There has recently been a significant amount of confusion and concern in the construction industry about how those working within the industry should respond to the unprecedented coronavirus pandemic. Graham Watts, the Chief Executive of the Construction Industry Counsel (“CIC”), issued a statement on 24 March 2020 explaining that it is “currently a matter of mess and muddle” but that the CIC is working with the government to achieve clarity and a “strong central message”.
The following is a summary of the latest guidance from the industry.
The government’s guidance remains that, because jobs in the construction industry cannot be undertaken from home, construction sites may remain open so long as the guidelines set by Public Health England are followed – including keeping two meters away from others.
Seeking to provide some clarity on the government’s guidance, Graham Watts, in his statement dated 24 March 2020, confirmed that work on construction sites should only continue if:
Graham Watts explained that if the above conditions cannot be followed then construction sites should not remain open and they will need to be prepared for closure and left in a way that is safe and secure. He stressed that it is important not to leave sites in a way that causes an unsafe or dangerous situation and that each situation will need to be carefully managed and risk-assessed.
Build UK and the Construction Leadership Council (CLC) have issued a new code of practice which it recommends is implemented on every operational construction site. This states that health and safety requirements of any construction activity must not be compromised and, if an activity cannot be undertaken safely due to a lack of suitably qualified personnel being available or social distancing being implemented, it should not take place. If a site does not consistently implement the measures set out in the CLC’s new code of practice, it may be required to shut down.
Smaller projects, such as tradespeople carrying out repairs and maintenance works in people’s homes, can also continue so long as the tradesperson is well and has no coronavirus symptoms and keeps two meters away from everyone in the household.
No work should be carried out in any household which is isolating or where an individual is being shielded, unless it is to remedy a direct risk to the safety of the household, such as emergency plumbing or repairs, and where the tradesperson is willing to do so. No work should be carried out by a tradesperson who has coronavirus symptoms, however mild.
Builders’ merchants are currently classed as an essential service and have been told to stay open, so long as they comply with the Public Health England guidelines.
*The information set out in this article is correct at the date of publication (26 March, 2020). The effect of coronavirus on businesses is a fast-changing area and so it is important to obtain legal advice to ensure you are properly protected.
If you have any questions regarding the impact of the Coronavirus upon your business or are seeking up-to-date legal advice for the construction industry, contact Alice Toop on 01202 294 566 or email AliceToop@steeleraymond.co.uk.
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