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Keeping safe on construction sites post lockdown

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Worker protection and site health and safety are at the forefront of efficient site management. With the changes brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic, the UK construction industry has adapted significantly to meet the new safety measures required to keep sites safe.

One of the most substantial changes is in site security, and how contractors and construction firms manage access to sites to enforce safe working conditions such as social distancing.

Construction Site Security 

Busy sites require robust safety procedures and construction site security for multiple reasons:

  • Restricting unauthorised access both for site security and to uphold public safety.
  • Protecting the site assets, equipment and resources from theft or vandalism.
  • Avoiding vehicular access to sites outside of authorised personnel.

To implement control measures, most construction site managers will have already considered traditional security facilities including CCTV, alarm systems, concrete barrier blocks and a thorough risk assessment process, but what about health and safety measures?

Covid-19 and Construction Site Safety

The governmental guidelines for safe working conditions in the post-pandemic climate include various requirements to allow construction sites to operate.

Such guidelines include:

  • Social distancing to be enforced on-site where possible. 
  • Construction workers permitted to travel to work if working from home is not possible.
  • The ability to keep sites open, provided safe working conditions are in place.

Along with these general guidelines, the Construction Leadership Council (CLC) has issued updated Site Operating Procedures (SOP), most recently updated on 4th July 2020.

To comply with the evolving SOP requirements, UK construction firms must revisit their risk assessment processes and implement mitigation strategies and new working controls wherever required to ensure they can continue to operate safely.

These can include fundamental changes to the way a site operates, or can involve simple adjustments to the site security measures to manage and control movements.

Site Operating Procedures for UK Construction Sites

The most important and significant changes in construction site security are based around the introduction of social distancing. 

In this sector it has been particularly challenging for many businesses to find ways to comply, given the physical nature of the work that very often requires multiple tradespeople or contractors to work side by side.

As such, the requirements in construction are specific to this industry.

New site security measures include:

  • Control procedures for movements around the site, with a one-way system indicated by arrows or floor markings the ideal. 
  • Limitations on the number of visitors, contractors or employees on-site at any one time.
  • Clear safety procedures to be communicated to all site users.
  • Social distancing measures introduced wherever possible, with cleaning processes required to avoid surface transmissions for goods arriving on site or leaving.
  • Restrictions on in-person contact to 15 minutes as a maximum.
  • PPE to be introduced only where a risk assessment identifies it is required.
  • Ensuring symptomatic workers remain at home, undergo appropriate testing and report their symptoms.

Employee Consultation in Construction Site Security

With rapidly changing and sometimes conflicting regulatory guidance, engaging clearly and openly with site workers and contractors is crucial to sustaining good working practices.

Every site will require updated risk assessments as the site evolves and the guidance changes, and these risk assessments should be shared with staff. 

Not only is this a good exercise in information sharing and relations, but it can also help workers to contribute to the risk assessment process, and explore resolutions for any concerns they may have.

To try and limit access to a construction site has also meant site managers are needing to find creative ways to keep work progressing, while also limiting the number of people in attendance at any time.

Potential solutions include:

  • Split shifts and staggered working hours. 
  • Changing rest break times and introducing break rotas.
  • Relocating staff facilities to ensure adequate distancing.

Security Records and Communications

One of the most common concerns for staff during lockdown has been around the confusion about which places of work are permitted to remain open. 

With different information being reported across news channels and social media, it is crucial to maintain clear lines of communication to avoid worker anxiety.

As UK construction has been permitted to continue working throughout the lockdown, the CLC has published a worker template letter. This template confirms that employees are allowed to travel to work and that this is considered essential.

It is also advisable to keep thorough records showing:

  • Site security measures implemented.
  • Risk assessments carried out, and their results.
  • Updates to site processes and procedures.
  • Communications shared with employees and site users.

By focusing on sound leadership, clear communication and openness to discussion and consultation, UK construction has shown that it is possible to adapt quickly and significantly to these new challenges as they arise.

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