Over the past few months, the UK has transformed workplaces to help support workers as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Although many industries have adapted to make drastic changes to the way they work, construction sites are less flexible and don’t have the ability to make such big changes because of the nature of the work.
Organisations have a duty of care to staff to ensure that as far as reasonably practicable they are not exposed to risks to their health and safety, not only as a result of the pandemic but always. Ultimately, it is critical that employers, employees and the self-employed take steps to keep everyone safe.
Below are five ways employers, companies, and site managers can support welfare on their construction sites.
Carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment
To be prepared to make necessary changes to your construction site, you need to carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment. This is done in exactly the same way as a standard assessment for health and safety-related hazards but must be done in consultation with unions or workers.
You are encouraged to have discussions with your workers, especially those who are classified as ‘clinically vulnerable’ but all staff members should be considered and included. A broad assessment will help your site managers approach the issue in a pragmatic and cohesive way to make the workplace COVID-secure for all.
Failure to complete a risk assessment which considers workplace issues surrounding COVID-19, or failing to put in place sufficient measures to manage the risk, could constitute a breach of health and safety law.
Social distancing should be part of your site or company’s risk assessment and is one of the steps needed to make your workplace COVID-secure.
Where the social distancing guidelines set out by the government and HSE cannot be followed in full during specific activities, businesses should consider whether that activity can be redesigned to maintain a 2m distance or 1m with risk mitigations.
Although there are many manual tasks where a 2m distance would be impractical to insist on, there are many other areas/aspects of a site that should be assessed including staggered starting times and lunch breaks to reduce the amount of staff in one place at once. Control measures should also be included for emergency areas, communal spaces, smoking areas and toilets.
Comply with Public Health Guidance
Since the Prime Minister and UK Government’s address and release of a COVID-19 Recovery Strategy, public health guidance has been issued across different sectors where necessary. Construction sites, where workers can not perform their work from home, are to remain open where it is safe to do so as long as guidelines and safety measures are met.
By following these guidelines, construction sites can ensure the risk of infection is as low as possible while allowing as many people as possible to carry on working. Building control bodies are urged to undertake normal, regular site inspections to ensure all regulations are being met.
These guidelines include meeting many of the other measures on this list but also include flexibility in working hours, temperature checks, closure of certain ‘high-risk’ facilities such as canteens on-site and staying up to date with, and briefing staff on, any changes to the government’s advice.
Additional Protective Measures
Health and safety is already an integral and statutory part of welfare construction sites but there are many new additions and measures specifically to reduce the spread of COVID-19. The Construction Leadership Council, HSE and government have recommended that workers should be given face coverings in certain site conditions.
The guidance is meant for those working in enclosed spaces where social distancing is not possible but masks should be worn wherever is safe to do so. Although not technically PPE, employers should provide workers with face coverings/masks that should cover the nose and mouth, made of cloth.
Standards of hygiene should also be drastically increased across all areas of a construction site and where possible equipment should not be shared between persons. Employees should also be encouraged to sanitise and clean their hands as frequently as possible.
Suitable COVID-19 Equipment
To support safety and welfare on construction sites, the responsible persons should invest in products to help employees adhere to guidelines and safety measures.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Howler UK developed the SafetyHub Mobile Sanitiser Station to encourage, remind and enable your site operatives to wash their hands frequently in accordance with government advice.
The Mobile Sanitiser Station is available right across the SafetyHub range and can be supplied either with or without a sanitiser dispenser and has easy to view signage to remind personnel to clean their hands.
Made of the same durable plastic as all the SafetyHub range, our Sanitiser Stations will stand up to the rigours of site life!
Staying safe during the COVID-19 pandemic is of huge concern to companies and individuals all over the world. Now, more than ever, staff need to know that employers and companies are taking the necessary measures to keep them, their families, and the public safe.
It is also in the legal and financial interest of construction site management to follow these guidelines as the HSE will take a range of actions against those failing to enforce relevant Public Health England guidance.