The Construction Leadership Council published the second version of its Site Operating Procedures (SOP) on 2 April 2020. It provided more confusion than clarity and it was quickly withdrawn due to feedback from the construction industry.
Version 3 dated 14 April 2020 provides up-to-date guidelines as to how construction work can continue during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. It confirms that the Health and Safety Executive is the relevant enforcing authority for the Public Health England (PHE) guidelines on which the SOP is based. Version 3 is available in full here to download.
Version 3 aims to introduce consistent measures on construction sites of all types and size, to offer guidance on how to protect construction workers and minimise the risk of infection, focusing on the following areas:
- Travel to Work
- Driving at Work
- Site Access and Egress Points
- Hand Washing
- Toilet Facilities
- Canteen and Rest Areas
- Changing Facilities, Showers and Drying Rooms
- Work Planning to Avoid Close Working
- First Aid and Emergency Service Response
Version 3 sets out a “hierarchy of controls” aimed at reducing the risk associated with an activity where maintaining a two-metre distance is not possible (as so often is the case in reality on a construction site). The hierarchy stipulates that masks are to worn by workers only as a “the last resort”.
As every construction site is different and therefore each site will raise its own challenges in trying to comply with the updated Version 3 SOP. Those involved in live construction sites are encouraged to consider and comply with the SOP as supported by the Secretary of State for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, Alok Sharma.
While Version 3 is welcomed it is not entirely clear and there are likely to be more queries from the industry. For example where face- to- face working is essential to carry out a task when working within 2 metres this has to be kept to fifteen minutes or less but it is unclear how often these works can be done and what happens when the fifteen minutes is up but the works are incomplete. It is has been suggested that further clarification should be provided by PHE. Similarly, cleaning of common contact surfaces in the site reception, offices, access control and delivery areas are recommended to take place “regularly” but there is no further clarification provided. The SOP guidance is arguably less clear, on employees working arrangements, page 3 stipulates “consider introducing staggered start and finish times to reduce congestion and contact” but on page 4 it replaces the same wording with “introduce staggered start and finish times”; therefore, leaving ambiguity for employers as to whether this is guidance now or just a consideration at this stage.
Should you have any questions or concerns about your projects in light of the coronavirus outbreak, please contact our Construction team who will be happy to discuss your specific circumstances with you.
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