With millions of people working from home, Covid-19 has taken a toll on the future. Even with lockdown restrictions easing, coronavirus will continue to have an impact on the way we live and work. The construction industry has taken a hit during the pandemic. Sites could remain open during the crisis, however, the effects of social distancing, infection rate, a shortage of supplies and increased costs still affected the trade. Now more than ever, it is crucial that businesses and their employees take the necessary measures to keep everyone safe.
When lockdown first began, construction sites were instructed to stay open by the government. On 23 March 2020, in cooperation with Build UK, the Construction Leadership Council (CLC) issued the Site Operating Procedures (SOP). It introduced guidelines for construction sites operating during the pandemic, in line with the Public Heath England (PHE) regulations. After a revised version was released, there were reservations within the industry as the rules were deemed impossible to follow. The government continued to tell builders they could operate if social distancing was maintained. Though, many took it upon themselves to shut sites and some resumed work after closing for 24 hours, to reassess safety measures. Managing a construction site has been revised in numerous ways since Covid-19.
Social distancing on construction sites
Social distancing must be maintained in the workplace wherever possible. The government advises that if it cannot be followed in full, businesses should contemplate whether the activity can be restructured to keep a 2m distance or 1m with risk mitigations.
There are several scenarios within the construction environment, where social distancing will need to be implemented. If on-site training is required, it should take place in an open space outdoors and the team must be split into groups. Also, break times can be staggered to make social distancing easier amongst employees. Sites need to check there are enough entrances and exits. As, these access points are high traffic areas. Therefore, the amount of people coming on and off site needs to be monitored.
Where social distancing is not feasible, the employer should carry out a risk assessment and look at supplying suitable protection. For example, this could include PPE – face masks, visors, gloves and eye protection. Check out our detailed blog regarding implementation of social distancing rules on construction sites by following the link.
PPE – Face Masks
PPE helps to shield against health or safety risks within the workplace. In particular, protective gear like face masks are crucial, especially if social distancing cannot be adhered to. There are a range of PPE – Face Masks to aid in the current climate for employers to consider. However, they are not a substitute for contact time, close-up work, and handwashing. Therefore, face masks should not be solely relied on.
Employees should engage in several measures to safeguard against the virus. Before putting on PPE and after taking it off, hands should be washed thoroughly. To minimise the risk of contamination, workers must avoid touching the face mask and change it daily.
Cleanliness should be a top priority onsite given the current circumstances. Extra handwashing facilities should be provided, and soap and hand sanitiser must always be kept topped up. Signs should be utilised across the workplace, aiming to build understanding of good handwashing techniques. In addition, work surfaces, equipment and contact points should be cleaned between uses to reduce the risk of infection.
Coronavirus has changed the way the construction industry operates indefinitely. Sites will be more hygienic and safer due to new jobsite rules like staggered shifts and cleaning regimes. Telework will become more common, as construction office workers have been forced to operate via the web. Such remote work will lead to a decline in the need for office space meaning reduced costs overall. The pandemic has brought about changes which the industry can consider a win rather than a loss.