uncertain and challenging times.
a safe working environment for construction
As businesses are increasingly encouraged to return to work, what is the current guidance for people who work in construction?
The construction industry is one that is familiar with the need for a safe working environment.
Under the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 (CDM 2015), SI 2015/51, a construction project is ‘notifiable’ if the work on site is scheduled to last longer than 30 working days and have more than 20 workers working simultaneously at any point in time during the project (up to completion of construction work) or exceed 500 person days. Under CDM 2015, it is the principal contractor (this will typically be the main contractor), who has most formal responsibilities for securing health and safety on site.
Within the Health &Safety documentation those involved in the construction work will have produced site specific and generic risk assessments, method statements and such like and thought should be given to whether these need to be updated to take account of the guidance issued by the Government and/or industry bodies.
The latest “Working safely during coronavirus” updated on 13 August 2020 provides guidance to the construction industry.
All employers should carry out a Covid-19 risk assessment.
A risk assessment is not about creating huge amounts of paperwork, but rather about identifying sensible measures to control the risks in your workplace. If you have fewer than 5 workers, or are self-employed, you don’t have to write anything down as part of your risk assessment. Your risk assessment will help you decide whether you have done everything you need to.
Guidance has been produced by the Health and Safety Executive to help businesses has on how to manage risk and risk assessment at work along with specific advice to help control the risk of coronavirus in workplaces.
Everyone needs to assess and manage the risks of COVID-19, and in particular businesses should consider the risks to their workers and visitors. As an employer, you have a legal responsibility to protect workers and others from risk to their health and safety. This means you need to think about the risks they face and do everything reasonably practicable to minimise them, recognising you cannot completely eliminate the risk of COVID-19.
Failure to complete a risk assessment which takes account of COVID-19, or completing a risk assessment but failing to put in place sufficient measures to manage the risk of COVID-19, could constitute a breach of health and safety law. The actions the enforcing authority can take include the provision of specific advice to employers to support them to achieve the required standard, through to issuing enforcement notices to help secure improvements.
Not all construction work will be outdoors and it is important that all employers and contractors give thought to manging the risk to the lowest reasonably practicable level by taking preventative measures. Where the social distancing guidelines cannot be followed in full, in relation to a particular activity, businesses should consider whether that activity can be redesigned to maintain a 2m distance or 1m with risk mitigations. This can include:
• further increasing the frequency of hand washing and surface cleaning;
• keeping the activity time involved as short as possible;
• using screens or barriers to separate people from each other (where existing safety equipment is not sufficient or in use);
• using back-to-back or side-to-side working (rather than face-to-face) whenever possible;
• reducing the number of people each person has contact with by using ‘fixed teams or partnering’ (so each person works with only a few others).
It is often areas such as common areas where the risks of transmission are greater than when carrying out the work itself as protective masks and gloves commonly used for safety might be removed.
It is important to make sure that people understand why they need to do to maintain safety, remind them (notices can be printed off and displayed around the site) and action should be taken to reinforce the measures introduced should anyone fail to adhere to them. Provide clear, consistent and regular communication to improve understanding and consistency of ways of working.
The Construction & development Team
Richard Millard Managing Partner
Construction & Development 01908 689382Richard has over 20 years’ experience acting for clients in the construction industry, providing pragmatic advice to developers, contractors, sub-contractors, design and construction professionals, housing associations, smaller builders and homeowners.