How to Ensure a Covid Friendly Construction Site
I can't write a Blog at the moment without the dreaded “C” word being included. Unfortunately, it’s all everyone is talking about as all our decisions are either impacted by or aimed at reducing the impact of Covid-19. The construction industry, which was hard hit by the lockdown as the majority of sites had to shut their gates, has slowly started to return to some sort of normality over the last few months as sites start to reopen. In order to facilitate this, we need to ensure that these construction sites are Covid friendly but what does that mean and how is that achieved.
Your first point of call should be The Contractors Health and Safety Assessment Scheme’s (CHAS) website which has some great tips, pointers and guidance material on the subject. The government also published a 39 page guide earlier this month on “Working safely during COVID-19 in construction and other outdoor work” which sets out the guidance on how to open workplaces safely while minimising the risk of spreading Covid-19, and gives practical considerations of how this can be applied in the workplace.
The first action to take is to carry out a Covid-19 risk assessment, which will form part of your overall health and safety risk assessment. You need to ensure that you assess and manage the risks of Covid-19, specifically the risks to your workers and visitors to the site. As an employer, you also have a legal responsibility to protect workers and others from risk to their health and safety. This means you need to think about the risks they face and do everything reasonably practicable to minimise them. Once this risk assessment is completed you need to put appropriate controls and procedures in place to regularly manage the identified risks. The results of your risk assessment should be shared with your workforce and you should look to accommodate anyone wanting to work from home.
One of the most difficult responsibilities in ensuring that a construction site is Covid friendly is ensuring that workers maintain social distancing wherever possible. The guidance addresses this issue and states that “Where social distancing guidelines cannot be followed in full in relation to a particular activity, businesses should consider whether that activity can be redesigned to maintain the 2m or 1m+ distance” and reminds businesses to:
- Keep the activity time involved as short as possible.
- Use screens or barriers to separate people from each other.
- Use back-to-back or side-to-side working (rather than face-to-face) whenever possible.
- Reduce the number of people each person has contact with by using ‘fixed teams or partnering’ (so each person works with only a few others). Effectively a small bubble.
Remember that the processes you put in place should cover not just working on site but include arriving and departing from work and travelling between sites.
The guidance also provides practical steps to cover meetings, common areas, dealing with accidents on site, reducing the number of unnecessary visits to the worksite and keeping the workplace clean.
These cleaning procedures are paramount when handling equipment, material and onsite vehicles, and the availability of PPE (we all know what that is by now) and face coverings will usually already be part of your health and safety regime.
It’s vital that you document this risk assessment, ensure that it’s communicated to your workforce, is easily available if any of them want to refer back to it, and you are regularly reviewing and updating your assessment, controls and procedures as the government guidance on Covid-19 is forever changing.
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