Working safely and successfully in the construction industry through the Covid-19 pandemic in 2021

Roni Savage; Construction Policy Chair FSB; Managing Director Jomas Associates

Happy New Year – We embark on 2021 with optimism for tackling Covid19, and settling into a new norm.

Addressing the nation on television on Monday 4th January 2021 at 8pm, the Prime Minister told the nation to stay indoors other than for limited exceptions. These measures are likely to last until mid-February as we continue to fight Covid-19.

During this time, the construction industry remains open, with government guidelines stating, “people who work in critical national infrastructure, construction or manufacturing should continue to travel to their workplace”.

This also includes tradespeople working in other people’s homes and construction, manufacturing and builder’s merchants, which are listed as types of economic activity that should continue and for which people can travel to work.

The new measures follow the emergence last month of a new variant of Covid-19 which the government scientists suggest is up to 70% more transmissible.

Construction sites currently operate under an existing 1m-plus social distancing rule (where two metres isn’t viable for the work undertaken). Throughout the UK, contractors have worked vigorously and with a great amount of success to get back up to capacity again since rulings were first brought in with the first lockdown in March last year.

Today, many firms find themselves rotating teams and making sure not all critical staff are on site at the same time in case a job faces a Covid outbreak.

The Construction Leadership Council (CLC) whose role and mission are to provide sector leadership to the construction industry promptly drew up a list of Site Operating Procedures for the industry to adhere to. These procedures are continually updated to reflect changes to government guidance on how we should best be working to combat the spread of the virus.

Whilst the industry does remain open, the guidance set out by the CLC still dictates that “the health and safety requirements of any construction activity must not be compromised at this time. If an activity cannot be undertaken safely, it should not take place”. Having published 6 versions of the guidance up until October 2020, version 7 was released earlier this week following the announcement of the latest national lockdown restrictions from the Government.

The construction sector is set to play a vital role in the economic rebalancing of the UK. Currently, output comprises 8% of GDP, and the industry employs over 10% of the UK workforce.

As Policy Chair for Construction for the Federation of Small Businesses, I welcome the opportunity and guidance for businesses to continue to trade safely. As Managing Director of Engineering Consultancy, Jomas Associates, serving the construction industry, the safety of the Jomas team and those around us has always been paramount and no more so than now.

We continuously monitor our stringent hygiene and social distancing measures for all on-site staff, as well as test, check and review our Covid secure operating procedures. We ensure the way we work best reflects the latest recommendations from Public Health England and CLC’s Safe Site Operating Procedures.

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