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Returning to work in the Landscape Sector - O'Briens Landscaping

Working safely at the National Rehab Hospital Landscape workers have the advantage of being able to work outdoors and alone.

We’re gearing up for lifting of restrictions and a safe return to work,” commented, Ciaran O’Brien, Managing Director of Peter O’Brien and Sons Landscaping LTD. “We’ve remained operational throughout the restrictions through our work on essential infrastructure sites, sales and design services. By doing so, we’ve kept people employed, projects moving and ensured our staff is fully trained in the new ways of working”.

The team at O’Brien’s have been working on a number of essential sites including The National Forensic Health Service (Portrane) and its landscape depot in Malahide has remained open for supply of landscape materials through online sales and deliveries. “Sales of garden materials have obviously jumped in this period“, commented Sales and Purchasing Manager, Martin Goucher. “Personally, I feel it’s been great to be able to deliver garden products and see so many people invest in their outdoor space. It’s also been great to build up the knowledge of how to conduct sales and deliveries in a safe and reassuring fashion.”  While restrictions may be lifted, the sales team to do not expect to open their centre to drop in sales, opting instead for a continuation of deliveries and a no-contact collection point in the depot.

On the construction front, the team are in constant dialogue with clients and contractors and developing a range of measures to ensure the safe return to work. “I have been working on the Portrane site for several months and worked closely with clients and other contractors as we transitioned and adapted to change,” said lead project manager, Gatis Celms. “We had our own strict protocols in place right from the start covering every aspect of what we do, so it was easy for us to adapt to site-specific requirements. I can say with confidence that our teams are the best prepared and trained landscape contractors in the country.” Among the standard protocols in places are daily checks, sanitation areas and PPE provision, staggered breaks, changes to transport and logistics arrangements, temperature checks record keeping and daily toolbox talks. “To be honest, I am genuinely proud of our guys. They’ve just gotten on with things with no fuss. They’ve been great.”

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Commenting on the wider landscape construction market and return to work preparations, Director, Peter O’Toole said, “Right from the start we made a commitment to work in the national interest. Keeping everyone safe and well was and is our priority. We’ve weathered serious storms in the past and we will do so again. The landscape sector is resilient and the fact that most workers can operate outdoors and independent of people is a huge advantage for the sector. The combination of flexible and adaptive staff with robust systems, training and expertise has put us in a strong position to return to work safely and deliver for our clients and the general public”. Above and beyond the in-house developed safe working protocols, the O’Brien’s team have also adopted the industry-standard procedures developed by the Construction Industry Federation. “Understandably, there are a lot of people doing a lot of things to prepare for the return to work and we’re among them. However, we all need to be on the same page. Throughout this situation, the CIF has provided clear advice and instruction and the development of the Digital Card is an excellent example of joined-up thinking. All our staff have completed the induction program and will have digital cards for inspection”. 

In addition to working on essential sites, the company has also remained operational for a range of services; “I don’t think I’ve been busier,” commented Barry Evans, who manages the systems and pricing division. “We very quickly set up remote offices and procedures, which have worked brilliantly and allowed us to continue working as we were. It is positive to see so many projects in the pipeline and through proactive communications, we have kept on track.” Other areas of the business have actually seen a significant jump in activity, with design related services in high demand. “We’ve had a huge influx of calls for both domestic and commercial design services,” said the head of design and business development,  Barry Lupton. “With more time to think, engage and appreciate their gardens and landscapes, people are genuinely interested in investing.” The same goes for landscape maintenance. The company has seen a huge rise in enquiries which is understandable. “It’s been an interesting time for landscape maintenance,” commented Maintainance and Environment Manager, Andy Jones. “On the one hand people are concerned about landscapes getting out of control, on the other they’re actually noticing nature and appreciating the value on less manicured spaces. They are also concerned about workers being out and about and a large part of my job now is ensuring staff are trained and that we communicate effectively. With the procedures we have in place we will have no issues returning to 100% capacity in no time.”