Government and Construction: If it can be done safely work continues.

Government and Construction: If it can be done safely work continues.

23 April 2020

Two leading representing organisations release guidance against the governments update on social distancing. BuildUK and Construction Leadership Council support construction continuation as long as social distancing under the confines of government guidelines are adhered to. This has distilled done to clear advice ad an update to the Construction Leadership Council Site Operating Procedures.

The Site operating procedures (at the time of publishing) are in their 3rd edition and The Construction Leadership Council explain that the Site Operating Procedures (SOP) are based on Public Health England (PHE) guidance; other restrictions and advice may apply in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. And detail that Construction sites operating during the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic need to ensure they are protecting their workforce and minimising the risk of spread of infection. This includes considering how personnel travel to and from site.

Which is what we have found that there are construction sites open and completing essential work. We have found it prudent to offer a number of services nationwide so as to support our partners.

What does the SOPs say?

They explain that the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy advised in a letter to the UK construction industry on 31 March 2020: “that wherever possible, people should work at home. However, we know that for many people working in construction their job requires them to travel to their place of work, and they can continue to do so. This is consistent with the Chief Medical Officer’s advice”. We reported that here: https://www.palhire.co.uk/business-secretary-tells-industry-construction-to-continue/

It is important to understand the following guidelines by which workers should or should not travel to work as outlined below.

The guidance comes following a clear update on social distancing from the government specifically for the construction sector. (https://www.gov.uk/guidance/social-distancing-in-the-workplace-during-coronavirus-covid-19-sector-guidance#construction)

The full the social distancing guidance is:

Construction work plays an important role in ensuring public safety and the provision of public services. It can continue if done in accordance with the social distancing guidelines wherever possible.

Where it is not possible to follow the social distancing guidelines in full in relation to a particular activity, you should consider whether that activity needs to continue for the site to continue to operate, and, if so, take all the mitigating actions possible to reduce the risk of transmission.

If you decide the work should go ahead, you should advise staff to wash their hands frequently using soap and water for 20 seconds, and especially after blowing their nose, sneezing or coughing, on arrival at work, before and after eating, after using public transport, and when they arrive home. Where facilities to wash hands are not available, hand sanitiser should be used.

You should still advise staff to keep 2 metres apart as much as possible.

You should plan work to minimise contact between workers and avoid skin-to-skin and face-to-face contact. Where face-to-face contact is essential, this should be kept to 15 minutes or less wherever possible.

As much as possible, keep groups of workers working together in teams that are as small as possible (cohorting). For example, you keep vehicle crews working together, rather than mixing crew members on different shifts.

Staff should also wash their hands each time before getting into enclosed machinery (such as diggers) with others, and wash their hands every time they get out. To help with this, you should consider adding additional pop-up handwashing stations or facilities, providing soap, water and/or hand sanitiser.

Employees should keep the windows of enclosed machinery or enclosed spaces open for ventilation and be careful to avoid touching their face at all times. The inside of cabs should be regularly cleaned, particularly between use by different operators.

You should try to use stairs in preference to lifts or hoists. Where lifts or hoists must be used, you should lower their capacity to reduce congestion and contact at all times, and regularly clean touchpoints, such as doors and buttons.

To protect your staff, you should remind colleagues daily to only come into work if they are well and no one in their household is self-isolating.

The Construction Leadership Council has published more detailed advice on how you might carry out government guidance.

Additional useful information for firms can be accessed on BuildUK’s (https://builduk.org/coronavirus/) website.

The Construction Leadership Council Guidance Site Operating Procedures continue with clarity over the following aspects of working in construction.

  • Travel to work
  • Driving to Work
  • Site Access and Egress Points
  • Hand Washing
  • Toilet Facilities
  • Canteens and Rest Areas
  • Changing Facilities, Showers and Drying Rooms
  • Work planning to Avoid Close Working
  • First Aid
  • Cleaning

In summary the legislation is here to enable projects to continue, the supply chain is here to enable movement of equipment (and some supplier throughout the country). If it can be done safely construction continues.