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Facing the Challenge – Capita Real Estate and Infrastructure; Tackling the Coronavirus Crisis By Dan Jarvis, MCIEH
  • Oct 20, 2020
  • Latest Journal

Early this year Capita Real Estate & Infrastructure’s (REI) and Health & Safety Expert Witness Services identified that Coronavirus was likely to become a significant challenge to how people in the UK live and work. As a responsible employer, Capita REI prioritized the safety and wellbeing of colleagues,  shifted to a supported homeworking and a phased reduction of staff at our offices while striking a balance between colleagues safety and maintaining our services to our clients dealing with the complex commercial and financial factors arising from the Coronavirus Crisis. The challenge was to deliver these two strands within the restrictive parameters of changes to working patterns and restrictions imposed by legislation introduced.

At the start of the year, Capita REI identified that the knowledge pool at its disposal was a significant asset to be mobilised to provide innovative strategies for both our colleagues and clients to utilise.  With this in mind, a dedicated team of Consultants have been ensuring that clients receive up to date and accurate information as the crisis has developed. Government, industry and scientific sources of information are monitored and collated to ensure we can cut through to the crucial elements of legislation and guidance and refine that information into a succinct and accurate information stream for our clients. This approach also allowed us to develop strategies for clients that ensures ongoing compliance with both the Health and Safety at Work Act and the Coronavirus Act, and its supporting regulations. Current guidance is condensed into concise guidance notes that are sent to clients, covering both general and sector-specific guidance,

Delivery of ‘traditional’ consultancy services” has had to be reassessed. In line with Government guidance, Capita REI staff are greatly home-based with a few exceptions who are fulfilling key worker or essential worker roles. This meant that we would have to look at how both employees and clients could be successfully supported to deliver, ‘business as usual’. Accepting that robust social distancing is a key control mechanism, we have limited face-to-face contact to protect our clients and employees. Only essential site visits are undertaken, subject to rigorous dynamic risk assessment process, with stringent controls in place. Utilising platforms such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom, we are providing dedicated remote support complimented with conferencing software to maintain the ‘hands on’ feel of a dedicated professional; a trusted advisor.

A significant challenge that Capita REI has faced was how to ensure that we are able to support our clients to stay compliant with Health and Safety and Fire Safety legislation under Coronavirus restrictions. Capita REI recognised that the Health and Safety challenges of day-to-day business operations continue alongside new challenges posed by the Coronavirus. This catalyst has introduced a range of remote auditing and expert inspection packages which utilise technology to allow consultants to undertake a thorough review of site documentation, conduct interviews and visual inspections of workplaces. This approach also allows consultants to assess the client protocols in place for the control of Coronavirus exposure, as such controls fall under an employer’s statutory duties under Sections 2 and 3 of the Health and Safety at Work Etc. Act 1974. In addition, the change in working highlights how effective our Capita Assure SHE software application is for supporting Health and Safety and Fire Safety management remotely.

Clients needing to address their ‘back office’ issues such as management systems and training are still able to do so with Capita REI support.  To support clients in utilising ‘downtime’ efficiently, Capita REI have adapted traditionally face-to- face training courses so that they can be delivered remotely as a tailor-made, insightful packages by a consultant providing support in a way that on-line training modules cannot. We offer IOSH-accredited courses to our clients as a remote option, as well.

The current COVID-19 pandemic has seen businesses significantly embrace homeworking; effectively dispersing and distancing workforces while maintaining operations and limiting the risk of infection. Capita REI has developed strategies by our Display Screen Equipment Assessors and Healthy Buildings experts to deliver guidance to clients in transition to a remote working workforce including providing welfare strategies and remote assessments for workers who require specialist assistance in setting up homeworking safely.

Not every business has moved to a homeworking model. As our client portfolio includes a wide range of sectors who either cannot operate remotely, or who are specifically permitted to carry on business from their established workplaces, Capita REI has supported such clients by developing site specific measures including physical separation, vehicle and pedestrian management plans and hygiene protocols that will allow the business to continue in as unaffected a manner as possible.

As the Coronavirus curve begins to flatten off, we are seeing that many businesses are keen to return to their premises and a level of normality. Capita REI have developed a comprehensive suite of supported services, including remobilisation planning; Covid-19 Audit and Assurance (for “Covid Secure” premises); technological solutions including thermal screening and proximity management; training solutions including virtual classrooms, e-learning; and remote auditing and inspections.  We have also recognised that, for some businesses and individuals, the effects of Coronavirus restrictions have come as something of a wake-up call in terms of a greater appreciation of health and wellbeing. Capita REI have prepared strategies for clients who may wish to switch to a dispersed workforce model and the legal, technological and technical challenges that may bring.

Please contact Juliet Kelly at Capita H&S Expert Witness Services with any queries on Dan Jarvis’ article at

Dan Jarvis’s extensive career in the Health & Safety and Environmental Services spans 25 years across the UK and overseas. He is a member of Capita H&S Expert Witness Service registry. As a former H&S inspector, Dan has a strong background providing training and fire risk assessment reports. He provides specialist and general Health and Safety advice to clients in educational, local government, commercial and construction sectors.