Corona Virus Updates

 

 

On 11 May, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) unveiled a framework for working safely on construction (and other) sites during the pandemic in a guidance document titled “Working safely during covid-19 in construction and other outdoor work” (the Guidance).

 

With new guidance, there are always new questions and Francis Ho and Hannah Fricker of Penningtons Manches Cooper have addressed some key issues in an article about “Health and Safety on site during Covid-19” in Construction Manager Magazine which we have found to be very informative. 

You can help us plan our next series of webinar topics as we adapt to our new working lives post summer and we are inviting you to share your ideas with us on what you think we should be discussing once we have had time to readjust to the new climate of enlightened thinking.

 

Over the past 2 months, we have all become accustomed to the new way of working with videoconferencing becoming the order of the day.  We have all become rather familiar with online platforms such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype, Google Hangouts (to name but a few) and we have continued our working life ‘virtually’ instead of face-to-face.

We mentioned in our News Update of 30 April that “construction sites were going to be allowed to temporarily extend their hours of operation” and this was confirmed yesterday evening by Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government.

 

He announced that, between Mondays and Saturdays, building sites in England will be able to operate until 9pm in residential areas, and for longer in non-residential areas.  His written Ministerial Statement outlines the details and reasoning behind this change and confirms that these conditions “should not extend beyond 13 May 2021 …will be reviewed when the requirement for social distancing on construction sites diminishes.”

Over the lockdown period, guidance for construction workers has been changing rapidly and there has been room for interpretation of the guidance most recently provided by the Construction Leadership Council (CLC). Although many Contractors and Subcontractors initially closed (or scaled down) their sites when lockdown was announced on 22 March, most have gradually recommenced work having implemented the suggested measures. However, there has been increased worry that construction workers’ health is being put at risk.

 

According to Infrastructure Intelligence, UK Construction Union, Unite had previously written to the health secretary, calling for testing to be introduced for construction workers as many had continued to work during the lockdown and many sites have reopened or are re-opening.

On Thursday, CIPS was involved in a Zoom Webinar hosted  by Nick Brown of Ashridge Surveyors which was a departure from previous sessions which had been more of a ‘lecture style’ format covering a specific topic.  This session was a Round Table Discussion and participants were invited to present a panel of industry professionals with questions, any questions, related to the Construction Industry. There was a total of 20 participants, including several students, on the call and in an hour and half, 3 ‘experts’ responded to 15 questions.

 

Participants were asked to introduce themselves in the Chat box to establish who was on the call and each query was adroitly directed by Nick Brown (with the deft skills of a Welsh flyhalf of the old school era), using the handy chat function, to the relevant professional for their thoughts, advice and knowledge, a format which worked smoothly and without hiccup and even Francis didn’t complain of too many ‘hospital passes’.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG) issued guidance yesterday for Building Control Bodies in relation to operation during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

 

The guidance covers new/temporary healthcare buildings and related facilities, as well as general guidance for operating during the current period. The changes are designed to enable essential building work to be carried out ‘at pace without undue administrative burden’. Recognition is given to the need to draw the balance between enabling building work to continue where it is still safe and ensuring that work continues to meet Building Regulations’ requirements.

With so many questions still unanswered regarding the current situation in the Construction Industry, at CIPS we have been keen to provide advice and support to our Clients where possible and also open communication with our colleagues and Associates to help us understand how to navigate today’s ‘new normal’.

 

To this end, we have been working with our friends  at Ashridge Surveyors who have been providing free weekly Webinars via Zoom since the start of lockdown here in the UK and hope to continue doing so until this situation is over.

 

New advice on safe operating on UK Construction sites has recently been updated by the Construction Leadership Council.

 

There have been a number of articles in the media about this new updated version of the Site Operating Procedures (SOP) causing some to  comment on the lack of clear instruction suggesting that the guidelines are still too open to interpretation. 

With the news today that demolition work is set to resume on HS2’s Euston site next week (see Construction News), we have also heard that several European countries, including Italy, Spain and Denmark have outlined plans to reduce restrictions and start to re-build their economies.

 

Today, BBC News reported that the Spanish Government has allowed thousands of workers who cannot work from home to return to work and this includes construction workers on non-essential sites, where social distancing rules can be obeyed. For the past two weeks only essential construction work has been permitted, on public works and infrastructure. The wider lockdown remains in place across the country but with increased travel on public transport, police are handing out masks to all travellers.

At CIPS we act for public and private sector clients and contractor clients alike. Indeed, we consider that it is this exposure to all sides of the industry that allows us to take a balanced and informed view when we are advising our Clients.

 

With the introduction over the last two weeks of new and instructive work practises to safeguard the health of those in the industry who are still required to be on site, there are growing calls to address another other critical issue to the health of our industry - Cash Flow.

New restrictive measures have just been announced to limit construction works in Scotland.

The Scottish government has ordered construction work to stop on all sites apart from a list published of “essential” projects. Following consultation with the STUC, Unite the Union and Construction.