Workplace Covid Restrictions following the 22nd September 2020 update
- Those who can work from home should work from home
- Fines for not wearing a face mask when one should be worn eg. in shops or an enclosed space are increased to £200 for a first offence
There was also a heavy inference that workplaces that are not meeting the Covid Secure requirements will be subject to Health and Safety Executive Enforcement Action.
It’s worth noting that an employee who does not feel safe because their employer is not taking steps to meet the requirements of the Workplace Covid Restricitons has protected employment rights. This is because Covid is designated as a “serious and imminent threat to public health”. Employers must take action to meet the covid secure requirements or run the risk of losing an unfair dismissal case. Offices must meet the covid secure standard to be in a position to have workers coming into the office. If they can work from home, they should. With services like dropbox and zoom, the office staff of a construction company can easily fulfill their duties remotely.
But the Major Change to the Workplace Covid Restrictions Which Could Massively Impact Your Business Is That …
From the 28th of September 2020, individuals testing positive for Covid-19 must self-isolate or risk a fine of £1,000 for a first offence and £10,000 for subsequent offences.
Given that most construction operatives are self employed, there is a possibility that you will have some individuals testing positive, risking it and coming to work. This could start a domino rally of positive cases and result in a large amount of labour having to be absent from site due to self isolating, or even an outbreak which closes the site.
Don’t forget that Covid-19 is RIDDOR Reportable and you could be forced to close the site down, have the whole workforce tested (which is time consuming in itself) and deep clean the site.
Given the current demand for subcontractors and the housing boom, it would be foolish to dismiss Covid-19 regardless of your personal opinion on the situation. The Government is tightening up on the lax approach that some are taking and will enforce the law upon businesses failing to meet the workplace covid restriction requiremetns.
What Else Has Changed During the Covid Restrictions and What Do YOU Need To Do?
- The Health and Safety Executive are inspecting sites to ensure Covid-Secure standards are met
- Ensure Covid-19 precautions are included in all RAMS (your own and those of your sub-contractors) and that those RAMS are available to all on site
- Sanitise hands on arrival, regularly throughout the day and before leaving
- Additional hand wash stations and sanitizer stations to be available
- Take steps to ensure 2m (or 1m+ with mitigation) distance between people at all times
- Ensure transmission risk is constantly evaluated, and steps are taken to reduce the risk
2. Canteens can be opened and operatives can use local shops
- Clearly indicate at entry point, the maximum number of people permitted in the cabin
- Stagger break times
- Frequently clean popular touch points – kettles, taps, microwaves, fridges, back of chairs
- Hand sanitizer to be available at entry and exit points of canteen
- 2m distance to be maintained, or 1m+ with mitigation (ie screens)
- Reconfiguration of seating to avoid face to face exposure
- Sanitize areas after each use
- Monitor compliance to requirements
3. “After each use” cleaning has changed to “Regular” cleaning
- Areas to clean more regularly are
- Taps and washing facilities
- Toilet flushes as seats
- Door handles and push plates
- Handrails on stairs, in plots and sides of ladders
- Lift and hoist controls
- Machinery and equipment controls
- Phones, keyboards and other frequently touched office equipment
- Bins should be emptied more regularly and more should be made available.
- Distances between workers has been changed from 2m to 1m+
This isn’t saying the 2m rule is obsolete and should not be observed. It is saying that with additional measures, the distance between workers can be reduced to between 1m and 2m.
For those whom a 2m space cannot be maintained, additional precautions should be used such as:
- Minimise the frequency and time workers are within two metres of each other
- Minimise the number of workers involved in these tasks
- Workers should work side by side, or facing away from each other, rather than face to face
- Lower the worker capacity of lifts and hoists to reduce congestion and contact at all times
- Increase ventilation in enclosed spaces
- Workers should wash their hands before and after using any equipment
And what has remained the same?
- Additional hand wash stations are still required
- Maximum numbers in enclosed spaces must be adhered to and displayed
- Every contractor needs to have a Covid-19 Risk Assessment
- Contact details for all attending site must be retained for at least 21 days
You can read the updates to the Construction Leadership Council Site Operating Procedures Version 5 here.
Updating your Covid Secure Risk Assessment to Meet the Upated Workplace Covid Restrictions
With people stating confusion on day to day matters relating to covid restrictions, it has proven difficult for some businesses to design effective control measures that operatives will follow.
It’s common for the HSE to detail a Hierarchy of Control to help risk assessors decide on the best control measure to meet a legal requirement. The Construction Leadership Council have published a COVID Hierarchy of Control in the Site Operating Procedures Version 5. This document gives you the order in which to consider solutions to the updated workplace covid restrictions. ie. eliminate the risk first and if you can’t move down the table to try and reduce the risk
The Covid-19 Hierarchy of Control
• Workers who are unwell with symptoms of Coronavirus (Covid-19) should not travel to or attend the workplace
• Rearrange tasks to enable them to be done by one person, or by people working two metres apart
• Avoid skin to skin and face to face contact
• Stairs should be used in preference to lifts or hoists and consider one ways systems
• Consider alternative or additional mechanical aids to reduce worker interface Site Meetings
• Only absolutely necessary meeting participants should attend
• Attendees should be at least two metres apart from each other
• Rooms should be well ventilated / windows opened to allow fresh air circulation
• Consider holding meetings in open areas where possible
Where the social distancing measures two metres is not possible, risk mitigation could include the following:
• Minimise the frequency and time workers are within two metres of each other
• Minimise the number of workers involved in these tasks
• Workers should work side by side, or facing away from each other, rather than face to face
• Lower the worker capacity of lifts and hoists to reduce congestion and contact at all times
• Regularly clean common touchpoints, doors, buttons, handles, vehicle cabs, tools, equipment etc.
• Increase ventilation in enclosed spaces
• Workers should wash their hands before and after using any equipment
Keep groups of workers:
• Together in teams e.g. do not change workers within teams
• As small as possible
• Away from other workers where possible
• Consider introducing an enhanced authorisation process
• Provide additional supervision to monitor and manage compliance
Sites should not use RPE for Coronavirus (Covid-19) where the two metre social distancing guidelines are met.
• Coronavirus (COVID-19) needs to be managed through social distancing, hygiene and the hierarchy of control and not through the use of PPE
• Workplaces should not encourage the precautionary use of extra PPE to protect against Coronavirus (COVID-19).
The Government has provided information on Face Coverings in section 6.1 of its guidance Working safely during coronavirus (Covid-19) – Construction and other outdoor work.
The measures necessary to minimise the risk of spread of infection rely on everyone in the industry taking responsibility for their actions and behaviours. Please encourage an open and collaborative approach between workers and employers on site where any issues can be openly discussed and addressed.
What you need to do next
- Check your site Covid-19 Risk Assessment to make sure it is sufficiently controlling covid to the updated workplace covid requirements. If you want a template for this, you can purchase one here
2. Hold a toolbox talk to remind everyone of their duties
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