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June 18, 2019
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Protecting Construction Site Workers From COVID-19

Social distancing on construction sites

As of Wednesday 13th of May, construction sites (as well as manufacturing, distribution, logistics and food production companies) were allowed to re-open as long as they are following strict social distancing guidance.

The aim is to slowly phase out of lockdown so the country can start moving towards some semblance of normality whilst still controlling COVID-19 and keeping the number of new cases, and deaths, on the decline.

The guidance provided by the Government is quite extensive so we have just picked out some of the key points, but it is important that you read the document for yourself here to get a full understanding of the actions that need to be taken.

Keeping contact to a minimum

The first thing you should do is carefully consider who needs to be on site and try to keep numbers to a minimum where possible to reduce the risk of the spread of the virus.
This may mean that you have to stagger returns to work over a number of weeks so that the construction site isn’t at full capacity and you can monitor your safety systems and procedures in regards to COVID-19 before you bring everyone back on site.

As much as possible, keep groups of workers working together in teams that are as small as possible (cohorting). For example, you keep vehicle crews working together, rather than mixing crew members on different shifts.
You could do this by separating the site into work zones using ground markings and signs so that workers are restricted to one area throughout the day and physically separated as much as possible.
This will also mean reducing any job or equipment rotation, i.e. worker focuses on a single task each day rather than different tasks around the site.

Staying 2-metres apart

One of the most important aspects of these guidelines are the social distancing rules which require people to keep a 2-metre distance from one another at all times, including whilst they are in the workplace and on construction sites.
This can be communicated clearly around the premises using signage and floor markings.

Where it is not possible to follow the social distancing guidelines in full in relation to a particular activity, you should consider whether that activity needs to take place for the site to continue to operate, and, if so, take all the mitigating actions possible to reduce the risk of transmission.

One such example would be to provide the workers carrying out the activity with sufficient PPE, such as face shields and face masks, and, if possible, ask that they work facing away from one another or side by side rather than face to face.

The importance of hygiene

You should also advise all staff to wash their hands thoroughly (for at least 20 seconds) and frequently with soap and water, especially after they cough/sneeze, before eating or entering the site and when they arrive home from work.

You should make this as easy as possible for them by providing enough appropriate facilities throughout the workplace, such as hand sanitiser, and provide constant reminders using the appropriate signage.

Staff should also be encouraged to wash their hands before getting into enclosed machinery (such as diggers) with others and wash their hands every time they get out. To help with this, you should consider adding additional pop-up handwashing stations or facilities, providing soap, water and/or hand sanitiser.

As well as practicing good personal hygiene, construction sites should be much more conscientious of their overall on-site cleanliness. This means regularly wiping down surfaces – especially areas with high contact such as door handles and buttons – with disinfectant, thoroughly cleaning all equipment and tools and making sure that workers and visitors dispose of their own rubbish in bins (which should be provided throughout the site).

Again, the best way to communicate these practices is to provide signage throughout the workplace.

It doesn’t end there…

Some other COVID-19 safety measures that you should be implementing on your construction site include:

  • A strict ban on sharing any PPE, including hi-vis jackets. This will mean that any site visitors will also need to bring their own PPE rather than borrow any that you have on-site.
  • Reducing the movement on site by restricting any non-essential trips within buildings and sites
  • Introducing one-way systems where possible
  • Staggering breaks so that there is not a large number of people in break areas at one time where the 2-metre distancing rules will still need to be applied
  • Holding meetings outdoors or in well-ventilated areas whilst still practicing social distancing guidelines of keeping 2-metres apart

These are just the key takeaways that we feel give a strong overview of what is expected by the Government of construction sites in the coming weeks in order to protect their workers, and the public.
There are many more points and guidelines that are detailed in the full document which can be read here:
https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/media/5eb961bfe90e070834b6675f/working-safely-during-covid-19-construction-outdoors-110520.pdf