Government Guidance for the Construction Industry – what guidance?

26 mars 2020

The lack of clarity in the Government's guidance for the construction industry is causing much concern.

Unlike the businesses listed in the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Business Closure) (England) Regulations 2020 which were made on Friday under section 45C of the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 - or those listed in the Guidance following the Prime Minister's statement on Monday 23 March 2020 to include hairdressers, beauty salons and most non-food retail establishments, construction sites and businesses are not mentioned.

There has been conflicting advice given in various statements by Ministers, but the overarching position for construction is that construction sites should remain open and construction workers should go to work, if the PHE Guidance can be complied with.

The Construction Leadership Council (CLC) has said it is "doing its utmost to keep construction sites operational wherever it is practical and safe to do so."

The CLC has published a full list of site operating procedures designed to protect site workers.

So what should you be doing and how do you make the decision as to what the right to do is?

The key things to ensure that you do are:

  • review and update all the Risk Assessment Method Statements (RAMS) relevant to your work in light of COVID 19;
  • that the review considers not only the risks posed by COVID 19, but also the effect that changing work methods as a result of COVID 19, might have on pre-existing risks;
  • that safe working practices are in accordance with the latest Government advice and CLC guidelines;
  • that RAMS will be reviewed and updated regularly as that advice and guidelines changes;
  • that you insist and obtain written confirmation that all of your supply chain (which will include contractors, consultants, sub-contractors etc. depending on where you are in the supply chain) will do the same;
  • that you have communicated and trained all employees attending site on both the CLC guidelines and any specific site rules, including on the CLC guidance on how workers get to and from site; and given them clear instructions that the guidelines and site rules must be followed at all times; and
  • take active steps to audit and ensure compliance on the ground with the new safe systems of work.

The final step may be the most difficult to do!

We are not currently expecting the Government to add construction to its list of businesses which should close as the main focus appears to be on businesses settings involving interaction with the public, other than essential retail, and non-commercial premises which require close proximity in non-work-related circumstances e.g. leisure and libraries. It is however, difficult to be certain about anything in the current climate so it is a question of "watch this space".

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