August 12, 2020

Five top tips for reopening sites and getting back to work

With the recent announcement by Boris Johnson that recommends construction sites begin to reopen where it is safe to do so – many companies are now setting ahead plans to unlock the gates and start building again. But what are the key steps that are important to get right? There is plenty of information available regarding what measures you can take and here Nathan Ferris of Darcy Associates outlines some simple changes that you can carry out to give your workforce a bit of peace of mind.


Hire or assign a person responsible for Covid-19 awareness

One of the best chances of ensuring your site operates to the latest guidance is to hire or assign someone to oversee all the tasks required to make your site safe. This could be anyone who can dedicate time to take responsibility for solely cleaning, policing site guidelines and creating an environment that is safe for everyone to work in.

And this shouldn’t just be the Site Manager. I believe it shouldn’t be unless your project is very small. With plenty of tasks to oversee already – having a dedicated person such as a gates person, a cleaner or a general labourer who has been given a suitable toolbox talk about the expectations and the duties is an advantage. In fact, we have seen an increase in the hiring of gatespeople to monitor and enforce these exact guidelines.

Travelling to Work

It has long been preferential in all workplaces for people to share lifts to work. Usually it’s recommended as it helps businesses keep their carbon footprint down as well as fuel costs. The construction industry is extremely well-known for exactly this. Many employers provide a pool vehicle that allows teams to collectively travel to a site in one vehicle. But times have definitely changed.

So wherever possible – you should now be making it possible for people to travel alone. In most cases, this will be with the use of personal vehicles or multiple vehicles provided by the company. Considerations around parking arrangements and storage for bicycles should be included in your preparations to reopen your project as a sudden influx of vehicles means plenty of safety concerns as well as a space issue. Maybe it’s time to get a small shower block and a few bike locking posts which promotes wellbeing as well as travelling alone.

Of course, travelling alone may not always be possible. The Construction Leadership Council advise that on occasions where there is no option but to share transport – journeys must always be with the same individuals and with the minimum amount of people possible in the vehicle. Regular cleaning of vehicles is advised with a particular emphasis on handles or areas that may be touched by multiple people.

For those reliant on public transport – you can still do your bit to help. Firstly, consider placing these workers on the closest possible project where possible. Consider hiring new operatives or subcontractors locally, so they have a considerably shorter time travelling.

Introduce staggered start times – possibly 15 minute slots so that groups can use site access points and facilities at different times of the day. It can also help those using public transport to avoid peak times, helping them stay away from largely populated transport.

Site access 

Getting on top of your site access points is simple. All non-essential visitors should be stopped in their entirety. This is another good reason to have a gatesperson. They can ensure those visiting the sites are sticking to social distancing measures, are signed in and out without physical contact (similar to a roll call in school) and can on most occasions monitor the facilities that are typically nearby to the site entrance.

If possible, you could increase the amount of access points as this will help you reduce the possibility of people crossing over each other’s path or queuing in the morning.

Find a way of marking 2 metre distance points outside the site gate. On busy sites where queuing is possible or even if two deliveries or visitors arrive at once – this means people know exactly where to stand to keep safe.

Sanitizer or hand washing facilities on site entrances are critical as you can promote the use of regular hand washing. If you have a gatesperson, they can enforce the washing as part of the signing in and out procedures.

If you usually operate fingerprint or hand scan time monitoring systems – it’s time to disable these. Make use of a trusted person to complete a site roll call. Once again, this a good reason to have a responsible gatesperson or labourer. The benefit of a roll call is that no one needs to go into the site cabins or rest areas. No one needs to sign a piece of paper. No one needs to physically make contact with anything. It might even save you a few bob on the monitoring systems.

Facilities

Toilets, canteens, rest areas, smoking areas, site offices, storage cabins, shower blocks. There are various different site facilities that have always been free for all – especially around breaks. Remember to have a tool box talk around how these need to be used one at a time on all occasions. If possible, employ a general labourer or assign someone specific to ensure these are cleaned prior to use and after use – every single time. This will keep on top of the essential cleaning to help reduce the risk of spreading the virus. If you cannot, then assign the responsibility to clean to each person using it.

Regular cleaning is very important. Provide adequate cleaning supplies including sanitiser sprays, gels, soap, water and anti-bacterial spray. Everyone on site will need to play their part so set  expectations around cleaning so that drills the message home to everyone – although remember to socially distance when completing a tool box talk.

All facilities on site will have door handles, locks and many other areas that are regularly touched. Draw up a plan to have them cleaned after every single use – before and after.

Once again, you need to provide hand washing or sanitizer at least at one area in every facility you have. It sounds crazy but print off hand washing instructions and put them visible by the wash stations. You will be amazed how these influence people to commit to washing their hands.

PPE – Getting It Right for the Job

The rules have not changed on PPE. In fact, there is more of a focus on cleaning and social distancing than any dramatic changes in the use of different types of PPE. So do not make a knee-jerk reaction and make everyone wear masks all day, do not make everyone wear gloves all day.

Risk assess each task that people could be completing on site and consider if social distancing can be adhered to. If not, promote the use of suitable masks and gloves while completing these specific tasks. If certain tasks are not possible while wearing masks or gloves – then pair people together and ask them to work solely as a team for the foreseeable. If you can create small pairs that only ever work together, these people will be safer to work together than large groups or mixed pairs.

Remember to document your risk assessment and remember to always include considerations around hand washing, PPE requirements and social distancing guidelines.

Single use PPE needs to be disposed of correctly. Dispose and bin it so that it cannot be used again. Ensure your site workforce is well aware of this requirement and where to dispose of it.

There is plenty of fantastic reusable PPE and these are not only cost effective but much safer to use. Assign them to specific individuals, remind people never to share PPE and give them a regular clean.

The Construction Leadership Council has more information and guidance available and I suggest that you take a look at their documentation. The key take away is having enough designated staff members to carry out the leadership and safety responsibilities required for everyone to work on site with no risk to health.

Promote hand washing; provide the correct facilities and consider social distancing throughout all parts of your projects. This certainly becomes complex on all sizes of jobs; so don’t think your site is too small or too big to be worried about – on small sites it is hard to adhere to social distancing and on large sites are very hard to police. Above all , think reasonably but realistically about each measure.