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Coronavirus: Construction sector bosses helps healthworkers to fit masks safely

PUBLISHED: 17:49 03 April 2020 | UPDATED: 17:49 03 April 2020

Kelly Cartwright of Jark Norfolk at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital to face fit masks  Picture: JARK NORFOLK

Kelly Cartwright of Jark Norfolk at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital to face fit masks Picture: JARK NORFOLK

Jark Norfolk

A company boss who has seen the main part of her business plunge by 90% due to the coronavirus crisis is volunteering her skills to help healthworkers keep safe.

Kelly Cartwright of Jark Norfolk, centre, and other volunteers at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital  Picture: ALAN ANDERSON/SAFESCOPEKelly Cartwright of Jark Norfolk, centre, and other volunteers at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital Picture: ALAN ANDERSON/SAFESCOPE

Kelly Cartwright, managing director of construction recruitment agency Jark Norfolk, which operates across East Anglia, says demand for workers has slumped to unprecedented lows as a result of the lockdown and the closure of many building sites.

But she and branch manager Astral Chapman are putting skills they have learnt from their day job to help healthworkers at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital to fit face masks so that they can work safely during the crisis.

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They became qualified facefit testers about 18 months ago followed a tightening up of health and safety on construction sites in order to prevent workers breathing in dangerous dust such as asbestos, she explained.

“It’s been extremely humbling, when you have doctors and nurses thanking you for what you are doing, when they save people’s lives every day is quite astonishing.

Astral Chapman and Kelly Cartwright of Jark Norfolk delivering groceries  Picture: JARK NORFOLKAstral Chapman and Kelly Cartwright of Jark Norfolk delivering groceries Picture: JARK NORFOLK

“They were all so grateful towards me and the rest of the volunteers. When I left the hospital, I was shattered don’t get me wrong, but it was the most rewarding thing I’ve ever experienced.”

The event was organised by colleague Conor Reeves of DS Watson, and other firms such as Anglian Demo, Britannia Training and Safescope were also involved, she explained.

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“It was lovely so many construction businesses pulling together to deliver this,” she added.

Astral Chapman and Kelly Cartwright of Jark Norfolk at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital to face fit masks  Picture: JARK NORFOLKAstral Chapman and Kelly Cartwright of Jark Norfolk at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital to face fit masks Picture: JARK NORFOLK

The pair have also been helping in the community by delivering fruit and vegetables to key staff, while also trying to secure their regular workers jobs in other industries needing more staff as a second-tier provider, such as for food processing and health work.

Ms Cartwright, who launched the £6m turnover business in 2016 and has a team of five, said that in 2018/19 they placed almost 1,000 people in work - but the construction has temporarily fallen off a cliff because of the shutdown.

“As a lot of our workers have worked for me for almost 10 years, you feel obliged to support them to provide for their families throughout this crisis,” she said.

“When you run a business you have a lot of people who rely on you. You have people’s livelihoods in your hands, with their families, money worries and so on,” she added.

Kelly Cartwright of Jark Norfolk checking on neighbours  Picture: JARK NORFOLKKelly Cartwright of Jark Norfolk checking on neighbours Picture: JARK NORFOLK

“I can’t stop this from happening but what I can do is give back to the community. I have never been one to sit around – I am a hard-working individual.”

It was a time to step up and help wherever you can, she said. “I love my recruitment because you help people get into work, you give back to people and that is what I want to do but in other ways.”

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