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Minimising the spread of COVID-19 in the construction industry

View profile for Perdeep Grewal
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Minimising the spread of COVID-19 in the construction industry

What can the construction industry do to minimise the spread of Covid-19?

The Government has recently told the construction industry to continue with its “critical contribution” to the UK economy. This means construction sites can remain open if they comply with the Government’s recommendation on social distancing. Construction sites which will operate during the Covid-19 pandemic must ensure their workforce is protected.

The Construction Leadership Council has recently published Site Operating Procedures for all personnel on construction sites. However, they have also emphasised that if an activity cannot be undertaken safely, due to a lack of suitable personnel being available or social distancing being implemented, it should not take place.

The Site Operating Procedures, published by the Construction Leadership Council, are as follows:

Self-Isolation

Anyone who meets one of the following criteria should not come to site:

  • Has a high temperature or a new persistent cough.
  • Is a vulnerable person (by virtue of their age, underlying health condition, clinical condition or are pregnant).
  • Is living with someone in self-isolation or a vulnerable person.

Procedure if Someone Falls Ill

If a worker develops a high temperature or a persistent cough while at work, they should:

  • Return home immediately.
  • Avoid touching anything.
  • Cough or sneeze into a tissue and put it in a bin, or if they do not have tissues, cough and sneeze into the crook of their elbow.
  • They must then follow the guidance on self-isolation and not return to work until their period of self-isolation has been completed.

Travel to Site

Wherever possible workers should travel to site alone using their own transport and sites need to consider:

  • Parking arrangements for additional cars and bicycles
  • Other means of transport to avoid public transport e.g. cycling.
  • Providing hand cleaning facilities at entrances and exits. This should be soap and water wherever possible or hand sanitiser if water is not available.
  • How someone taken ill would get home.

Site Access Points

  • Stop all non-essential visitors
  • Introduce staggered start and finish times to reduce congestion and contact.
  • Monitor site access points to enable social distancing – you may need to change the number of access points, either increase to reduce congestion or decrease to enable monitoring.
  • Remove or disable entry systems that require skin contact e.g. fingerprint scanners.
  • Require all workers to wash or clean their hands before entering or leaving the site.
  • Allow plenty of space (two metres) between people waiting to enter site.
  • Regularly clean common contact surfaces in reception, office, access control and delivery areas e.g. scanners, turnstiles, screens, telephone handsets, desks, particularly during peak flow times.
  • Reduce the number of people in attendance at site inductions and consider holding them outdoors wherever possible.
  • Drivers should remain in their vehicles if the load will allow it and must wash or clean their hands before unloading goods and materials. 

Hand Washing

  • Provide additional hand washing facilities to the usual welfare facilities if a large spread out site or significant numbers of personnel on site.
  • Ensure soap and fresh water is readily available and kept topped up at all times.
  • Provide hand sanitiser where hand washing facilities are unavailable.
  • Regularly clean the hand washing facilities and check soap and sanitiser levels.
  • Provide suitable and sufficient rubbish bins for hand towels with regular removal and disposal.
  • Sites will need extra supplies of soap, hand sanitiser and paper towels and these should be securely stored.

Toilet Facilities

  • Restrict the number of people using toilet facilities at any one time e.g. use a welfare attendant.
  • Wash hands before and after using the facilities.
  • Enhance the cleaning regimes for toilet facilities particularly door handles, locks and the toilet flush.
  • Portable toilets should be avoided wherever possible, but where in use these should be cleaned and emptied more frequently.
  • Provide suitable and sufficient rubbish bins for hand towels with regular removal and disposal.

Canteen and Eating Arrangements

  • The workforce should be required to stay on site once they have entered it and not use local shops.
  • Dedicated eating areas should be identified on site to reduce food waste and contamination.
  • Break times should be staggered to reduce congestion and contact at all times.
  • Hand cleaning facilities or hand sanitiser should be available at the entrance of any room where people eat and should be used by workers when entering and leaving the area.
  • The workforce should be asked to bring pre-prepared meals and refillable drinking bottles from home.
  • Workers should sit 2 metres apart from each other whilst eating and avoid all contact.
  • Where catering is provided on site, it should provide pre-prepared and wrapped food only.
  • Payments should be taken by contactless card wherever possible.
  • Crockery, eating utensils, cups etc. should not be used.
  • Drinking water should be provided with enhanced cleaning measures of the tap mechanism introduced.
  • Tables should be cleaned between each use.
  • All rubbish should be put straight in the bin and not left for someone else to clear up.
  • All areas used for eating must be thoroughly cleaned at the end of each break and shift, including chairs, door handles, vending machines and payment devices.

Changing Facilities, Showers and Drying Rooms

  • Introduce staggered start and finish times to reduce congestion and contact at all times.
  • Introduce enhanced cleaning of all facilities throughout the day and at the end of each day.
  • Consider increasing the number or size of facilities available on site if possible.
  • Based on the size of each facility, determine how many people can use it at any one time to maintain a distance of two metres.
  • Provide suitable and sufficient rubbish bins in these areas with regular removal and disposal.

Avoiding Close Working

  • There will be situations where it is not possible or safe for workers to distance themselves from each other by 2 metres.

If you have any questions about the Site Operating Procedures or require advice on various issues relating to your projects, please do not hesitate to contact our specialist construction solicitors.

I am based in our Chelmsford office and can be contacted on 01245 453804 or alternatively, you can email me at perdeep.grewal@birkettlong.co.uk.

 

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