How to Socially Distance your Staff in a Plant, Tool or Construction Facility
With those that can’t physically work from home recently given the government’s green light to return to work, many employers are cautious and confused about getting their operations back up and running. We’ve summarised the key elements of The Construction Leadership Council’s guidance (based on Public Health England’s advice) on-site operating procedures and protecting your workforce during the Covid-19 outbreak.
Construction sites and similar operations need to take all the necessary precautions to ensure the protection of their workforce and prevent the risk and spread of infection while employees are at work. If a construction site cannot guarantee that these measures are safely in place, Public Health England states that if an activity cannot be carried out safely, then it should not be done at all.
When to Travel to Work
First and foremost, those that can still work from home (e.g. back-office operations) should do so for as long as possible. Anyone who has recently had any symptoms of coronavirus should still self-isolate and therefore not go into work until their isolation period is over. Anyone who is more at risk of the effects of coronavirus due to existing conditions or illness OR if they are living with someone vulnerable should still minimise their contact with others outside their own home. If an employee happens to fall ill while at work, they should inform their supervisor, go home immediately, and avoid touching anything. They should also then follow the self-isolation guidelines and not return to work until they have done this.
Commuting to Work
If employees can drive to work alone, this is the recommended method of transport. If they have to use the same vehicle as others to travel to work, they should make sure that the vehicle is well ventilated, wash their hands thoroughly for 20 seconds before entering and when exiting the vehicle, clean the vehicle regularly using gloves and antibacterial cleaning products – with particular emphasis on handles and parts of the vehicle that are touched often.
Once they’re on-site, facilities need to consider parking arrangements, providing hand sanitising facilities on both entrance and exit, how poorly members of staff would be transported and staggering hours for those workers who need to use public transport so that they can avoid travelling during peak times.
Driving at Work
If employees are required to drive between locations as part of their job, they should travel alone where possible. If they must travel with others, they should take the same extra precautions listed above as when sharing a vehicle on their commute to and from work.
Site Access and Egress Points
Site entrance and exit points should be adapted where possible to help maintain social distancing at all times and employers should consider staggering start and finish times so people are arriving and leaving at different times throughout the day to avoid crowding. Signage should be used where possible to ensure a two-metre distance is maintained at all times, and to inform employees of steps that they need to take to minimise the spread of infection.
Any entry systems which require employees to touch something such as finger scans or clocking in and out systems should be temporarily disabled, and all workers should wash their hands upon entering and exiting the site for at least 20 seconds using antibacterial handwash. Surfaces that are extensively used such as reception desks and delivery areas should be cleaned regularly and thoroughly throughout the day. Inductions or essential meetings should be held outdoors if possible, or in a large open space where social distancing can be maintained.
For those sites with regular incoming and outgoing deliveries, the driver should remain in their vehicle while it’s being loaded and wash their hands both before and after handling delivery materials.
Employees should be instructed to take regular breaks to wash their hands, and additional handwashing facilities should be provided if possible – especially where there is a large number of people on-site at any one time. Handwashing facilities should also be regularly topped up and cleaned, and hand sanitiser and sanitising stations should be installed where possible as a further precaution. There should also be bins provided so staff can safely dispose of paper hand towels, and this should be regularly removed and disposed of.
Employers should use a dedicated attendant or signage to restrict the number of people using toilet facilities at any one time and ensure that staff are 2 metres apart when queuing. Hand washing and sanitising should also be mandatory before or after using toilet facilities. As well as that, toilet facilities should be cleaned much more regularly, with particular emphasis on door handles, toilet flushes and door locks which are all regularly touched. Using disposable hand towels is also essential, along with sufficient rubbish bins which are emptied regularly.
Employees should bring food to work where possible and be encouraged to stay on-site at lunchtime. On-site canteens should provide a takeaway option for food and the number of people allowed in the canteen at any one time should be limited. They should also encourage contactless card payments where possible. This means that the maximum capacity needs to be signposted and enforced, and social distancing should be practised within the canteen, in both queues and at seated tables. Staggering break times will help to limit the number of people on their break at one time and reduce the number of people that need to use the canteen. To do this, canteens may need to stay open for longer than normal to help facilitate this.
Any shared objects such as kettles or microwaves should be cleaned regularly, and employees should wash or sanitise their hands upon entering and exiting the canteen. Tables should also be cleaned after someone has used them, and rubbish disposed of by each employee after eating. Employers should also consider disposable cutlery as a temporary measure.
Canteen staff will need to take extra precautions and clean their hands much more often than normal, especially before or after handling food.
Maintaining Social Distance Guidelines
Work needs to be planned much more thoroughly to incorporate social distancing guidelines and avoid crowding and employees should be reminded of these guidelines daily.
Cleaning measures should be stepped up tenfold, particularly in communal areas such as toilets, doors, handrails, shared equipment, payment devices or machinery and lifts. Rubbish collections should also be increased to minimise the risk and spread of infection.
If you have any questions about how to socially distance your staff safely at this time, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with via the contact page.