It’s unlikely that in your construction health and safety manual, that you’ll find a chapter on managing the risks and hazards in a pandemic. And yet, here we are, writing and implementing back to work procedures post-lockdown to keep construction workers and contractors safe from a potentially deadly virus. What are the latest health and safety guidelines for the construction industry from the UK Government?
Post-lockdown health and safety in the construction industry
The UK Government has issued guidelines that set out health and safety guidance for construction companies post-lockdown.
1 Managing risk
Construction companies are expected to have an up-to-date risk assessment relating to COVID-19 and the return of contractors and staff to site. Both the HSE and local authorities have powers to enforce a range of actions if a COVID-19 risk assessment is not carried out and changed implemented.
The easing of lockdown doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone should return to work at the same time and the same way that they did before the public health crisis hit. As part of your updated risk assessment, you should consider:
- Who needs to be on-site
- Who could continue working from home
- Monitoring well-being of staff working on and off-site
3 Social distancing
The UK Government has issued updated guidance on social distancing of 1 metre or more in England – Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have different rules and guidance – and social distancing will need to be adhered to, including on construction sites, outdoors and inside.
Your risk assessment should include;
- How staff get to and from work
- Moving around buildings and worksites
- Making the workplace safe for people
- Accidents, security and other incidents
4 Managing customers and site visitors
Your risk assessment will also need to include how site visitors will be managed, including contractors. As well as limited numbers of visitors at one time, anyone who comes to the site should be fully briefed as to social distancing and other considerations. Hand washing or hand sanitising facilities need to be provided, as well as an accurate record of who has visited.
The coronavirus can live on surfaces for anything from hours to days, depending on the material. And this means that as well as spreading via airborne particles, it can also be spread when people touch contaminated surfaces. Effective and regular cleaning is the solution and should be included as part of an updated risk assessment.
6 PPE and face masks
Your risk assessment should answer questions such as how often should PPE be changed to when wearing a face mask, and what type, is compulsory. There is also other personal protective equipment that is needed, depending on the environment and circumstances. The updated UK Government guidelines have more detail.
How goods and deliveries are received and dispatched also needs to be considered and effectively planned for. As well as minimising unnecessary contact, you may also need to change where goods are dropped off and picked up from.
8 Workforce management
The likelihood is that not everyone will be able to work the same shift patterns as you traditionally did. Reducing the number of staff on-site will help with social distancing, an essential component of returning to work.
Jenny Kilburn, Synergos Consultancy Ltd.