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Building firm’s challenges after return to work during lockdown

PUBLISHED: 15:55 21 May 2020 | UPDATED: 15:55 21 May 2020

Managing Director Richard Gilbert of Gilbert Builders Ltd, Lowestoft. Picture: Mick Howes

Managing Director Richard Gilbert of Gilbert Builders Ltd, Lowestoft. Picture: Mick Howes

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Staff at a long established building company returned to work this week amid the continuing coronavirus crisis.

Back then, Mr Gilbert pictured at the start of new-build residential project at Blyford Residential Care home in Lowestoft last October. Picture: Derek WardBack then, Mr Gilbert pictured at the start of new-build residential project at Blyford Residential Care home in Lowestoft last October. Picture: Derek Ward

With lockdown restrictions easing, workers at Gilbert Builders Ltd returned on Monday, May 18 after eight weeks away.

And the managing director of the family run building business, based at Pinbush Road in south Lowestoft, said it feels good to be back at work with the staff now getting into the new routine.

Managing Director Richard Gilbert of Gilbert Builders Ltd, Lowestoft. Picture: Mick HowesManaging Director Richard Gilbert of Gilbert Builders Ltd, Lowestoft. Picture: Mick Howes

Having been established in 1966, the firm specialises in new build residential projects, commercial and light industrial projects as well as extensions, modifications and adaption works across East Anglia.

Managing director Richard Gilbert, 50, said: “After our workforce had been furloughed for eight weeks it felt very strange when we came back to work on Monday and began trying to adhere to the two metre social distancing.

“Prior to that we kept in touch with the staff by text every week to update them about what was happening.

“Now we have given every employee a box with two types of glasses, goggles, hand sanitiser, towels, two types of gloves and two types of masks.

“However our workforce are finding that wearing a mask all day long is very awkward.”

With a workforce of 25 to 30 people, including the company’s electrical and security business, the firm consists of plumbers, bricklayers, electricians and carpenters.

Mr Gilbert added: “Most of our jobs are new-build residential projects and our biggest job is at Blyford Residential care home in Lowestoft, so mainly working outside, but with 10 – 12 men on site trying to keep two metres apart is very awkward.

“Our other sites are at Shadingfield, Green Drive, Lowestoft and Haddiscoe and one is in the middle of marshes where we have no worries about coming into contact with anyone!

“Our electricians are working in people’s houses and they have to make special arrangements for the customers to vacate rooms where work is taking place.”

Since returning to work this week, Mr Gilbert said: “There are also some new problems for us to face.

“We cannot now just drive into a builders merchant to get supplies.

“Instead we now have to order by phone and get a timeslot for the item to be picked up. So we now have to think ahead all the time.

“Some materials are in short supply as well.

“We can’t get any plaster or plasterboard at the moment.

“The manufacturers stopped work and they furloughed their staff and the factories have only just started up again.

“I have been quoted about seven weeks for plaster delivery.

“Enquiries have slowed up and it has been very quiet but I am hopeful that the order books will fill up again.

“We still had all our overheads to pay – so it is good that we are back at work.”


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