LifeAfterLockdown – The Construction Sector
Building and construction sites are, by their very nature, busy places. They often employ a great number of people from a variety of sectors and trades. In the weeks and months to come, many building sites will also provide show homes for members of the public to view. In light of Covid-19, these sites must be managed safely and a number of safety precautions should be implemented to prevent the spread of the virus. Coronavirus has had a significant impact on the sector, so creating as safe an environment as possible to allow for the return of activity looks essential.
Overarching obligations for the construction sector
It’s worth pointing out the initial legal obligations that directly impact the construction sector and relate to the coronavirus pandemic.
- Sections 2 and 3 of the Health & Safety At Work Etc Act 1975 (“HSAW”) – The obligation to safeguard the health, safety and welfare of your employees and also contractors and visitors to your sites.
- Section 7 of HSAW – The obligation of employees to act responsibly in relation to their own health & safety and to the health & Safety of those with whom they work.
- The Management of Health & Safety At Work Regulation 1999 – these regulations encapsulate the duties to carry out a risk assessment of all activities and to keep such assessments under review.
- Section 37 of HSAW – in simple terms Section 37 of HSAW provides for the personal liability of Directors, Officers of the Company and Managers where it can show that an offence which has been committed by the Company occurred as a consequence of an individual Directors etc consent, connivance or neglect.
You’ll need to have discussions with staff members to identify those who are vulnerable and may not be able to return to work. You’ll also need to establish notification systems in the event an employee falls ill.
Don’t compromise wider safety
In addition to taking steps to minimise the spread of coronavirus, the health and safety requirements of ongoing construction activities must also not be compromised.
Consider activities carefully
If a construction activity cannot be carried out safely due to a lack of personnel or as a result of social distancing, then it should not take place at all. This may make some construction tasks impossible.
Entrance and exit points
Ensure parking areas for staff are clearly prepared to reduce the use of public transport. You’ll also need to add hand washing stations or additional hand sanitiser at site entrances and exits. Think about staggering start times to prevent congestion at the site entrance.
Prepare sufficient toilets
Restricting communal use of facilities on construction sites wherever possible is important. Consider whether you require additional toilet facilities on site.
Additional site supervision
You will need to continually risk assess whether you have enough manpower to do the job sufficiently and maintain safety standards.
Set up additional signage
Consider the site you are working on and implement physical signage to ensure staff maintain a 2 metre distance.
Add handwashing stations
Whether you add additional hand washing areas or install hand sanitiser pumps around the site, this will ensure hygiene levels are maintained. Be sure to brief staff on where these hand washing stations are located and how often you expect them to be used.
Order sufficient PPE
Where PPE is required, ensure supplies are ordered in advance. Due to the increased demand, you may need to plan ahead and order supplies earlier than you would do in normal times.
There will likely be an individual decision to be made about each site, as to whether it can operate safely in whole or in part. Continual evaluation of the risk and procedures will likely be the new normal across the construction sector in the months to come.
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