In the past few days new guidance has come out for the construction sector about how they can protect their workforce from Covid-19.
The revised guidelines have been issued by The CLC (Construction Leader Council) following the Government revising its Covid-19 guidance to the public.
The document, entitled Construction Sector – Site Operating Procedures Protecting Your Workforce During Covid-19, includes up-to-date information about social distancing, travelling to work safely, face coverings and self-isolation.
Its objective is to ensure there are consistent measures on construction sites of all types and sizes to protect staff from Covid-19 and construction firms and their bosses from prosecutions and possible site shutdowns.
If a site is not complying with the latest Government guidance on Covid-19, it may be subject to enforcement action from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
The overriding message of the document is that health and safety requirements of any construction activity must not be compromised.
If an activity cannot be undertaken safely, it should not take place.
Where Covid-19 measures are in place, organisations should remind the workforce of them during inductions and daily briefings and have effective monitoring arrangements in place to ensure compliance.
What does the Covid-19 guidance for construction sites include?
The CLC’s revised guidance has lots of useful information about managing the risks associated with Covid-19 at all points during the working day.
It begins with advice on travelling to work and includes guidance on what workers should do if they are sharing vehicles or using public transport.
It suggests sites should consider staggering site hours to reduce congestion and increasing parking spaces and it urges bosses to come up with plans for how someone who is taken ill at work can get home.
The document offers best practice advice relating to hand washing, toilet facilities, cleaning, first aid and emergency responses, canteens and rest areas, changing facilities, showers and drying rooms.
It also includes a wealth of advice about close working, advising construction bosses that sites and works need to be planned and organised to avoid crowding and to minimise the risk of the spread of infection.
If firms are not able to avoid contact amongst workers, they should consider whether the activity should continue.
If the activity does continue, organisations should carry out risk assessments and the results of the assessments should be shared with their workforce.
Why should construction firms follow this Covid-19 guidance?
There are several good reasons why it’s wise for construction firms to follow this guidance.
This guidance will help construction firms to stay within the law which will means they are unlikely to be prosecuted by the HSE for health and safety breaches relating to Covid-19.
The HSE has produced pages of advice on its website to help employers protect people at work from the virus and it expects this advice to be followed.
During the pandemic, the HSE has been carrying out spot checks and inspections to make sure workplaces are providing adequate ventilation, sufficient cleaning and good hand hygiene facilities and have updated their risk assessments in response to the pandemic.
Firms should be aware that the HSE has also used these spot checks to carry out broader health and safety inspections.
As a result, we have seen construction firms prosecuted for wider health and safety failings following a Covid-19 spot check so organisations shouldn’t let their other health and safety responsibilities slide in the face of the pandemic.
Another key reason for firms to follow The CLC guidance is that it will minimise the risk of workers getting Covid-19.
We are seeing the Omnicron variant spreading more rapidly than earlier variants and although it doesn’t seem to be having quite such a big impact on those who are fully vaccinated it does mean that people are having time off work which has a knock-on impact on businesses.
It’s worth noting that the Office of National Statistics (ONS) has reported construction and building workers – along with transport workers – are among those least likely to have received a third dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.
It’s estimated that about 60% of employees in construction and building trades in England have not had the third dose.
These occupations also had the second highest proportion of people who have not had a first jab, at 12%.
According to the NHS, having the vaccine reduces a person’s risk of getting seriously ill or dying from Covid-19, reduces their risk of catching or spreading the virus and it offers protection against Covid-19 variants. It adds that having all three jabs gives you longer-term protection.
Construction and building workers who are not having the vaccines on offer are more likely to be at a greater risk from the virus. This is even more reason why it is wise for construction firms to do everything they can to reduce the risks of the virus spreading on their sites.
Where can I go for help?
At Acorn Safety Services, we help lots of construction firms to manage their health and safety needs.
We provide a Retained Health and Safety Consultant service and Construction Health and Safety Inspections and Audits.
With us on their side, construction bosses can be rest assured that they are doing everything they need to, to protect their staff from risks and themselves from health and safety prosecutions.