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Get construction workers back safely

23 April 2020

OSCAR ACOUSTICS have released new guidance on health and safety to help the construction industry reduce the chance of covid-19 transmission on worksites. Oscar’s new risk assessment procedure rests on two main focuses: sanitation and social distancing.

Construction sites are one of the most hazardous workplaces across all professions and as such has always been more health and safety focused than others. However, the covid-19 outbreak has presented a new challenge to previously robust risk mitigation practices, which Oscar’s new guidance seeks to counteract. It’s likely that even after the lockdown has been lifted and people can get back to work, vigilance will still be needed to keep transmission rates down.

While the company advises that if possible, work should not even be taking place or at least kept to a minimum, it understands that this is not always the case.

The new risk assessment includes but is not limited to:

1. Zoning & reduced numbers – It’s imperative to reduce contact between individuals as much as possible. The first step was to try and reduce numbers on site. Once this is done, it makes it easier to split the site into zones where only certain trades are permitted to work. If you know who you are in a zone with, it is easier to ensure distancing is maintained. Where possible each company on site should be given one zone with its own entrance/exit allowing greater control over exposure.

2. One-way systems – While everyone is keen to point out that you should keep 2m away from someone, this often falls apart quite quickly. This issue is especially acute paths and walkways, which are often not wide enough to guarantee a 2m gap. Therefore, all passages on a site must be one-way to prevent people passing each other and breaching social distancing.

3. Sanitisation – Construction sites can sometimes be dirty places with poor hygiene.  With a microbial threat, all surfaces must be sanitised regularly, and other measures such as banning workers spitting need to put in place. A particular key area toilets, which require their own set of rules:

  • Toilet attendants to ensure only one person can go in at a time
  • All surfaces are wiped down and sanitised between each use
  • Everyone queuing must maintain a minimum 2m gap
  • Hand-washing strictly enforced

4. Individual equipment – All equipment, from tools to scaffolding towers, should only be touched by one person. Electrical tape can be used to colour-code every piece of equipment so people know which one they can use.

5. No food – Microwaves and kettles have been removed from canteens, to make sure no one uses the same appliance. If possible, staff should not use shared canteens and instead should bring lunch from home to eat it within their own vehicle.

Ben Hancock, Managing Director, comments, “Coronavirus has not only disrupted our industry and the wider economy, it’s putting people’s lives in peril. Never before have health and safety procedures been so vital. We encourage everyone working in the built environment to take a look at their current guidelines and see if they are fit for purpose in a period of social distancing and hygiene.

“If you’re an SME and are worried that your clients will not properly enforce more stringent measures do not be afraid to put your foot down. The health of our employees and their families is too important. It’s worth coordinating with other contractors to leverage clients into taking the issue seriously.”