After 18 months of operating government backed Site Operating Procedures to battle the pandemic the construction industry starts a new era, despite growing at rising infection rates rise. Monday 19 July sees the majority of legal restrictions lifted and could lead to the return to more pre-pandemic working practices. However, construction plans to keep COVID-safe guidance and retain a mixture of site operating procedures, flexible and hybrid working.
Industry sources suggest there are hardly any plans to sweep away new ways of working and that firms intend to retain sensible use of COVIS-19 operating procedures to prevent the rising rates of infection leading to workers having to isolate.
During the first week of July, more than 500,000 people in the UK were contacted by the NHS app and told to isolate. But with a skills shortage being faced construction firms it’s proving difficult to find replacements for people isolating at short notice.
The construction sector has faced significant challenges during the pandemic and the Construction Leadership Council has said the sector should be very proud of the way people and projects have dealt with the restrictions imposed over the last 18 months.
The CLC Site Operating Procedures and Branch Operating Procedures have played an essential role in enabling the industry to continue working safely throughout the various lockdowns and their adoption on over 99% of sites ensured consistency across the supply chain.
The Site Operating Procedures and Branch Operating Procedures have always reflected the latest Government guidance. Whilst COVID-19 remains widespread across the UK and will need to be managed for some time to come, the lifting of the remaining legal restrictions, including social distancing requirements, from 19 July 2021 means the CLC guidance will no longer be current.
As such, the Site Operating Procedures and the Branch Operating Procedures will remain available as reference documents from 19 July 2021.
A CLC statement recommended that face coverings should be worn in crowded and enclosed spaces when people mix with others they don’t normally meet: “Whilst it would be inappropriate for the CLC to seek to impose on the industry any requirements over and above those set out by the Government, we recognise that businesses across the supply chain have welcomed the consistency that the CLC guidance has provided. They may choose, or be asked, to maintain elements of social distancing for the time being, in which case the Site Operating Procedures and Branch Operating Procedures should continue to be followed.”
The CLC guidance may also assist in carrying out risk assessments as working arrangements are reviewed and revised, and the CLC would advise that any changes to social distancing measures are discussed with the workforce.
The Site Operating Procedures and Branch Operating Procedures have helped the industry to adopt some good practices over the last 18 months, including more organised sites, enhanced welfare facilities, increased ventilation and improved communication with the workforce, which the CLC would strongly recommend are retained.
The requirement for close contacts of people in England who have tested positive for COVID-19 to self-isolate will remain in place until 16 August 2021. From that date onwards, close contacts will not have to self-isolate if they have received both doses of the vaccine or are under 18. They will be advised to get a PCR test and if it is positive then they will still need to self-isolate for 10 days.