Construction Sites Re-Opening
Many construction sites began re-opening at the beginning of May, after long and detailed discussions with Public Health England about maintaining a safe working environment. Whilst there will be a lot of focus on ensuring sites are ‘Covid-19’ secure upon re-opening, there are also a range of other considerations to be made when re-opening construction sites post-lockdown, and with other businesses.
Many of the steps involved in restarting work at these sites will include things such as ensuring social distancing measures can be maintained, increasing hygiene levels and staggering start times. The government has provided full guidance on implementing new safety standards on construction sites.
Before employees can return to work, specific considerations need to be made regarding social distancing in the workplace. The objective is to keep a social distance of 2 metres at all times wherever possible. Where this is not possible, risks should be mitigated and if possible, the activity should not be completed.
Social distancing should be maintained at all times; throughout travelling to work, entering and exiting work as well as throughout the working day and during break times. Social distancing can be ensured by staggering working hours, keeping workstations 2m apart, moving chairs and tables in the canteen, working outdoors and placing markings on the floor. Where a suitable social distance cannot be maintained, working side-by-side or back-to-back is better than front facing, screens can help to separate people and handwashing should be completed frequently.
Upon returning to work, hygiene should be of paramount importance. A deep clean should be performed where necessary before businesses are reopened. Upon return, there should be additional hand-washing facilities and sanitising stations; particularly at places such as entrances and exits. Where social distancing is difficult to maintain, screens should be considered to avoid contamination.
Performing a risk assessment upon re-opening is essential; both in terms of Covid-19 and in general. Perform your risk assessment as usual but make sure to make additional considerations relating to Covid-19 including hygiene issues and social distancing requirements. Make sure to follow the governments ‘Covid-19 secure’ guidelines and maintain them throughout work.
One thing which has become apparent even more so throughout the coronavirus pandemic, particularly surrounding lockdown, is mental wellbeing. Many people have struggled with the isolation which has accompanied the lockdown situation, whilst others have struggled financially, and some may have anxiety about returning to work. Make sure to check in with employees regarding their mental wellbeing and ensure that they are happy to return to work; any health issues or concerns should also be discussed prior to their return and those who are vulnerable should remain at home if possible.
Check You’re Compliant
As always with opening a site and continuing work, you need to ensure you are compliant with relevant laws and legislation. This now includes complying with the governments ‘Covid-19 secure’ guidance. In addition, you will need to ensure you are compliant with fire safety regulations, electrical legislation and your water system procedures are followed before reopening to remain complaint.