Protecting Your Workers in the Construction Industry: COVID Operating Procedures
Although official government COVID restrictions ended on 19 July in the UK, the Construction Leadership Council (CLC) announced that its pandemic safety guidance would remain in place for construction firms that wish to maintain them as a means of protecting their workers. The CLC commented:
“Whilst it would be inappropriate for the CLC to seek to impose on the industry any requirements over and above those set out by the Government, we recognise that businesses across the supply chain have welcomed the consistency that the CLC guidance has provided.”
In this article, we’ll provide an overview of the guidance and share how you can continue to keep your employees healthy and safe.
Construction Industry COVID Guidance
According to research, 90% of UK construction firms reported a reduction in revenue due to the pandemic, making it one of the worst affected industries. Unfortunately, COVID-19 continues to be widespread across the country and will need to be managed for some time. As such, it’s more critical than ever to ensure your employees are healthy and able to complete projects.
Whilst official restrictions are no longer in place, the Construction Leadership Council has still made their pre-‘freedom day’ guidance available for construction firms that want to continue protecting their workforce.
Here are some workplace measures you may want to consider:
1. When to Go to Work
The Construction Leadership Council recommends that, if employees can’t work from home, they should socially distance themselves from others in the workplace. In some cases, your employees may need to self-isolate, for example, if they have:
- Received a positive COVID test result
- Been exposed to COVID via someone in their household
- Returned from a country on the red list
- Been told to isolate by the NHS
Encouraging your employees to isolate when necessary reduces the risk of them coming into work and spreading the virus across your entire workforce. Plus, with a solution such as the BigChange Network in place, a back-office team member can still work remotely to support any reactive (urgent) job scheduling and communicate in real-time with the engineer.
However, if a staff member develops symptoms of COVID at work, they must immediately alert their manager and return home to take a test. If the test result is positive, the worker shouldn’t return to the site until they have completed their period of isolation and are no longer unwell.
2. Site Access
The key to preventing the spread of COVID on-site is to limit the number of people in enclosed areas of the building. For example, you may want to prohibit access for any non-essential visitors or schedule staggered start and finish times for your office-based staff, so that they’re not all in the building at the same time.
For your field-based workers, you should reduce the number of people in attendance at site inductions. Consider holding site inductions outdoors whenever it’s practical to do so. Drivers should also aim to remain in their vehicles when loading and unloading deliveries when possible. If they must exit the vehicle, they should wash or sanitise their hands before handling any materials.
To ensure that everyone is following best hygiene practices, you must provide your workers with suitable toilet and handwashing facilities and make them aware of any COVID safety measures you have in place to prevent contamination.
3. On-Site Facilities
If your offices have communal areas such as canteens or showers, you should also consider ways to mitigate the risk of a COVID outbreak in those spaces. For example, you may wish to make it mandatory for non-exempt employees to wear a face mask when they’re not sitting at their desks or outdoors.
Again, you should consider capacity. Try to limit the number of people using communal facilities at one time and encourage everyone to socially distance. You can control the group size by staggering break times or providing additional recreational areas for staff members to use during the day.
As with any area in the building, you must frequently clean surfaces and provide handwashing facilities.
4. Work Planning
You should conduct a risk assessment to determine whether work can continue safely and share the results with your employees. The Construction Leadership Council advises that certain activities should be eliminated or reduced to lower the risk of a COVID outbreak at work:
- Eliminate: Workers who have COVID shouldn’t attend the workplace. Likewise, you should avoid holding in-person meetings where several people will be in one room.
- Reduce: You should minimise the frequency and time that people are working together. Ensure you keep teams to small numbers and that they frequently wash their hands.
For COVID safety measures to be effective, everyone in your construction firm must take responsibility for their actions. Encourage an open and collaborative approach where employees can discuss any issues. As a result, you’ll find that your employees work better and more safely together.
5. First Aid
You still need to administer first aid to workers until the emergency services attend. However, there may be delays in the emergency service’s response due to the pandemic. Consequently, you should consider rescheduling high-risk work or providing additional trauma resources. You must also ensure that there is adequate first aid equipment on-site and that worker contact details are up-to-date. With BigChange, you can store all employee information electronically for straightforward access during emergencies.
To read the complete Construction Leadership Council guidance, click here.
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