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Continuing your business safely:

COVID-19 considerations for construction projects

Good risk management practices in protecting your people and your business will continue to be crucial as restrictions, regulations and guidance change, with each phase of the pandemic inevitably creating new and different challenges.

It’s important to recognise that COVID-19 will have an impact on business operations and activities for some time to come. 

Where projects are scaled up or down, there can be an increased risk of:

  • accidents / injury
  • machinery / plant, equipment and / or services damage or breakdown
  • fire / explosion
  • escape of water issues

This may be caused by a variety of factors including delayed maintenance cycles, frequent start up and shut down procedures, changes in procurement and human factors.

Your business and site operations and activities may continue to change; for example, using different materials due to supply chain challenges, keeping an increased level of stock, introducing different processes or procedures, changes in shift patterns and staffing etc. Where these changes introduce new hazards or exposures, risk management measures, should all be reassessed and adapted. This may include: 

  • method statements
  • safe systems of work
  • working procedures and arrangements for training
  • cleaning / disinfection / sanitisation
  • inspection, maintenance and servicing of machinery / plant and equipment
  • fire and security protection systems
  • water damage management procedures

Reviewing your existing plans and actions will continue to be critical and provide for a safe working structure in which you can continue to operate.

If, however, you’re unable to maintain a safe working environment, then those operations should be postponed until corrective measures can be put in place.

The following provides a checklist of key considerations to safely continue your construction projects and activities:

Observe and enforce Covid-19 workplace restrictions in line with government regulations and guidance, including those relevant to:

  • travel to work
  • driving at work
  • welfare provision
  • cleaning / disinfection / sanitisation
  • social distancing
  • personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • staggered working hours and breaks
  • ventilation

Regulation and guidance requirements vary across the UK nations. Guidance is available from:

UK Government including COVID Secure guidance, and Public Health England

Welsh Government and Public Health Wales

Scottish Government and Health Protection Scotland

Northern Ireland Government

Health and Safety Executive (HSE)

Information relating to testing and vaccinations can be found on our testing and vaccination page and the People FAQs section of our Coronavirus Resource Hub. Further information can also be found via the above referenced government websites.

Specific guidance has also been produced by the Construction Leadership Council.

Continue to review existing project and site management plans (Construction Phase, Fire Safety, Water Damage, Traffic, Waste and Security for example), in addition to your own method statements and risk assessments (whether you are a principal contractor or subcontractor), to ensure that they are relevant to the operation of the site / your activities, and that you are taking all the appropriate measures to ensure a safe working environment.

Where site operations and control measures require change, plans should be updated, with new method statements and risk assessments completed and the results and consequent actions formally shared with your own employees (including any temporary and agency personnel), subcontractors, essential visitors, and where appropriate, your client. 

Include fire, water damage, security, and Covid-19 specific precautions in your review, implementing changes and / or enhancements where necessary to maintain an appropriate level of protection. Specific considerations may include:

  • the scope of fire and intruder alarm detection, CCTV coverage and guarding provision
  • opening / closing procedures
  • suitability, condition and maintenance of temporary water supplies
  • provision of adequate and suitable welfare facilities, including areas for safely changing, storing and drying clothing and personal protective equipment
  • arrangements for social / physical distancing, for example via:
    - work planning to avoid close working
    - managing breaks and welfare provision / use
    - use of vehicles and plant / machinery / equipment
    - restricting visitor access
    - careful management of site meetings and training delivery
    - improved signage
    - physical barriers (if considered appropriate)
    - personal protective equipment provision and use

Think about any other associated impacts of COVID-19, for example:

  • Do you or your appointed subcontractors have employees out of the business or the potential for increased absenteeism that could leave you with skills and operational gaps? Do contingency plans address this issue?
  • Is there a need to upskill existing employees or increase the pool of subcontractors or suppliers you use? If so, what arrangements are in place to assess competency and ensure that all involved understand their responsibilities.
  • Are all employees and operatives aware of method statements / safe systems of work and control measures identified through risk assessments for the tasks they are being asked to complete / or could be asked to complete?
  • Are arrangements for supervision adequate?
  • Is lone or isolated working accommodated? If it is, has an appropriate Policy, risk assessments and safe systems of work been implemented, communicated and tested? Are arrangements in place for regular review? Further support can be found on our lone and mobile workers page.
Further support can be found on the construction sector page of our risk management portal, in the Construction Insurance Risk Engineers Group (CIREG) Best Practice Guidance on Managing Escape of Water Risks on Construction Sites, and via the other links to external sources of guidance and information highlighted.
checklist on site
If you are the appointed principal contractor for the project, ensure that updated risk assessments and method statements are sourced from appointed subcontractors and reviewed to establish that they are suitable and sufficient, and dovetail / support your own site arrangements. In addition, ensure that subcontractors are aware of your expectations specific to the maintenance of a safe working environment.
Review existing pre-qualification requirements to establish the measures subcontractors are taking specific to assessing and controlling the risks associated with Covid-19, and the associated communication and training they are providing to their own employees / operatives under their control.
Review and update site rules to ensure that they reflect current arrangements. These need to be formally communicated to all site operatives (own employees, subcontractors and any temporary workers, including agency personnel).
Continue to consider staggered start and finish times to reduce people all arriving and leaving at the same time and reduce the risks that may be experienced as a result of the need for some to use public transport. Is provision of more than one appropriately controlled site entrance / exit point appropriate, to reduce pedestrian traffic?

