Operating your Site Safely During COVID-19

High Rise Construction Site with Cranes
High Rise Construction Site with Cranes

PHE guidance for construction states “where it is not possible to follow the social distancing guidelines in full in relation to a particular activity, you should consider whether that activity needs to continue for the site to continue to operate, and if so, take all the mitigating actions possible to reduce the risk of transmission.”

To slow down and eliminate the spread of the Coronavirus (Covid-19), it’s essential to socially distance ourselves as much as we can. When it comes to your construction business, consider what tasks can take place from home, for those that cannot, take all possible steps to prevent the risk of transmission. The safety of everyone’s health depends on each person in the industry taking responsibility for their actions and behaviours. Remind the workforce of the necessary steps they must take to continue their work safely and consciously to protect themselves, their families and of course, the UK. The PHE (Public Health England) has recommended the following practice and measures to keep safe.

Commute and Travel: To and from Work

  • It is best if you can travel using your own transport. If this is not an option for you, try to travel with the same individuals each time – as few as possible.

  • While in the vehicle, keep windows open for maximum ventilation and try and sit facing away from each other. Ensure the vehicle is cleaned thoroughly using gloves, particularly the high contact points like door handles and seatbelts.

  • Wash/Sanitize your hands before entering and after exiting the vehicle. If you have no choice but to use public transport, try to stagger hours, so you don’t have to travel at peak hours.

  • Maintain social distance at all times and wash your hands regularly for twenty seconds. Self-isolate if you show any symptoms of Covid-19 or if anyone you have been in contact with shows symptoms, or tests positive.

Site Access

For maximum safety and security against the Coronavirus, try to reduce site access as much as possible. Only allow those who must be there. In addition to this, try to change the number of access points and change work timings so that not all employees who must work on site are present at the same time. This will reduce congestion and ensure its easier to practice social distancing.

Communal Areas: Toilets, Canteens and Rest Areas

You must take strict measures in communal areas on site. The most important measure is to try and ensure that there are a minimum number of people at any of these areas at a given time. While there, social distancing and general hygiene (such as sneezing into a tissue and regular hand-washing) must be practised. Here are some considerations for Communal Areas:

  • Enhance cleaning regimes especially high contact points like door handles, knobs, toilet flushes, taps etc. All tables, chairs, eating utensils should be cleaned after each use.

  • Encourage workers to bring their own food, if possible. If not, try to provide pre-prepared and wrapped food. Any payments needed must be contactless as much as possible.

  • Ensure appropriate adjustments for social distancing. You can mark out areas for queuing to ensure proper distance is maintained between two people.

  • Increase the size of each facility, or set up temporary areas so people can spread out more. The capacity should be indicated clearly.

  • There should be plenty of rubbish bins, and everyone should be encouraged to throw out their own trash instead of someone else to clean it. These bins should be cleared out as often as possible.

  • Try to stagger timings for when employees can eat, rest or use the toilet to avoid congestion.

  • Pop-up handwashing stations should be set up, and employees encouraged to use them often. Sanitisers can be set up as well, and it should be made mandatory to clean hands before and after entering the sites or any communal areas.

  • Consider appointing people to ensure proper measures are followed on site in regard to safety against the Coronavirus.

Work Planning to Maintain Social Distance

Here are some considerations

  • Try and ensure all employees maintain a distance of 2 metres from each other. Cut down on the work being done and try to reduce it to something that can be managed by one person. Try additional mechanical aid to reduce how many workers are present at the site.

  • Try and avoid meetings. If that isn’t possible, try to keep them in the outdoors where there is ventilation, and everyone can maintain social distance.

  • If social distancing is not possible, try and minimise the number of people per task. Have everyone face away from each other and practice basic hygiene. Avoid congesting places such as rest areas, toilets lifts and office spaces.

  • Workers who must work within close proximity should be kept in teams, and these teams should stay fixed. Try and keep the work limited to 15 minutes. Each activity should be risk assessed. Masks (RPE) should be the last resort as per the guidelines from the government.

  • Re-usable PPE should be thoroughly cleaned after use, and not shared between workers. Single-use PPE should be disposed of at the end of their use.

  • Ensure an adequate supply of soap, fresh water and sanitisers at the site.

Cleaning On-Site

Cleaning surfaces and contact points are critical to prevent the spread of the virus. Practice enhanced cleaning procedures using gloves and standard cleaning products. Try to clean many times through the day, as well as at the end of the day. Here are some points to be sure to clean:

  • Taps and washing facilities

  • Toilet handles and seats

  • Door handles and pushes plates

  • Handrails on staircases and corridors

  • Lift and hoist controls

  • Machinery and equipment controls

  • All areas for eating including chairs, door handles, vending machines and payment devices

  • Telephone equipment

  • Keyboards, photocopiers and other office equipment

  • Rubbish collection and storage points

Emergency Response and First Aid

Due to the situation in the country, emergency services are under enormous pressure. They might not be able to respond as quickly as usual, and it is essential to keep this in mind while preparing and conducting any activities. Avoid high-risk work if you can, or delay it as much as possible.

The provision of first aid resources should be kept on site, and an emergency plan should be in order. Keep all contact details up to date.