As some normality starts to return to our lives, and a growing number of us start to return to work, it has become obvious that new ways of working are also going to become a part of everyday life. Construction is an industry that has embraced PPE for longer than almost any other, and with many building roles being the work equivalent of being a social pariah, a bit of social distancing shouldn’t be too difficult, but invariably change of some form will still be needed. Let’s have a look at the construction site for the 2020’s onward.
What are the government guidelines for Covid-19 and construction works?
The Government has issued a series of guidelines designed to help those in the construction industry and other generally outdoor work, with a view to keeping them and other safe and COVID-free once full work returns. With this document, the Government hopes to be able to create a work environment that is safe for everyone, and has a few restrictions as possible, while allowing normal work to continue. The main issues that have to be considered are:
- Maintaining a social distance of at least two metres.
- Using the correct anti-COVID PPE alongside any regulatory PPE.
- Reporting instances of feeling unwell that align with virus symptoms.
- Self-Isolate in light of virus symptoms and report any contacts within the previous 14 days.
The Government has an ambitious program of home building, and job cuts are unlikely to affect the industry to any great extent, so new ways of safely working have to be the order of the day. The new information augments HSE information and works alongside the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 (HSWA), and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.
The main legal issues which employers have to consider under current health and safety law are:
- To ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, that their employees and importantly other people who might be affected by their business, including contractors engaged to carry out construction works, are not exposed to risks to their health, safety and welfare. This should always consider the protection both physical and mental health.
- To assess and keep under review, risks arising from what the business does. Risk assessments should be carried out that identify and then evaluate the likelihood that risks will happen and the severity of the consequences if they do. Reasonably practicable methods to eliminate them and, if that is not possible, reduce them should then be identified.
Specifics to construction sites, include a plan that adheres to PHE and CLC guidance and allows open sites to be operated safely needs to be in place to manage the COVID-19 risk without compromising normal working tasks and other site risks.
The Construction Leadership Council (CLC) has stated it is “doing its utmost to keep construction sites operational wherever it is practical and safe to do so.” The council has published guidance designed to protect all site workers and to ensure that consistent measures are in place on sites regardless of size and workforce numbers. This guidance is in line with the Government’s recommendations on social distancing and PPE, and employers and individuals must ensure that they make every effort to comply with the directive.
The Health and Safety Executive have been given the task of overseeing the guidance and an extra £14m has also been made available to it to help police the new guidelines.