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ASFP advises members on construction site safety

21 April 2020

THE CONSTRUCTION Leadership Council (CLC) has released a new version of its Site Operating Procedures to reflect the Government's revised guidance on social distancing rules in relation to construction sites during the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic.

In response, the Association for Specialist Fire Protection (ASFP) has issued its own statement advising members on how best to approach the situation.

With the Governments in both England and Wales having offered some relaxation for the construction sector when it comes to the strict social distancing rules, it seems clear that many more sites are likely to re-open over the coming days. The Public Health England guidance for construction projects states: “Where it is not possible to follow the 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.”

Guidance on the ‘Use of private vehicles and car pooling’ is also provided in Public Health England’s Transport Businesses Guidance which states: “If the journey is essential, such as travel to work, and there is no option but to share a car with people who are not part of the same household, journeys should be shared with the same individuals and with the minimum number of people at any one time.”

The CLC has released a new version of its Site Operating Procedures to reflect the above guidance. Key items in this guidance include specific help for construction, manufacturing and travelling to work. While everyone is keen to ensure that all employees are safe, the guidance provides methodologies to allow some degree of normal working. There are also examples of Best Practice and how this guidance can be used in proactive ways.

The key changes in Version 3 include confirmation that the Health and Safety Executive is the enforcing authority for PHE guidelines, the need for sites to monitor the implementation of the procedures, further details on who should not travel to work, guidance for those who have no option but to share transport to work, information on the hierarchy of controls which should be implemented to reduce the risk of transmission where social distancing of two metres cannot be achieved and, last but by no means least, information on First Aid and Emergency Services response.

Payment in the supply chain

Having become increasingly concerned about the management of payment in the supply chain, the CLC has issued a strong statement requesting all construction businesses to continue to pay in accordance with agreed contractual terms. The CLC statement on payments and contracts notes that firms should not be threatening to invoke penalty or other contractual clauses when it should be the priority of all clients and firms to sustain the industry.

The Construction Industry Council is conducting a survey to investigate what members feel are likely to be the biggest issues following the end of the Coronavirus lockdown, with some people fearing that there may be a number of issues, that delay or at least hamper a quick return to productivity. 

The ASFP is fully aware of the difficulties its members are facing in deciding whether or not to continue to operate on construction sites or in manufacturing and supply activities. Ultimately, the decision can only be made by individual member companies based on their own assessment of the safety of each site or activity.

However, the ASFP will be supportive of whatever decision is made by each individual member. The organisation advises members that if they cannot implement and abide by the CLC's Site Operating Procedures or conduct work in line with Public Health England guidance for construction and manufacturing and processing businesses, they should halt work on the affected sites until operating procedures can be met or risks mitigated to an appropriate level.

The ASFP comments: “We understand that this will present issues on site, and fully appreciate the difficulty of the situation. As a result, the ASFP stands with its members during this time and will support their decision, whatever it may be. The safety and welfare of our members, their workforce and, in turn, their families remains paramount in these unprecedented times. The ASFP will fully support its membership in any way it can as necessary.”

*For further information visit the ASFP's website at https://asfp.org.uk/asfp-coronavirus-update-15-4-20/