3rd November, 2020
Construction work involves many different people working together, and needs to be carefully managed to prevent coronavirus outbreaks. A range of measures like reducing contact, staggering shifts, social distancing and enhanced cleaning can all play a part in keeping your site COVID safe.
As the UK prepares to enter the second national coronavirus lockdown of 2020, construction (and other key industries) will continue working. And while many construction businesses will be happy they can keep on track with their projects, this is a challenging time. But, after everything this year has thrown our way so far, that's no surprise!
Keeping your construction sites COVID safe is vital, to keep them open, help flatten the curve, and protect your workforce. Being COVID safe involves preventing the virus from entering your site, and, if it does, containing the virus and stopping the spread.
Have you assessed the risk in your workplace? Use these safety measures to create your coronavirus risk assessment.
There's no escaping the fact that the virus is present in all areas of the UK. And spread across the country much more than during the first wave. So it's more important than ever to be checking workers for symptoms BEFORE they enter your sites. So anyone that has (or might have) the virus can stay at home, get tested, and isolate if necessary.
One of the easiest ways is with a simple coronavirus symptom questionnaire.
You should stop all non-essential visitors to your sites. Especially during national and local lockdowns, and in high-risk areas. Reducing the number of people on site will reduce the risk of a COVID outbreak on your site, and also help with social distancing.
For example, meetings with designers, clients and contractors who are not currently needed on-site could be done remotely via video where possible. And delivery drivers should remain in their vehicles if possible. Anyone who does enter the site needs to comply with all of your COVID safe measures.
On busier sites, you might also want to stagger shifts. When you do this, try to ensure that you keep the same people on shifts together, so that you can reduce the number of different people a worker has contact with so that you can create bubbles. If there is an outbreak, you can isolate particular groups and prevent further spread.
Signing in and out is important for many reasons, attendance records, payroll, fire, emergencies, etc. But it's now also needed for track and trace purposes. So that you can identify who was on your site, and at what times. No matter how big your site is, one of the bottlenecks will be the entrance, or at the reception or site office where workers sign in and out each day. And this can make social distancing in that area difficult at busy times, like the start and end of the day, and lunch or breaks if people leave the site.
Again, you could consider staggering shifts to reduce the risk here. Fewer people signing in or out at any one time makes it easier to social distance. And, while all these extra measures are in place, it means shorter queues, faster entry, and happier workers.
The coronavirus can spread from surface contact, so you don't want everyone holding the same pen, or touching the same screen when they sign in to your site. You could use a managed site register, with a supervisor handling signing in, or put your site register online. If everyone on your team has a smartphone, you could implement a contactless QR based sign-in system, where workers scan a code with their phone to sign in and out.
We've had social distancing drilled into us all this year. Even if you're working outside, you should still follow social distancing guidance and keep workers as far away from each other as possible, current guidance in the UK is at least 2 metres.
The steps discussed so far, like stopping non-essential visitor and staggering shifts, will help with social distancing on site. Taking these arrangements further on the site, workers can be split into groups or 'bubbles'. Each group can be kept away from other workers, in terms of the area of the site, break times, shifts, equipment used etc. If a worker does become ill or test positive for COVID-19, you can easily identify who they may have come into contact with, and who needs to isolate or get tested.
Need more ideas to keep your distance? Here are 11 ways to social distance at work.
Not all construction sites are outside. In enclosed spaces and indoor areas, be sure to increase ventilation and minimise workers.
I think we can all agree that construction sites will never be the cleanest of places. Construction work can be dirty, creating dust, fumes and waste. But enhanced cleaning is crucial to stop the surface spread of coronavirus on site. That doesn't mean you can't get on with your job, knocking down walls, cutting materials, excavating the ground and other messy activities. But it does mean paying extra attention to communal areas and high touch items like buttons and switches.
Cleaning can help prevent the spread of infection. Here are 9 quick ways you can prevent cross infection at work.
Whenever a person or group moves on to another item of equipment, all touchpoints should be thoroughly cleaned so that they can be used by other workers. Think handles, buttons, switches, controls, seats, taps, levers, push plates etc.
Break areas, canteen facilities, and welfare facilities need to be cleaned after use and between shifts so that they are safe for the next group of workers. You might need to consider increasing the number of welfare facilities available on the site if possible, to allow for social distancing, staggering use, and additional cleaning.
Download the free coronavirus toolbox talk to raise awareness of the control measures you can use to help slow the spread of the virus. And the free coronavirus risk assessment template can be used to help you control the risks.
This article was written by Emma at HASpod. Emma has over 10 years experience in health and safety and BSc (Hons) Construction Management. She is NEBOSH qualified and Tech IOSH.
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