As more construction sites close, Government Business Minister Alok Sharma has identified construction as an example of work that should continue during the coronavirus lockdown. In a letter of thanks to the construction industry, Mr Sharma thanks us for responding to the call to action, supporting the economy, and delivering for the nation at this difficult time. This clearly supports the industry continuing to work in accordance with the CLC Site operating procedures, which are specifically mentioned in the letter
Despite these words of encouragement there remains little definition of which sites are deemed ‘essential’. A CLC List of Essential Sites is currently being developed by the Construction Leadership Council, but its status is yet to be confirmed
Meanwhile, in Scotland the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has repeatedly stated her view that construction sites should be closed.
A survey by the Federation of Master Builders reveals:
- 76% say projects have been delayed or cancelled
- 64% have seen a drop in enquiries
- 60% have already ceased between 76% and 100% of their work, of those, 80% are in the domestic repair, renovation and maintenance sector.
- 98% estimate that 25% or fewer of their staff can work from home
- 8% have already had to make redundancies.
The CLC has written to the Prime Minister outlining a plan to sustain the construction industry and accelerate recovery of the economy. The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), and the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) have also written to the Prime Minister detailing the support required by the construction and infrastructure sectors.
SAFETY OF WORKERS
Amid reports of contractors failing to meet safe site working procedures, many construction workers are refusing to attend site.
Many ASFP installers have withdrawn their operatives from sites and ceased operations as their assessment is that many passive fire protection specialisms cannot comply with Government and NHS England’s guidance on social distancing. For example: installing large heavy sheet materials, requires two operatives; and provision of service penetration seals is generally undertaken in corridors or closed rooms with little airflow.
Furthermore when taking into account travel to and from work; reported bottlenecks for access to sites; and facilities for welfare and breaks, many installers have felt their only option is to withdraw operatives.
However, some essential work continues on NHS and social care sites. Many NHS Trusts are issuing site operatives with a letter which identify them as ‘key workers’ and identify strict operating procedures.
Until more definitive advice is available from Government, ASFP advises that contractors should review each site on a case by case basis. Operatives should only attend sites if they can ensure that all sites have adequate procedures and follow the CLC Site operating procedures. ASFP contractors must develop their own policies to protect all operatives and respect the decisions of those who do not want to work due to fears of COVID-19.
For those wishing to work and finding difficulty in travelling or being stopped by Police, the Construction Leadership Council has also provided employers with a letter to issue to their workers to help them verify they are on an essential trip. This explains that they are a construction worker or supplying services to a construction site.
Several organisations are now offering guidance and webinars on how to keep operatives safe and on financial planning. The CLC has also published guidance on the Temporary Suspension of Sites.
OTHER TRADE BODIES
ASFP is in touch with many other construction trade associations via its membership of Build UK, the Construction Products Association and the Construction Industry Council. Following a number of virtual meetings, other issues faced by the sector include:
- Difficulty/impossibility with meeting the 2m separation rule either working on site (e.g. working at height) and/or travelling to one.
- Difficulty, lack of accessing financial measures e.g. furloughing – for many it will be too late
- Cash flow and payment issues
- Supply chain issues including raw materials. However, builders’ merchants are now being told to re-open after many had shut down
- Need for a one stop shop for information
- Concern that this situation might last 3 to 6 months, so a new way of working needs to be developed
- Contractual issues: contractor A will not come to site because they consider it is not safe, so job is given to contractor B instead.
All these concerns are being passed on to the relevant authorities and industry bodies.
To support businesses and employees unable to continue to work, the Government has now added to its raft of support with the release of its financial support package for self-employed workers. Consolidated financial support information is available here. A recent webinar from the Association for Consultancy and Engineering (ACE) deals with the Corona Virus Job Retention Scheme. See link below under Webinars.
The ASFP is continuing to collate and distil available guidance and pass it on to members to aid with their planning. Please see the below, in addition to the information supplied in previous Coronavirus Updates.
A range of ASFP learning resources are also available for those working remotely who wish to update their skills.
- BESA webinar on employment law in relation to COVID-19
- How SMEs can get through the epidemic, UK Construction Week webinar
- The Association for Consultancy and Engineering (ACE) is running a number of webinars which can be accessed
INDUSTRY RESOURCES AND UPDATES
- British Safety Council
- Build UK Daily Updates
- CLC Site operating procedures
- CLC guidance on Temporary Suspension of Sites
- CLC Advice on Employment Schemes
- CLC Plan to sustain the construction industry
- CLC Travel to Work letter
- RICS/RIBA/RTPI letter
ASFP ONLINE LEARNING RESOURCES
- ASFP Publications
- ASFP Video Library
- ASFP Online Introduction to Passive Fire Protection (E-learning)
- Employers & Businesses
- Decontamination in Non-Healthcare Settings
- Public Sector Procurement in Response to COVID-19: Procurement Policy Notice
- Households on Self-Isolation
- Social Distancing
- Business Minister Letter to the Construction Industry
GOVERNMENT FINANCIAL SUPPORT
- Consolidated financial support information
- Corona Virus Bill and Statutory Sick Pay Provision
- Scottish Government Support for Businesses
- Welsh Government Support for Businesses