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.
They address issues such as the legal status of the Guidance; whether the Health and Safety Executive will release an Approved Code of Practice specifically covering Covid-19; if it is sufficient for construction parties to put the Guidance into effect and where the Guidance leaves the Construction Leadership Council (CLC’s) Site Operating Procedures?
In the article they refer to Version 3 of the CLCs Site Operating Procedures (SOPs) and, with Version 4 being released soon after, we hoped that this new version would give the clarity that Francis was alluding to.
However, having read this new version of the SOPs, it appears to deal mainly with face to face contact, when to travel to work and setting up one-way systems and does not provide any further clarity on subjects such as “the possibility of works taking place within people’s homes” which Ho and Fricker question. In Version 4 there is a reference only to “When workers enter people’s homes, they should follow the government guidance on Working in Other People’s Homes.” This document clearly states in the introduction that it is intended for in-home workers such as repair services, fitters, meter readers, plumbers, cleaners, cooks and surveyors and delivery drivers. There is no mention of construction workers in a domestic situation.
Indeed when we look out of our window at the building works continuing in our neighbour’s house, we witness first-hand that this is possibly where the SOPs are not addressing how to work and social distance safely in a house where the homeowners are still in residence. Some guidance has been provided but is not necessarily being adhered to as it is so difficult to do so when the house is occupied by a family.
Is this an area where even further clarity is required?