Covid-19 has had a massive impact on the way UK construction sites have to work. Ross Markham, managing director of Bull Products, shares his top tips on how to stay safe whilst working on site during the age of Covid-19.
From April to June 2020, when Covid-19 hit the UK, workplace absences due to work-related ill health in the construction sector rose from 14% to 36%1.
With companies now eager to make up for lost time, employers have had to completely rethink best practice to allow workers to return to work safely. From altering working practices to implementing stricter hand hygiene measures, health and safety has become an even bigger priority.
There’s no doubt that most construction sites have faced disrupted supply chains and operational restrictions over the last few months, leaving a dent on construction projects across the UK.
The majority of sites quickly implemented Covid-19 assessments and protocols to ensure new procedures were introduced – and are continuously being re-evaluated. Bull Products’ response was to support this huge effort by sourcing and supplying quality PPE which would enable a safe return to work. The whole industry should be applauded for its commitment to introduce new best practices so quickly and effectively.
As a result, most sites are now up and running, and the industry has taken great strides to enhance workers’ health and safety on site whilst improving productivity and wellbeing. However, with constant demand and changes to site, now is the ideal time to reassess whether those measures are still suitable.
Consider the risks
Whilst each employer may be faced with their own unique challenges, they all share a common goal; to ensure workers remain safe on site. During this time, it’s important to reassess the risks of Covid-19 through a risk assessment, helping to inform your decisions and control measures.
According to Health and Safety Executive (HSE)2, as an employer, you must protect people from harm. This includes carrying out a Covid-19 risk assessment which should include the following;
- Identify what work activity or situations might cause transmission of the virus.
- Think about who could be at risk.
- Decide how likely it is that someone could be exposed.
- Act to remove the activity or situation, or if this isn’t possible, control the risk.
Use the right equipment at the right time
Creating a Covid-safe environment is paramount to individuals’ safety. Most sites are now equipped with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) including hand sanitising stations, face masks, gloves, desk dividers and much more. But it’s important that the equipment is used correctly, and at the right time to drive best practice amongst workers.
Consider implementing the following on your site:
- Ensure hand sanitiser stations are located around the whole site including entry and exit points, kitchen facilities and meeting rooms.
- Use temporary sanitising and wash stations on-site to improve access to hand cleanliness, where usual facilities are too far away for frequent use.
- Use temperature checking devices upon entry. A high temperature is one of the main symptoms of the virus so it’s important to check workers’ temperatures as soon as they enter the building – and also contractors, engineers, and other visitors too. This will allow you to make decisions much quicker, control the spread where possible, and put workers’ safety first.
- All workers are supplied with a face mask covering which is worn at all times. The face mask covering they require may depend on the work they are carrying out. Some may need a face visor whilst others may require disposable face masks.
- Consider a phased approach for breaks to limit the number of workers in one place at one time.
- Increase the frequency of cleaning surfaces and touch-points such as light switches and door handles.
- Where possible, limit the use of co-workers’ tools and equipment or ensure employees have access to alcohol-based wipes to wipe down any equipment before and after use.
- Ensure signage is placed around the site to encourage workers to sanitise regularly or follow one-way rules if these are in place.
- Identify where you can reduce the contact of people with surfaces, i.e. open doors that are not fire doors and use electronic documents rather than paperwork.
Think outside the box
During this time, it’s important that companies provide real-time solutions that allow them to modify equipment on site as time goes on. Whilst PPE equipment is crucial right now, and may be for some time, companies should also be looking at the ways in which they can utilise safety equipment for years to come. For example, temporary hand sanitisation points can be repurposed as fire or first aid points for cost-effectiveness.
This is crucial for construction sites where demands change constantly. The more you can adapt and plan, the better equipped you will be to protect workers now and in the future.
Regularly engaging with workers will provide reassurance that they are working in a Covid-19 secure environment, therefore improving their productivity and wellbeing.
It’s important to engage weekly with workers to plan workloads and schedules – this will help to highlight any issues and implement any changes if necessary. Review and amend your strategy regularly in line with the latest Covid guidelines and ensure employees are kept up-to-date with any changes.
Everyone can play their part
The construction industry should be applauded for their efforts so far, but we must continue to keep our workers safe. Every single person, whether they are an employer or employee, can play their part so it’s important to follow the guidelines.
The industry is certainly adjusting to the ‘new normal’ but now is no time to become complacent. It’s fundamental that we continue to be vigilant, place innovation at the forefront, adapt and be proactive to change to ensure workers’ health, safety, and wellbeing continue to be our priorities.