As the debate as to whether construction sites should shut down continues, the Construction Leadership Council has published version 3 of their Site Operating Procedures – Protecting Your Workforce During Coronavirus (Covid-19). This replaces version 1, version 2 having been withdrawn following industry feedback.

A number of the changes are mere tinkering around the edges. However, the new SOP looks in greater detail at how workers travel to site – ideally alone, using their own transport. For many London sites, provision of additional parking will be impossible. Where public transport is the only option, sites should look at changing and staggering site hours and avoiding using public transport during peak times (05:45 – 07:30 and 16:00 – 17:30).

There is also guidance around site access and use of signage to ensure social distancing is maintained. For canteens and rest areas, a distance of 2 metres should be maintained “wherever possible”.  

Much of the criticism around construction sites during the pandemic has pointed at repeated breaches of the social distancing guidance. The workers stood together chatting on the site near my home are certainly causing rumblings among the locals. However, in many instances the nature of the task requires workers to operate in close confines. The SOP’s guidance around close working gives no clear answer as to what work can continue. It refers to Public Health England (PHE) guidelines and says where you cannot follow social distancing guidelines for a particular activity  “you should consider whether that activity needs to continue for the site to continue to operate, and, if so, take all the mitigating actions possible to reduce the risk of transmission”. However, in setting out a ‘hierarchy of controls’ for risk assessment for such activity, the suggestion remains that work can continue with mitigation measures. How the hierarchy of controls will impact the thinking of those sites which have already closed remains to be seen.