With some restrictions lifted as part of the UK’s approach to the coronavirus outbreak, workers in certain industries are being encouraged to go back to work providing the right safety procedures are in place. From social distancing to proper hygiene standards, the UK government have released an advice manual to guide us through reopening construction sites and getting back to work. We’ve taken a look at the guide for you and put together a summary, below.
UK Government Advice on Returning to Work
The UK government have released guidance on working safely during coronavirus according to different forms of work. This includes construction and outdoor work, factories, plants and warehouses, labs and research facilities, offices and contact centres, people’s homes, restaurants with takeaway or delivery, shops and branches, and vehicles. For construction industries, the most important guidance to take note of is likely to be:
Construction And Other Outdoor Work
The advice for returning to construction and other outdoor work is split into eight different areas – Risk, who should go to work, social distancing, managing customers, visitors and contractors, sanitising the workplace, PPE, managing the workforce and inbound and outbound goods.
The general advice for both risk and who should go to work is that you will need to determine the level of risk that is appropriate to take for your business. This includes carrying out a full risk assessment and determining which employees are safe to return and which may benefit from remaining at home for longer or until it is safe to come back. This can include those at higher risk of Covid-19 complications, pregnant women, disabled individuals and any other at-risk groups though of course, these decisions should be taken with workplace equality in mind.
Social distancing is advised while coming to and leaving work, moving around the building or worksite, all meetings and in common areas, and care should be taken when accidents or security issues arise. In the case of fires, break-ins or other emergencies where it would be safer not to follow the 2m apart rule, employees shouldn’t have to do so. If you or an employee have to provide direct-contact support to another employee, you must use correct sanitation afterwards.
Other advice includes limiting how many people are on a site at any one time and how many visitors are around, with correct signage or protocol in place to limit the number of people in a building or space at one time. Correct cleaning and sanitisation should also take place regularly, and all employees should be provided with the right PPE, including face coverings and gloves where appropriate.
Other People’s Homes
If your construction business involves going into people’s homes to conduct work, the rules differ slightly from an outdoor construction site. More care needs to be taken with sanitisation and social distancing where possible, as well as the correct PPE for your employees. Given the smaller spaces that you’re likely to be working in, it’s advised to take steps to ensure minimal risk of spreading, which can include increasing the frequency of cleaning, working back-to-back or side-to-side, and reducing the size of teams.
When moving around the home, you need to ensure that you are regularly cleaning surfaces that you come into contact with using your usual cleaning materials. It’s also important to communicate with the homeowners before, during and after the work is completed. Before you arrive at the property, you should discuss expectations and the measures that you’re putting in place to keep them and your employees safe. This will help them to follow the same rules and set up any additional safety of their own. If you need to view the site prior to work, try and do this via virtual means to limit visits to the property where possible.
Staying safe while operating a vehicle, whether delivering goods or operating a vehicle on-site, will all depend on how many people are needed in order to complete the task. It’s not always possible to keep a distance of 2m while in a vehicle and in cases where it’s not possible to limit the number of people to just one in the vehicle at a time, additional measures should be implemented.
This can include introducing a fixed pairing system to reduce how many people someone comes into contact with, single-person or contactless refuelling, physical screens where safe to do so, increased ventilation in the vehicle and regular cleaning of vehicles before and after use.
During deliveries or collections of materials, workers should limit the number of people loading or offloading onto a vehicle to one person where possible. Where heavy goods are involved, two or more people may be needed, but care should be taken and proper sanitisation implemented immediately after loading or unloading.
You Should Also Consider:
While the government advice offers insight into how you can make your workplace safer for employees in the coming weeks, it’s important to note that you should be checking your insurance and health and safety policies to cover any potential problems. This includes Public Liability insurance to protect any members of the public or homeowners that you and your employees may come into contact with, and Employer’s Liability insurance to protect your employees against the risks now posed in the workplace. You should check your existing policy to determine whether COVID-19 would be covered, or apply for a new policy if this isn’t the case.
It’s also worth updating your own health and safety policies on a longer-term basis to increase protection in the workplace beyond this pandemic to reduce the risk of future spread or a second peak of the illness in the UK.
For more information about insuring your business as you go back to work in the coming weeks, feel free to get in touch with a member of our team.