This article is correct as of 12pm 25 March 2020. The following information has been supplied by ClarksLegal.
In light of the current COVID-19 pandemic, a Construction Industry Taskforce was set up to work with BEIS and Government to protect the current and future of the construction industry. This follows a letter from the Construction Leadership Council (CLC) on 17 March 2020 requesting support to keep construction sites open –Construction Leadership Council -Letter to the Prime Minister
The CLC published its Site Operating Procedures on 23 March 2020 setting out procedures to be following for construction sites of any size that are operating during the Covid-19 pandemic. This gives practical guidance including to:
- Travel to site i.e. avoiding public transport
- Site access i.e. staggering start and finish points and keeping 2metres apart
- Handwashing i.e. requiring extra supplies of soap and sanitiser
- Avoiding close working i.e. situations where it is not possible or not safe for workers to be 2metres apart
- Enhanced cleaning
Since the announcement on Monday 23 March 2020 that the UK was under a total lock down there has been some confusion and uncertainty as to the status of construction workers and construction sites whilst many, are asked to #stayhomesavelives. Whether those who are allowed to leave home to attend work are only Key Workers, or those who cannot work from home (and so it is necessary to leave home to attend work) was initially unclear.
The initial comments from government were that construction works could continue e.g.:
- Construction work can continue as long as people are 2m apart (Health Secretary, Matt Hancock)
- “If you are working on site you can continue to do so. But follow Public Health England guidance on social distancing” (Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Robert Jenrick)
However, we understand that the London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, called for a ban on building works at the Cobra emergency meeting on Monday 23 March 2020. In addition, Scottish First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has advised building sites to close and the Scottish government is drawing up guidance to make this clear.
In the meantime, some contractors have taken matters into their own hands and closed or suspended works on sites. This includes Barrett, Taylor Wimpey, Multiplex, ISG and Wates. For example, on 24 March 2020, Wates took the sensible step of suspending all works for 48 hours whilst they implement the new Site Operating Procedures across all their sites.
On 24 March 2020, the CLC confirmed that all construction sites should assess their situation and those sites that cannot implement the Site Operating Procedures published by the CLC should not remain open. Andy Mitchell, Co-Chair of the Construction Leadership Council has said:
“It is also vital that the health and safety requirements of any construction activity must not be compromised at this time. If an activity cannot be undertaken safely due to a lack of suitably qualified personnel being available, or social distancing being implemented, it should not take place.”
In summary, the CLC has said that work should only continue if:
- it can be carried out under the guidance issued by Public Health England;
- it can be undertaken without any compromising on safety and health;
- in accordance with the Site Operating Procedure; and
- workers can travel safely and responsibly to sites.
Discussions on whether construction sites should remain open continues this week.
In the meantime, if you are a subcontractor being required to attend you should ask the contractor for confirmation of the steps they have taken to comply with the Site Operating Procedures.
There is a survey to support the construction industry trade and representative bodies as part of their response to Covid-19. If you want to take part see link: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk
More information can be found on ClarksLegal COVID-19 site for more updates (Clarkslegal Coronavirus Contingency Planning Page) or contact Ruth Wilkinson or Stephen James (find details below).
*Since writing we have become aware of the Build UK Guidance