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.
This move will be closely watched by other countries as they also try to plan for how to end their own restrictions. Austria, Poland and even Italy (apart from the worst hit regions), are lifting restrictions cautiously with Germany, France and the UK not announcing plans to do so just yet.
In the UK, The Construction Leadership Council (CLC) has instead announced that it will be releasing new guidance on site-operating procedures following an aborted update to its advice on safe working two weeks ago.
“The relentless pace and volume of change, along with the unprecedented level of information to be absorbed, has created significant challenges for many in the industry. Following the Easter break, which offered the opportunity to re-group and look ahead, more sites are expected to re-open, implementing the new ways of working required for the social-distancing environment in which we now live,” it said.
The new document will incorporate updated guidance from Public Health England on social distancing in the workplace including that if it is not possible to follow “social-distancing guidelines in full in relation to a particular activity, you should consider whether that activity needs to continue for the site to continue to operate, and, if so, take all the mitigating actions possible to reduce the risk of transmission”. Previous guidance specified non-essential work in such situations should not be carried out.
Perhaps the imminent new guidance from CLC, plus the approach being adopted in some parts of Europe, will avert the possibility that the construction sector might come to a grinding halt as we alluded to last week?