The BEIS guidance document establishes a five step process for addressing COVID-19 on site which must be followed:
- All sites must carry out a risk assessment to minimise the chance of transmission. This should be shared with employees and, where possible, published on the company website.
- Clear cleaning, handwashing and hygiene procedures must be established – increasing the frequency of hand and surface washing.
- All reasonable efforts should be taken to allow staff to work from home in the first instance.
- Where this is not possible, reasonable effort must be made to maintain 2 metre social distancing (1 metre with risk mitigation where this is not possible).
- If a task requires workers to operate face to face without social distancing then consideration must be given to whether the task can safely go ahead.
A notice stating compliance with these steps is provided within the document and should be signed and displayed on all worksites.
The subsequent guidance in the BEIS document and Site Operating Procedures can be used to aid this assessment process.
Travel and access
During the national restrictions in England, staff who can work from home should do so.
It is recommended that steps are taken to provide additional parking/storage arrangements for cars and bicycles to reduce use of public transport. Workers should avoid sharing vehicles unless absolutely necessary. Where staff have to use public transport their shift should be staggered to avoid them having to travel at peak times (5.45 – 8.15 and 16.00 – 17.30)
Access should be limited to essential staff only, and access points carefully monitored to support social distancing. This may require the number of access points to be increased (to reduce congestion) or decreased (to allow effective monitoring). Staff should always maintain correct distancing (including when queuing to enter site) and hand washing facilities should be provided and regularly topped up throughout the day.
All site guidance measures should be clearly communicated to visitors on or before arrival.
Shifts and site operations
To help maintain social distancing at potential congestion points, such as the site entry(s), canteens, changing facilities, showers and drying rooms, it is recommended that shifts are staggered so workers start, finish and take breaks at different times. Staff should be assigned to ‘fixed teams or partnering’ to limit the number of people they come into contact with.
Where possible, sites should be separated into working zones to keep different teams of workers apart and one-way systems established on walkways. Proper signage and markings should be provided to clearly communicate these measures.
Where social distancing guidelines cannot be followed in full, companies should look to take mitigating steps such as avoiding face-to-face activities, erecting screens or barriers and keeping activity time as short as possible.
Consideration should also be given to the minimum number of staff needed for a site to operate safely. Ventilation should also be increased within internal spaces, either by keeping windows and doors open or keeping ventilation systems running constantly.
Sites should take part in NHS Track and Trace, keeping a record of all site visitors for 21 days.
Again, to allow for effective social distancing the site facilities should be audited and existing procedures adjusted where necessary. This should include:
- providing additional hand washing facilities and rubbish bins (for paper towels) on large or highly populated sites;
- restricting the number of workers accessing toilet or canteen facilities at any one time;
- ensure canteens display an NHS QR code;
- providing only pre-wrapped food and contactless payment in canteens and eliminating use of crockery or eating utensils;
- ensuring workers wear facemasks when inside canteens aside from when sat at tables; and
- enhancing cleaning schedules so that all areas are regularly cleaned throughout the day with particular attention paid to touch points such as handles, locks and toilet flushes.
The updated BEIS guidance states there is growing evidence that wearing a face covering in an enclosed space can help protect individuals and those around them from COVID 19. The guidance stresses that these can be simple face coverings and that employers should make these available where:
- staff are working in enclosed spaces;
- where social distancing isn’t always possible; and
- where they staff come into contact with others they don’t normally meet.
Respiratory protective equipment (RPE) such as dust masks should be reserved for those who need them to protect against workplace risks. It also notes that face covering are not a replacement for the other measures mentioned.
Face coverings are mandatory on public transport and a number of indoor premises. Workers should ensure the masks are washed or changed every day.
Worker self-isolation and procedure if they become ill on site
Workers must not come to site if they:
- have a high temperature, a new persistent cough, have had a loss or change in their sense of taste or smell or is within 14 days of the first member of their household displayed these symptoms (these workers should observe Government self-isolation procedures);
- have returned from a country that is not on the travel corridors list and is required to quarantine for 14 days;
- are classified as a clinically extremely vulnerable person; or
- are living with someone in self-isolation or an extremely vulnerable person.
Additionally, those considered to be at increased risk of severe illness are strongly advised to work from home.
If a worker begins to display symptoms on site then their manager or supervisor should be informed they should immediately return home, taking care to avoid touching anything and to cough or sneeze into a tissue or the crook of their arm. Procedures should also be put in place to consider how staff can be transported home if this situation arises.
Please note: the above is intended solely as a summary of the BEIS guidance and Site Operating Procedures. Please refer to the original documents for full guidance. Additional guidance for tradespeople working in people’s homes is provided here.