While safety has always been of paramount concern within the construction industry, the focus of managers now needs to expand to include the risks presented by COVID-19. As well as considering factors such as the heat, physical safety and mental health – you now also need to ensure social distancing can be adhered to, in order to adequately mitigate the risks to your workers and their families in terms of contracting the coronavirus.
Your responsibilities as a construction business
Despite the fact a business has been deemed essential, this does not negate the need to protect your employees. Before restarting any work on a construction site, you should have conducted a full COVID-19 Risk Assessment looking at all areas within your business and they activities that will be carried out within these targeted areas. Your employees need to be able to carry out their day to day duties while social distancing from their colleagues. If a task cannot be carried out safely, you should consider whether it’s essential at this time.
If an employee does get sick with the coronavirus and makes a liability claim against your business, your insurance may be compromised if it’s found that you didn’t implement the necessary safety precautions and record these properly.
Facilities and common areas
In order to keep your employees safe, you must provide the facilities for them to be able to properly protect themselves including handwashing facilities and enhanced cleaning of common areas. Think about how your employees access the site, if they cannot access safely without coming into close contact with other – consider staggering start and end times so there’s a lower chance of them crossing paths. It’s also important to consider when materials are delivered and other visitors access the site, these visits will need to be carefully planned to avoid congestion and ensure minimal contact.
Training your employees
Once you’ve assessed every area of your business for COVID-19 risks, you need to ensure that your staff are aware of their role in keeping both themselves and their colleagues safe. This training should be documented, and any information provided recorded. Many of your colleagues will likely be anxious about returning, in which case you will need to discuss these concerns and attempt to resolve them together. If your employee is known to be at a higher risk, consider whether they should be returning to the workplace at this time.
Construction workers and PPE
While there is a certain level of PPE required on construction sites, the Government has made it clear that additional PPE is not necessary for construction workers to defend themselves against COVID-19. The official Government briefing released in May states that: “Where you are already using PPE in your work activity to protect against non-Covid-19 risks, you should continue to do so. When managing the risk of COVID-19, additional PPE beyond what you usually wear is not beneficial. This is because COVID-19 is a different type of risk to the risks you normally face in a workplace, and needs to be managed through social distancing, hygiene and fixed teams or partnering, not through the use of PPE.” It does add that face masks or coverings can be used as a precautionary measure.
Support for construction business owners
Do you run a construction business? If you’ve made significant changes to your way of running your construction sites, why not get in touch for a review of your existing insurance to ensure it’s still sufficient? Or if you’ve been impacted by the virus and are wondering whether it’s worth making a claim on your insurance, get in touch with one of our insurance specialists on 01708 436 811. We’re here to help when you need us.