Keep arrangements for materials, plant, machinery and equipment procurement under review to ensure that controls critical to health and safety can be maintained, including:

  • cleaning / disinfection / sanitisation
  • welfare related equipment and supplies
  • availability of PPE
  • maintenance and inspection (where external contractors are required re plant maintenance, electrical maintenance etc. are they available, can they get in when needed?)

Continue with regular inspections of your site, including

  • all temporary works (including scaffolding, excavations, propping, shorting etc.)
  • structures
  • site accommodation
  • perimeter protections
  • utility services
  • machinery / plant
  • materials
  • any hazardous operations
  • emergency back-up systems
  • safety equipment

to establish and correct any unsafe or abnormal conditions, such as damage, maintenance issues, leaks, faulty safety and emergency systems, improper housekeeping or storage, signs of vandalism or theft, water damage etc.

It is important to ensure that competent persons / contractors are appointed to complete inspection, maintenance, servicing, and repair work.

Maintain enhanced cleaning regimes (including additional cleaning stations and associated cleaning materials for example). Consider potential touchpoints, communal areas such as washing facilities, toilet flushes and seats, door handles and push plates, hand rails, access equipment, office equipment, machinery and mobile plant controls, food preparation areas and company vehicles for example.

In reviewing your training arrangements and competency requirements, specific consideration should be given the following:

  • Availability and responsibilities of key personnel
    - Site Managers
    - Site Supervisors
    - Site Fire Safety Co-ordinators
    - First aiders
    - Fire marshals
    - Mobile plant operators
    - Appointed persons, supervisors and trained operators where lifting operations are involved
    - Trained slingers and signalers where required
    - Provision of sufficent site labour and cleaners to ensure that good housekeeping standards can be maintained
  • Formal induction / re-induction
    - All operatives and visitors (where permitted). Re-induction should be specifically considered for any operatives returing post Covid-19 and / or following periods of self-isolation
    - Include on-going expectations and controls relating to Covid-19 (social distancing measures, staggered start times, cleaning and sanitisation for example) and any amendment to site rules
    - Continue to consider the specific requirements of any vulnerable workers (young persons, new and expectant mothers, any groups identified as being at risk of severe illness as a result of Covid-19, etc.)
  • Other training needs
    - Expired tickets, certificates and interim measures. Most training providers and bodies are now offering a service, with as a consequence, previous interim arrangements / dispensations around renewals, no longer in place or valid
    - (Re)Familiarisation of the site and plant for returning operatives and operatives potentially not having operated plant or been in a site environment for a significant period of time
  • Training delivery
    - Controls around social and physical distancing for example, are likely to impact the practicalities of training delivery, including induction and toolbox talks. This should be considered as part of the risk assessment process, including available facilities, numbers that can be safely accommodated, duration, ventilation, potential barriers to communication etc.

Insufficient arrangements for training or gaps in knowledge are key factors contributing to accidents during the pandemic. So, continue to ensure employees (including temporary workers and agency personnel) and subcontractors have the competence and capability for the work activities to be carried out, through the necessary skills, training and licensing requirements.

Additional training programs and / or certification, instruction, information and supervision may be required, where there is an insufficient number of competent personnel.

Refer to your “return-to-work-policy” (where in place), as this will provide structure to ensuring people are ‘fit for work’, with mental health and well-being considered in addition to physical fitness.

Further support can be found on our training page.

Ensure employees and other partners (subcontractors for example) are kept informed of what's changed or changing, your key expectations and the measures maintained or being implemented so that they remain safe and protected. Think about:

  • What needs to be communicated and when?
  • Who do you need to communicate with - the audience?
  • What's the most effective method of communication likely to be?
  • How do you confirm and monitor understanding?
Regularly review emergency response procedures to verify they are up-to-date and there is adequate coverage for assigned positions, including for example first aiders and fire marshals. Further support can be found on our emergency procedures.
Keep your business continuity plan under review, including supply chain resilience (materials, machinery and equipment parts and components, including software where relevant) and implement mitigation measures as appropriate, to reflect any changes to your business operation and lessons learned during the pandemic. Visit our business continuity page for further support.

The risk management information and guidance provided herein is not intended to be advice for any specific requirements.

Readers should seek further advice when dealing with their individual and particular situations. Allianz Insurance plc shall have no liability for any action taken as a result of and in reliance on the information contained in this document. The information contained in this document is correct at date of going to print and may be subject to change at any time.  All rights reserved