Health and safety has always been a top priority within the construction industry. However, the focus of managers now needs to expand to include the risks presented by COVID-19. You now also need to adhere to rules such as social distancing, in order to adequately lessen the exposure risks to your workers, and their families.
Your responsibilities as a construction business
Despite the fact that construction is essential work, this does not negate the need to protect your employees. Before starting any work on a construction site, you should conduct a full COVID-19 Risk Assessment. This should look at all areas within your business and the activities that will be carried out. If a task cannot be carried out safely, you should consider whether it’s essential at this time. Implementing the necessary safety precautions and recording this properly will help protect your business. If you have not done so and an employee gets sick with the coronavirus, and puts in a liability claim, your insurance may be compromised.
Welfare on site
In order to keep employees safe, you must provide the facilities so that they can properly protect themselves. This includes hand-washing facilities; hand sanitisers at entry points, exit points, and around sites; and enhanced cleaning of common areas and surfaces. Consider how your employees access the site; if they cannot access safely without coming into close contact with other. Contemplate staggering arrival and departure times so there is less chance of them crossing paths. It’s also important to consider when materials are delivered and other visitors access the site. Think about implementing one-way systems, where possible, on walkways around a site. Or using signage such as ground markings and other objects to help comply with social distancing guidelines. Another idea is reducing the number of people each person has contact with by employees working within fixed teams.
Once you’ve assessed every area of your business for COVID-19 risks, you now must ensure your staff are aware of their role in keeping both themselves, and their colleagues safe. This training should be documented, and any information provided recorded. Reduce the number of people in attendance at training, or site inductions, and preferably hold them outdoors. Many of your workers may be anxious about returning. In this case you will need to discuss these concerns and attempt to resolve them together. If an employee is known to be at a higher risk, consider whether they should be returning at this time.
While there is a certain level of PPE required on construction sites, the Government has made it clear that additional PPE is not necessary.
The official Government briefing released in May states that: “Where you are already using PPE in your work activity to protect against non-Covid-19 risks, you should continue to do so.”
“When managing the risk of COVID-19, additional PPE beyond what you usually wear is not beneficial. This is because COVID-19 is a different type of risk to the risks you normally face in a workplace, and needs to be managed through social distancing, hygiene and fixed teams or partnering, not through the use of PPE.”
It does add that face masks or coverings can be used as a precautionary measure.
Support for construction business owners
Do you run a construction business? If you’ve made significant changes to the running of your construction sites, why not get in touch for a review of your existing insurance.
For further information on working safely on construction sites, visit the government website here.