Covid-19: Health & Safety advice for building firms

Last updated 7.7.20

Welcome to our Covid-19 Health & Safety advice and support page for building firms where you’ll find website links and information from organisations involved, like HBXL, in supporting the construction industry during this really difficult period. It’s an evolving situation so keep checking in as we’ll update as new information becomes available. Topics include:

  • Government guidance and legislation
  • Health & Safety Executive (HSE) information
  • Construction Leadership Council advice
  • Recommendations from Federation of Master Builders (FMB)
  • HBXL Building Software’s Health & Safety Xpert software
  • Additional useful links

Being back on site is not for the faint-hearted. The health and safety hoops everyone has to now jump through is… well quite something. But then we are dealing with a global pandemic…

The government has introduced legislation in a bid to ensure that the spread of Covid-19 is reduced.

The Prime Minister has told the House of Commons: “We are going to insist that businesses across this country look after their workers and are COVID-secure and COVID-compliant. The Health and Safety Executive will be enforcing that, and we will have spot inspections to make sure that businesses are keeping their employees safe. It will, of course, be open to employees who do not feel safe to raise that with not just their employers but the HSE as well.”

The government has produced guidance for the construction industry entitled ‘Working safely during COVID-19 in construction and other outdoor work’ which was released on 11th May.

The Health & Safety Executive has been given additional budget to make site inspections and take action as necessary. And there’s a hotline for employees and the public to call anonymously if they have any concerns about how a business is managing their Covid-19 health and safety obligations. PLEASE NOTE IT IS A LEGAL REQUIREMENT TO UNDERTAKE A COVID-19 RISK ASSESSMENT. More here.

More Covid-19 related guidance from the HSE

Advice to employers on choosing hand sanitiser and surface disinfectant  to use during the outbreak.

Guidance for employers to help protect home workers during the outbreak.

Latest advice from the HSE relating to Covid-19 can be found here.

Construction Leadership Council advice

The Construction Leadership Council has issued a Site Operating Procedure to apply during the Coronavirus crisis. This can be found at the CLC website.

The changes to Site Operating Procedures that have resulted in Version 5:

  • Updates to the ‘When to Travel to Work’ section
  • The latest peak times for public transport
  • Entry systems to be regularly cleaned rather than between each use
  • Drivers to have access to welfare facilities
  • Canteens that have been closed or offered a restricted service may now re-open.

The Site Operating Procedures technical changes are a result of the government guidance to help employers keep their workplaces operating safely covering eight workplace settings including construction sitesother people’s homes, vehicles and in offices.

Recommendations from the FMB regarding Health & Safety on site

  • The builder should undertake a risk assessment of the situation, including any concerns from workers and clients. It is vital that the risk involved in each job is assessed, and that key considerations around health and welfare are the primary concerns for any work you undertake.
  • Builders and clients should communicate as much as possible via phone, email and video call, in order to minimise face to face contact, including any signing of documents or provision of certificates.
  • Note that sharing mobile phones/tablets/pens etc may risk infection.
  • No work should be carried out in households which are self-isolating, are shielded, or are showing Coronavirus symptoms unless it is to remedy a direct risk to the household, such as emergency plumbing, heating or electrical repairs, or other safety risk, and where the tradesperson is willing to do so, taking all possible precautions. See Government advice on vulnerable groups.
  • No work should be carried out by any tradesperson who is showing Coronavirus symptoms, however mild.
  • Call ahead on the day to check that no one in the household has started to show symptoms of the virus, has been diagnosed or is self-isolating.
  • Remember not to shake hands, this is often instinctive.
  • If the part of the home that the builders are working in can be divided off from the rest of the house, leaving the clients in residence with sufficient kitchen and bathroom facilities, this will enable any emergency work to be carried out whilst still observing social distancing. Where this is not possible, residents should stay in a different room with the door closed.
  • The Government’s recommendation of keeping two metres apart should be applied stringently. Any time spent closer than two metres must be kept to an absolute minimum. Government has provided advice on social distancing.
  • Separate washing facilities and refreshment stations should also be arranged where possible.
  • Whilst on site, continue to follow the advice on frequent hand-washing when not wearing gloves, using hand sanitiser and not touching the face.
  • Tools must not be shared between workers. Under no circumstances should PPE, including facemasks be shared.
  • Workers should take their breaks separately, for example eating lunch in their own vehicles or well away from each other. Consider staggered break times.
  • Workers should not travel together to site in the same vehicle, and should avoid public transport. If this is not possible then they will not be able to work.
  • Construction workers are not classed as critical workers, and therefore do not have access to childcare being provided through schools. This may make it difficult for them to continue working.
  • Use of personal protective equipment (PPE) such as facemasks, gloves and safety glasses, can be extended to cover all of the time on site, rather than only the time when they are necessary during dust-producing tasks for example. Disposable equipment should be used if at all possible. The HSE has issued advice on using facemasks to avoid transmission of Coronavirus.
  • Good housekeeping and keeping a safe, tidy site is even more important than usual. Tools and equipment should be cleaned and disinfected, at the start and finish of any job, and all materials left tidily. There is information on the Government website about cleaning workspaces, but nothing specific to construction sites.
  • If at any time a worker on site feels unsafe, they should assess how to leave whatever they are working on in a safe state, contact their employer, and leave the site. Employers should make sure that any operatives going to a site to carry out emergency work are aware of this.
  • Any clothing worn on site should be changed as soon as you get home and washed so as not to harbour viruses. Any re-useable PPE (e.g. safety glasses) should be washed. Any wipes, disposable gloves etc should be bagged up and disposed of in accordance with local waste regulations.

You’ll find other advice and news on COVID-19 from the FMB here.

Health & Safety Xpert 2020 software

HBXL’s Health & Safety Consultant spoke to Jo, our Group Operations Director for one of our Power Hour video chats. The tips and observations Dave provided were really useful. You can watch their (home-to-home) chat here.

The conversation coincided with the launch of Health& Safety Xpert 2020’s new additions; 9 Covid-19 documents including Site and Office Covid-19 Risk Assessments (required by law). At £399+VAT for a 12-month subscription it’s a must.

Additional links and resources

HBXL’s advice on legal implications of managing Covid-19

https://hbxl.co.uk/covid-19-safety-building-site-advice/

The HBXL Q & A on dealing with health & safety during the crisis

https://hbxl.co.uk/covid-19-building-site-safety-guide/

Quick tips on using hand tools safely during the Covid-19 crisis

https://hbxl.co.uk/hand-tools-covid-19-health-safety/

Practical examples of the construction industry responding to the safe-guarding issues relating to Covid-19

https://www.constructioncovid19response.co.uk/safeguarding-workers.html

Mental wellbeing during the pandemic from Mind charity

https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/coronavirus/coronavirus-and-your-wellbeing/

NHS advice on anxiety

https://www.nhs.uk/oneyou/every-mind-matters/coronavirus-covid-19-anxiety-tips/