can be dealt with promptly and only those at risk   need to isolate reducing unplanned disruptions. Sites can run at the optimum staffing rate whilst maintaining social distancing.

 2

 Increased industry investment

 By effectively deploying a wearable technology solution to workers the fundamental groundworks for wider adoption of wearable technology can be set up.

 3

 Ethical impact

 The ability to make informed decisions on what technology should be employed to aid with social distancing shows an investment in the care of workers and   could ultimately save lives of not just the workers but their friends and relatives.

 4

 Improved Health and Safety in   construction projects

 By employing the correct systems it empowers users to enforce their own social distancing and saves lives.