As the construction industry heads back to work, the government has released guidance to help tradespeople work safely during the coronavirus outbreak.
However, gov.uk says: “The government is clear that workers should not be forced into an unsafe workplace.” What can you do to keep yourself and other tradespeople safe on site or in your premises?
The guidance for ‘people who work in or run outdoor working environments’ (which includes people working in construction) has been prepared by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).
Other organisations like Public Health England (PHE) and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have also been brought in to help shape the rules, as well as firms, unions, industry bodies, and the devolved administrations in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
The non-statutory guidance makes it clear that business owners and employers should continue to comply with their existing obligations. It not only applies to employees, it also applies to agency workers, contractors and other people you may work with.
The first step is to carry out a Covid-19 risk assessment, like you would for any other health and safety-related risk. If you’re self-employed or you have fewer than five people working for your business, you don’t need to write down your risk assessment, but you do need to go through the process.
The government guidance says you need to think about the risks to people working with you, and do everything you can reasonably do to minimise those risks. However, it understands that nobody can completely remove the risk of Covid-19.
If you operate in a shared workspace or site, the guidance says everyone needs to work together to protect everybody’s health and safety. You should carry out the following steps:
If your business activity doesn’t allow you to keep people two metres apart, you should take the following steps to reduce the risk of infection between workers:
If the activity means people need to work face-to-face for long periods with more than a small group of fixed teammates, you should consider whether the activity can safely go ahead.
Safety should always be prioritised, so if there’s an emergency like a fire or a break-in, you don’t have to stay two metres apart from others.
Look into whether your trade association has produced specific guidance for your trade. For example, the Federation of Master Builders has produced a restarting building work guide for members.
Once your risk assessment is complete and your site or location is cleaned and ready to go, there are steps you should take to keep it that way, including:
You can read the government’s specific guidance for cleaning after a known case of Covid-19.
The term ‘PPE’ describes the protection healthcare workers use, or the protection people use to limit dust and spray exposure in industrial workplaces. If you already use PPE in your work to protect against things that aren’t related to coronavirus, the government advice is to keep doing so.
According to gov.uk, a simple face covering can be worn in enclosed spaces where you can’t socially distance yourself from other people.
You can ask yourself these questions to help you decide who's needed on site or in your premises:
People who need to self-isolate should not be made to go to work. You can claim back SSP if an employee is off work because of coronavirus.
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Gov.uk reminds us that: “Social distancing applies to all parts of a business, not just the place where people spend most of their time, but also entrances and exits, break rooms, canteens and similar settings.”
Besides ensuring everyone washes their hands when they arrive for work, the following steps should also be taken:
To help maintain social distancing in your workplace, the government advises taking the following steps:
If your work is done mainly at one workstation, here are the steps the government recommends you follow:
Social distancing should be observed at break times too. Here are the government’s recommendations on how to do this:
Make sure you explain your social distancing and health and safety guidelines to anyone visiting your site, too. But try to restrict visits to only those that are essential. Here are the government guidelines if you do have visitors:
If you can’t hold your meeting remotely, the following steps should be taken:
Visit gov.uk for full details of the government’s coronavirus safe working guidance for construction and other outdoor work.
Are these measures practical within your setup? Let us know how you feel about the guidelines in the comments below.
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