How Construction Workers Can Return to Work Safely After COVID-19 Closures
After an announcement from the prime minister on May10th, construction workers can now go back to work. But returning to work safely after COVID-19 is going to involve taking several steps to reduce transmission risks. For example, social distancing measures will need to be maintained where possible, and employers are expected to create a COVID-19 secure workplace before employees return to work.
The government released a complete guide for workers in construction outlining how work can be carried out safely during the coronavirus outbreak. Depending on the type of project you are working on, there are lots of control measures and precautions you may need to follow.
Here are some of the steps you can take to return to construction work safely after COVID-19 closures.
Consider How You Will Safely Travel to Work
Before considering precautions that should be taken on worksites, you need to think about how you can travel to work safely. Current government advice is to avoid public transport and taxis if possible. If you can, walking or cycling to work, or using a private vehicle, is your safest option.
But if you do need to use public transport, plan ahead and think about what times you travel and what routes you will take. If you can avoid busy times and routes, it will make your journeys safer.
Manage Schedules to Avoid Busy Arrival and Departure Times at Work
If you’re an employer or manager, consider staggering workers’ schedules so that different people arrive at different times. This can help you enforce social distancing measures during arrival and departure times.
If you’re an employee or contractor, you can discuss this with your employer or client and plan a schedule that optimises workplace health and safety.
Make Sure You Understand COVID-19 Safety Procedures
As an employee or contractor, you will need to make sure you understand any extra safety procedures that have been put in place to minimise COVID-19 risks. You should be able to access and read the findings of the COVID-19 risk assessment carried out by your employer, and you should attend any safety induction or training before returning to work.
Understanding the COVID-19 safety procedures in place will help you keep yourself and others safe at work.
If you are an employer, it’s your responsibility to clearly communicate safety procedures and any changes to working arrangements to your employees. You will also need to provide safety training materials for workers before they return to work.
Ensure Correct Use of PPE
Lots of construction activities will require the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) to keep workers safe. You may need to wear a helmet, gloves, high-visibility clothing, eye protection and face masks for certain tasks. And while working during the coronavirus outbreak, you should continue to wear or use any protective equipment where necessary.
But PPE shouldn’t be used as a COVID-19 control measure, meaning you shouldn’t use additional PPE to what you would usually wear. This is because transmission risks should primarily be managed with control measures such as social distancing and hygiene practices. PPE should be a last resort. It should only be used for protection from the virus when transmission risks can’t be effectively managed.
Minimise Unnecessary Visits to Worksites
Construction sites may need to provide access to members of the public, site visitors and contractors. However, an effective way to reduce coronavirus transmission risks is to limit the number of people on-site at any one time. With fewer people, social distancing can be enforced, making it easier to manage risks.
So if you can, it’s a good idea to restrict access or limit the number of visitors able to enter the worksite. Staggering visits (including visits from contractors) can help to keep the number of people on-site to a minimum.
Any visitors who do enter the worksite should be made aware of the COVID-19 safety precautions that are in place.
Make Sure Your Workplace Is as Clean as Possible
Coronavirus can live on surfaces for some time, so it’s incredibly important to make sure your workplace and any equipment you use is as clean as possible. Before starting work and after completing tasks, surfaces should be cleaned and disinfected. Surfaces that are regularly touched by different workers should be frequently cleaned — for example: buckets, control panels, tools and site equipment need to be wiped down after use.
Hygiene practices such as handwashing should also be carried out much more frequently than usual, and hand sanitiser dispensers should be filled and tactically placed around the workplace. Signs and posters should be used to remind workers and site visitors to stay vigilant about hand hygiene and encourage proper handwashing techniques.
Another area of hygiene in the workplace that you will need to consider is waste disposal. Closed bins should be used and waste should be hygienically disposed of.
Safely Manage the Delivery of Inbound and Outbound Goods
Goods and materials will regularly need to enter and leave construction sites, but the process of moving inbound and outbound goods is an interaction that needs to be considered and managed. Where possible, the frequency of deliveries should be reduced and non-contact deliveries should become the standard form of delivery during the coronavirus outbreak. Drivers should be encouraged to stay in their vehicles, and the number of people involved in loading and unloading should be limited.
Take Extra Precautions When Working in People’s Homes
Working on construction projects in people’s homes is a little different from working outdoors on large construction sites. You may be working in confined spaces and interacting with different householders.
You should consider limiting the size of your team working in confined spaces so that you can safely distance yourself from other workers. You should also ask householders to leave all doors open, to minimise the need for contact with door handles and to ensure ventilation throughout the area you will be working in. And as in any workplace, cleaning surfaces and equipment is hugely important, especially when working in someone else’s home, as you don’t know when surfaces were last cleaned, and whether they were cleaned effectively.
The government has produced a guide for working safely in other people’s homes that you can follow to ensure your safety.
CHAS Can Help You Safely Fast-Track Your Return to Work
CHAS is committed to supporting clients and contractors in the construction industry during these difficult times. We want to provide the COVID-19 support you need, so we are sharing all the information you require about returning to work safely.
We have added free COVID-19 question sets to our contractor portal to help you demonstrate to clients that you are following industry best practices and effectively managing coronavirus risks. We have also created a COVID-19 Health Wallet that can help you show employers and clients that you’re fit to work.
With our Health Wallet, you can declare that you’re fit to work and are symptom-free. If you have had a test, you can upload the results of your COVID-19 test to prove that you’re healthy and ready to get back to work. Through our online portal, you can share the results of your declaration with clients, to demonstrate that you are coronavirus-free and qualify for work opportunities.
All you need to do is sign up for CHAS People and you’ll have access to a range of benefits, including our new COVID-19 support services and Health Wallet.