Most construction firms say they can run sites safely, says survey

Most businesses believe they can follow coronavirus health guidelines and still keep sites open but face a challenge to convince workers that they are safe.

That’s according to a new survey conducted by Construction Manager and the Chartered Institute of Building of more than 1,000 industry professionals.

More than half (56%) of those surveyed said their organisations were keeping all or some sites open. Of these, 57% said sites were staying open because their employers believed health guidelines and rules around social distancing could be followed.

On site procedures

The respondents whose organisations had sites still open said health and safety protocols were largely being followed correctly. Some 81% said the two-metre social distancing rule was being observed by workers, while 81% also said that ill workers were following self-isolation rules.

Three quarters said there were hand-washing facilities at the entrance to the site and on the site itself, and 77% had observed enhanced cleaning of all site facilities.

Meanwhile, nearly three quarters (72%) reported that measures have been put in place to restrict or stagger access to site welfare facilities.

And a total of 76% said employers had been issuing guidance on all of the measures taken.

Travel to work concerns

But travelling to and from sites while still observing the two-metre social distancing rule appears to be proving more problematic, with only 61% reporting that it was possible.

And construction employers face a challenge to convince workers that they are safe on site, with only 46% of respondents reporting that workers are happy to continue working.

There were calls for clearer rules on what was and was not permitted for construction sites during lockdown.

Unclear government messages

One respondent said they were confused by government advice. They said: “There are mixed messages of: ‘Only travel if essential’ versus ‘Go to work if you cannot work from home’.”

Another added: “[We need] more clarity relating to suppliers and manufacturers. Within the guidance, it appears some form of normality can continue but at reduced rates and efficiency. Construction activity may be able to continue in some form but without the critical supply chain such as precast then critical operations will bring a project to stop. This and the guidance must be reviewed regularly. If activity was considered to be a contributor to disease spread it should stop.”

Last week, SHP reported how Chair of the British Safety Council, Lawrence Waterman, called for further clarity from the government. He said: “The construction sector needs clarity from the government – on most sites social distancing will be impossible or simply unsafe. All non-essential construction should end now so that construction workers can go home and stay home like everyone else.”

The Construction Plant-hire Association (CPA) has also issued advice to tower crane users relating to how tower cranes should be left out of service for potentially lengthy periods of time.

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