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Can tradespeople work during lockdown? The government’s safety guidelines for people that work on site and in people’s homes

4-minute read

Sam Bromley

8 January 2021

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People who can’t work from home are still able to work during lockdown, as long as they’re following the safety guidelines. There are two relevant sets of guidelines for tradespeople – we break down what you need to know.

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Can builders and other tradespeople work during lockdown?

The government says that people can go to work if it’s not possible to work from home. As working from home isn’t an option for tradespeople, this means that you can still carry out your work.

But you (or your employees) shouldn't go to work if you have coronavirus or coronavirus symptoms, however mild. You also shouldn't go to work if you live with someone who has coronavirus, or you've been told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace.

If you (or your employees) are vulnerable, then you need to follow NHS advice on returning to work.

Businesses need to follow the relevant ‘Covid-secure’ guidelines. For tradespeople, the two sets of relevant government guidance are:

Generally, everyone will need to carry out a risk assessment and make sure they’re reducing risk to the lowest possible level.

First step – Covid-19 risk assessment

You need to do a Covid-19 risk assessment. The good news for small businesses is that if you have fewer than five people working for you (or it’s just you), you don’t have to write it down.

It’s a case of identifying what the increased risks caused by coronavirus could be, then taking all the steps you can to protect yourself and others from those risks.

Find out more about risk assessments for small businesses and the self-employed.

If you have specific questions relating to Covid-19 for the Health and Safety Executive, you can call their dedicated helpline on 0300 790 6787 (Monday to Friday, 8.30am to 8pm), or use their online contact form.

How to reduce risk to the lowest realistic level

Here’s a summary of the preventative measures the government recommends you take, in order of priority:

  • hand washing and surface cleaning
  • home working, if you can, or keeping two metres apart, if you can’t
  • spending as little time doing the activity as possible
  • using screens or barriers to separate people from each other
  • working back-to-back or side-to-side (rather than face-to-face), if possible
  • working in ‘fixed teams’ to reduce the number of people each person has contact with

If you decide you can’t put these measures in place, the advice says you should ask yourself whether the activity needs to be done. “No one is obliged to work in an unsafe work environment”, according to gov.uk.

If someone is clinically extremely vulnerable and they haven’t had the vaccine, then they should stay at home – even if this means not being able to work. And if someone has Covid-19 or has symptoms, or lives with someone who has Covid-19 or has symptoms, then they have to stay at home and self-isolate.

Specific guidance for people who work in (or run) outdoor environments

These guidelines are for those working in outdoor environments, including:

  • construction (builders, for instance)
  • energy and utilities
  • farming and agriculture (including seasonal labour)
  • forestry
  • waste management and other infrastructure
  • railway services
  • street and highway services

Important points involve making sure that workers on site maintain social distancing, for example by staggering start times, plus regular hand washing.

If you run a site, you’ll also need to make sure you have the appropriate signage to help people comply with social distancing.

Face coverings should be worn where legally mandated, for example on public transport and certain indoor spaces (for example, canteens when not seated). This doesn’t necessarily mean they need to be worn on site, but the government says you should support your employees if they choose to wear one.

Look into whether your trade association has produced specific guidance for your trade. For example, the Federation of Master Builders has produced a guide for builders.

Read all of the Covid-secure guidelines for working on site at gov.uk.

Specific guidance for people who work in, visit or deliver to other people's homes

These guidelines are for people who primarily work in the home environment, including (but not limited to):

  • repair services
  • fitters
  • meter readers
  • plumbers
  • cleaners
  • cooks
  • visiting childcare providers
  • surveyors
  • delivery drivers momentarily at the door

Important points involve communicating with householders as much as possible before arriving at their home, to minimise face-to-face contact. You could also use this time to work out whether an in-person visit is needed, as well as whether anyone in the house is self-isolating or vulnerable.

You can ask the homeowner to leave internal doors open, so you don’t need to use door handles, and for them to keep the house well ventilated.

You shouldn’t enter the home of anyone who’s shielding or self-isolating unless the work is an emergency. You also shouldn’t go into someone’s house if you have coronavirus (or coronavirus symptoms) yourself.

You should maintain social distancing and appropriate hygiene, including regular hand washing, as well as cleaning any surfaces you’ve touched while carrying out the work.

Read all of the Covid-secure guidelines for working in people’s homes at gov.uk.

We recommend that you check the gov.uk site for the most up-to-date information on how to work safely during coronavirus.

Do you need any more information about what the current lockdown means for tradespeople? Let us know in the comments below.

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We create this content for general information purposes and it should not be taken as advice. Always take professional advice. Read our full disclaimer

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