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​Health and safety concerns in construction during Covid-19 outbreak

12 May 2020

​Inspectors have carried out over 30 proactive inspections of construction sites in the past few weeks. The HSI has also had to respond to 4 incidents notified by the Emergency Control Centre, where workers have been injured through falls from height.

Whilst it is evident that managing the risks of Covid-19 is high on everybody’s mind there is a worrying pattern starting to emerge of people being so focused on trying to maintain 2 metre distancing and other Covid-related controls that basic health and safety risks are being overlooked. 

Workers are being exposed to significant risk to their safety. This includes a failure to control obvious risk of falls from height, unsafe excavations, incomplete scaffolding and poor standards of general housekeeping.

The following photographs illustrate examples of our observations during April.

Fig 1 and 2: Risk of fall from height due to lack of edge protection 

Fig 3 and 4: Risk of injury due to incomplete scaffolding          

A message we are commonly hearing is that the amount of time and resource being required to properly plan for and effectively manage the risk of Covid-19 transmission on site far exceeds that which was initially anticipated.

It is important to recognise that preparation of an adequate Covid-19 plan before the site opens, which sets out how the risks have been assessed and will be controlled, is only part of the process. The arrangements for ensuring that the plan can, and is, complied with on a day-to-day basis must be subject to regular review. Ensuring it remains effective and achievable with the allocated resources, and critically, without the level of supervision required to manage the inherent risks associated with construction activities, being compromised.

Consideration must be given to the specific demands associated with managing Covid-19, for example:

  • Covid-19 inductions for employees and subsequent visitors to site
  • regular refresher tool box talks to reinforce the messages
  • provision of adequate supervision to maintain good hygiene and 2m distancing
  • ensuring additional cleaning of welfare facilities and common touch points is carried out

These are all additional demands requiring a high level of supervision and control, and current experience suggests that many sites require an additional level of resource to be able to manage both Covid-19 and the more typical health and safety risks. 

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