On Wednesday 8th April, Alok Sharma, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industry, wrote to the manufacturing and industry sector to remind them of UK Government’s approach to work during the current Covid-19 crisis.
He said “Every business has a role to play in helping the country defeat coronavirus. Manufacturing is a critical part of our economy and I would like to be clear that there is no restriction on manufacturing continuing under the current rules. Guidelines from Public Health England provide best practice advice on how this can be done safely.”
He went on to say that he realised “this will be challenging for you personally, but you are contributing to the resilience of our nation and I am grateful for the enormous efforts you are making in order to support the UK at this testing time.”
This supports advice on the UK Government website, that stresses the importance of manufacturing, engineering and construction to the UK economy and the efforts of the nation during this difficult time.
The website sets out some simple steps for each sector to allow them to continue working on their premises and site, where it is not possible for them to work from home.
The simple premise is that work “can continue if done in accordance with the social distancing guidelines wherever possible”.
In March, The Construction Leadership Council (CLC) issued a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) and since then many other trade associations, such as British Plastics Association have published similar advice to their members to ensure that work can continue in a safe manner.
The message from the UK Government is starting to filter through and companies are beginning to look at how they can return to work in line with Public Health England’s advice.
Organisations need to look at how they can operate whilst maintaining social distancing, whether that be at the workface, during breaktimes in welfare accommodation and even travelling to and from work. The government advice extends to the use of private vehicles. Workers are being encouraged to avoid all unnecessary journeys and avoid travelling in cars with people from outside of their own household. If that is not possible, journeys should be shared with the same individuals and with the minimum number of people at any one time and with windows kept open for increased ventilation.
Employers may need to consider reducing the number of workers on site at any one time, in order to maintain social distancing, the implementation of additional cleaning regimes and increasing the facilities for employees to wash their hands with soap and water at regular intervals.
What have THSP been doing?
During the current health crisis, THSP have continued to carry out site safety evaluations on behalf of many construction customers. Whilst we have attended site, we have avoided entering office space, instead we have conducted an escorted tour around site, including welfare accommodation to ensure that CLC SOP is being adhered to and that the hazards usually associated with construction activities continue to be controlled. Any immediate risks have been addressed on site and our customers advised on how to prevent a recurrence.
During this period, we have reduced the amount of time spent on site, in order to do this, we have requested that customers email relevant documentation, so that it can be reviewed off-site. A report has then been emailed to the customer and their site representative.
Over the past three weeks we have seen a range of responses to the current health crisis, in all cases however, we have been able to add value to our customer’s activities and reduce both the likelihood of accidents and the spread of the virus.
The new guidance includes the requirement “organisations must have in place effective arrangements for monitoring and reviewing their compliance with Government and industry guidance.”If you are considering a return to work, call THSP to discuss how this can be achieved or to book an inspection of your new arrangements.
Director, Health and Safety