Avoiding Close Working

Over the last few weeks, restrictions relating to the coronavirus lockdown in England have begun to ease – with pubs, restaurants, hairdressers, museums, playgrounds and others being on the latest list of places which are now allowed to open up.

But, while many of us were probably happy to see a return to something that looks more like our ‘normal’ way of life, it’s really important to remember that the deadly virus which caused lockdown in the first place has not gone away and that the actions we take (particularly when we’re around other people) all carry risk.

Luckily ‘risk’ is something the construction industry is vastly experienced at managing and in current times we have a set of Standard Operating Procedures which help us all to stay safe.

We’ve covered some of this in previous blogs but, as those restrictions have eased elsewhere, we think now is a good time to focus on ‘close working’ and most importantly how to avoid it on site. Here’s what the guidance says…

Work Planning to Avoid Close Working

In line with Public Health England (PHE) guidelines, 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 continue for the site to continue to operate, and, if so, take all the mitigating actions possible to reduce the risk of transmission.

Sites and work need to be planned and organised to avoid crowding and minimise the risk of spread of infection by following PHE and HSE guidance and the advice within these Site Operating Procedures.

Sites should remind the workforce (e.g. at daily briefings) of the specific control measures necessary to protect them, their colleagues, families and the UK population.


  • Workers who are unwell with symptoms of Coronavirus (Covid-19) should not travel to or attend the workplace
  • Rearrange tasks to enable them to be done by one person, or by maintaining social distancing measures (2 metres)
  • Avoid skin to skin and face to face contact
  • Stairs should be used in preference to lifts or hoists and consider one ways systems
  • Consider alternative or additional mechanical aids to reduce worker interface

Site Meetings

  • Only absolutely necessary meeting participants should attend
  • Attendees should be at least two metres apart from each other
  • Rooms should be well ventilated / windows opened to allow fresh air circulation
  • Consider holding meetings in open areas where possible


Where the social distancing measures (2 metres) cannot be applied:

  • Minimise the frequency and time workers are within 2 metres of each other
  • Minimise the number of workers involved in these tasks
  • Workers should work side by side, or facing away from each other, rather than face to face
  • Lower the worker capacity of lifts and hoists to reduce congestion and contact at all times
  • Regularly clean common touchpoints, doors, buttons, handles, vehicle cabs, tools, equipment etc.
  • Increase ventilation in enclosed spaces
  • Workers should wash their hands before and after using any equipment


Keep groups of workers that have to work within 2 metres:

  • Together in teams e.g. (do not change workers within teams)
  • As small as possible
  • Away from other workers where possible


Where face to face working is essential to carry out a task when working within 2 metres:

  • Keep this to 15 minutes or less where possible
  • Consider introducing an enhanced authorisation process for these activities
  • Provide additional supervision to monitor and manage compliance

These and other measures are all still necessary to minimise the risk of spread of infection and this all relies on everyone in the industry taking responsibility for their actions and behaviours.

To keep this in mind throughout your day, go into each task thinking of ‘ERIC’ – Eliminate, Reduce, Isolate and Control.


Main image source: Shutterstock