The Coronavirus crisis is unprecedented and not since the second world war has the UK faced such a challenging situation. Much of the UK is at a standstill, while construction employers wrestle with unclear Government advice as to what they should and should not do, with many torn between business survival and keeping their workforce safe. At the same time, many self-employed construction workers face the stark choice of working or not earning.
The NASC is advising access and scaffolding contractors to carry out detailed risk assessments of every project they are currently undertaking to determine whether to continue working on site.
While construction sites in Scotland have been instructed to close, the Government’s latest covid-19 restrictions, imposed on Monday evening, did not limit construction activities and as such sites in other parts of the UK can and are remaining open at this time.
However, the NASC believes that employee health and safety should be prioritised at all times and is aware of the risk of the spread of the virus between construction workers on site – including scaffolding operatives – their families and the wider community, which could put many lives in danger.
The NASC is therefore calling on scaffolding contractors to make detailed risk-based decisions on the amount of site-based activities they conduct.
This should take into account the staff that they have available, in particular identifying any in the “at risk category” along with the unique arrangements on individual sites, transportation (getting to and from sites) and the Site Operating Procedures – Protecting Your Workforce document issued by the Construction Leadership Council in conjunction with Build UK.
Given the nature of access and scaffolding work, it is entirely possible that safe working conditions cannot be maintained on many sites.
Should a scaffolding contractor subsequently choose to withdraw its operatives from site temporarily the NASC fully recognises this decision.
The NASC calls on main contractors / clients to recognise the right of access and scaffolding contractors to conclude that safe working is not possible and to withdraw their workers from site.
Emergency works required during this period should be considered on a case by case basis and in the light of recommended site operating procedures.
The NASC will continue to provide scaffolding industry-related coronavirus advice to all of its members and the wider scaffolding industry through its dedicated covid-19 news stream, which can be found here and repeat calls for the Government to provide more detailed advice to the construction sector.
The NASC will be issuing detailed guidance relating to Covid-19 specific working practices next week.