The UK is in the middle of a nationwide lockdown to slow the spread of COVID-19 but since that announcement was made last night there has been much confusion about what construction workers (who cannot realistically carry out their work from home) should do.

When questioned about this earlier today, Cabinet Minister, Michael Gove said:

“There are different types of construction. If you’re entering a home where there are already citizens, a family, you should not be doing that. But construction that takes place in the open air on new sites, that is appropriate.”

Not everyone agrees with that. London Mayor, Sadiq Khan has criticized the government for encouraging most construction workers to carry on and suggested that workers should not continue working except for essential public health reasons.

In an attempt to resolve the confusion, The Construction Leadership Council* have issued a briefing to the industry today stating that, while there has been no specific instruction to shut down construction sites, any site which continues to be operational is strongly recommended to follow a newly published set of Standard Operating Procedures.

CLC Co-Chair Andy Mitchell said:

“We are in exceptional circumstances, and doing our utmost to keep construction sites operational wherever it is practical and safe to do so. Whilst the guidance from Public Health England may change in future, for the time being construction sites of any size that are operating during the Coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic need to ensure they are protecting their workforce and minimising the risk of spread of infection.

“To implement the Government’s social distancing recommendation the Construction Leadership Council has now published Site Operating Procedures. I would strongly recommend that these procedures are implemented by every operational construction site, with the aim of us having a standard approach across the industry that all firms and workers can adopt.

“It is also vital that the health and safety requirements of any construction activity must not be compromised at this time. If an activity cannot be undertaken safely due to a lack of suitably qualified personnel being available, or social distancing being implemented, it should not take place. We are aware that emergency services are also under great pressure and may not be in a position to respond as quickly as usual.”

What are the Standard Operational Procedures?

Developed by Build UK, here are the key points:

  • Site workers should be two metres apart from each other at all times, as per government instructions, including in the canteen. (It is better to shut the canteen and get people to bring their own prepared lunches in.)
  • Start times on site should be staggered to avoid congestion at the gates.
  • All site workers are urged to drive or cycle to work and avoid public transport, if possible.
  • Fingerprint scanners and other security systems that require touching should be disabled.
  • Reduce the number of people in attendance at site inductions and consider holding them outdoors wherever possible.
  • Re-usable PPE should be thoroughly cleaned after use and not shared between workers. Single use PPE should be disposed of so that it cannot be reused.
  • Stairs should be used in preference to lifts or hoists.

Beyond this, all operational sites must get used to carrying out a lot of cleaning and spraying, with hand sanitisers made available everywhere.

Enhanced cleaning procedures should take place across the site, but particularly so in any communal areas and at touch points.

This includes:

  • Taps and washing facilities
  • Toilet flush and seats
  • Door handles and push plates
  • Hand rails on staircases and corridors
  • Lift and hoist controls
  • Machinery and equipment controls
  • Food preparation and eating surfaces
  • Telephone equipment
  • Key boards, photocopiers and other office equipment.

The guide also states that if a site is not consistently implementing these measures, it may be required to shut down.

In addition to these points, Sheriff would like to remind anyone still working on site to wash their hands frequently (for 20 seconds with soap and water); not to share tools, mobile phones or tablets; to travel with far less people in cars/vans than normal; and if you have any of the published symptoms (fever, persistent cough, shortness of breath), stay home and self-isolate as directed by the government.

We know that people may have concerns about their jobs and livelihoods but please remember you may have this virus already and not be showing any symptoms. Feeling well personally does not mean you shouldn’t take extra precautions. This is about protecting your families, friends, older people and the most vulnerable in our communities.

Take a look at the full Standard Operating Procedures here.

Be safe and be careful.


*The Construction Leadership Council (CLC) is not a regulatory or enforcement body with the power to instruct sites to close.

Main image source: Shutterstock

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