How can you continue to ensure that you are working safely in a world where the threat from Covid-19 will be with us for the foreseeable? Professional Builder’s Lee Jones investigates the newly developed answers.
This year, a new phrase entered common parlance and quickly became an established part of our every-day vocabulary. Social distancing is now as obligatory as a hard hat and safety boots and, with construction one of the first industries to return to work, it has faced the considerable challenge of trying to implement the necessary site operating procedures whilst maintaining levels of productivity. That predicament has opened a space where innovation can move in, and a number of companies are adapting existing products, or developing entirely new ones, in order to help protect the trades.
Throughout the lockdown it was essential that many builders continued to go about their business. The Construction Leadership Council has been keeping the industry up-to-date with the necessary guidance on how to tradespeople can do just that – and a link to the latest edition of its Site Operating Procedures can be found at the end of this feature. In addition, the Government has since introduced a set of complementary Covid-19 Secure guidelines for construction companies. Again, you can make use of our digital reader enquiry service to directly access the gov.uk website and view the new directives.
The Construction Industry Training Board has produced a complementary and interactive compliance checklist for the above, which can be amended with additional comments to ensure it aligns with specific site policies. It should be important to note that there has already been incidents of sites being shut down having failed to maintain social distancing rules, and an extra £14million has been allocated to the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) to help police the new regime. As a consequence, main contractors in particular are likely to be stringently enforcing the new instructions so, if you are subbing for a larger company, compliance will very much be a condition of continuing to work on that site. If you’re working in other people’s homes then there is additional support available on the same gov.uk website, the details of which can be found in the information box at the conclusion of this feature.
Maintaining that all important two metre gap, is just one part of a multi-layered response to the coronavirus, with regular and thorough hand-washing also recommended. Clearly disinfecting surfaces amongst the muck and bullets of a building site is not the easiest proposition, but there are always areas where we can help prevent transmission. If your business is concerned with repair, maintenance and improvement works in residential properties, for example, then ensuring you have a Covid-19 hygiene regime in place will certainly do contractor and client relations no harm, and could be one of those easy wins that will earn an all-important referral from a satisfied customer.
Indeed, it will have already become apparent to tradespeople that a range of adjustments to our working practices will be demanded of them. Materials are taking longer to arrive from the merchants, for instance, which means greater forward planning is required. With some branches still only operating a click and collect service the days of a quick trip to the trade counter are gone, so whatever’s required for the job needs to be in place in good time. Toilet and welfare facilities will need to be given far more thought on even the smallest of jobs, whilst the build should be planned so that you are minimising contact with the customer. Can you offer a contactless quotation service, for instance, by assessing the job alone and then emailing the details?
Clearly thought and planning is required and Bureau Veritas has launched a service to help construction companies do just that. Its ‘Return To Work Assurance’ solution provides a voluntary, independent assessment of a firm’s Covid-19 readiness. On completion a statement of assurance is then issued which can be displayed on its website and at its properties. The scheme covers best practice measures required by companies to meet standards, including social distancing and personal protection equipment requirements.
At the beginning of the epidemic, when shortages began to emerge, hand sanitiser was one of the first casualties, and a number of building material manufacturers utilised their existing expertise in chemicals to respond. Permaroof, a name already familiar to roofers for its Firestone RubberCover EPDM product, has diversified its own range with the introduction of Ramsol Sanitiser Disinfectant Spray. Developed by Quin Global, it contains misting technology designed to sanitise and disinfect any hard to reach and intricate areas, while ensuring full surface coverage. It deals rapidly and effectively with bacteria, fungi and moulds and has been tested against enveloped and non-enveloped viruses.
As Adrian Buttress, managing director at Permaroof, explains it is a product he believes can be supplied to its existing customer base: “It’s of paramount importance that we are proactive and react to changing trade needs by diversifying the range of products we have on offer for our customers. It’s a product unlike anything else we offer at Permaroof that, I believe, will be a huge help to our customers in the months to come and going forward.”
HMG Paints has made use of its alcohol stock, and the expertise of its in-house chemists, to enter the same market with its First Thing Sanitiser. Based on World Health Organisation recommended formulations, the company has been distributing the product to its own customers, whilst also setting aside stock to donate to frontline workers.
Door hardware specialist, Armada has taken the sanitation a stage further with its SaniBucket. It’s a sturdy bucket with lid and handle, filled with a range of useful items such as hand sanitiser, face masks, anti-baterial wipes, vinyl gloves and can be easily stored on each company van.
A more industrial solution to the same issue can be found from Graco. Its SaniSpray HP airless disinfectant sprayer is a fast and thorough method of sanitising, disinfecting and deodorising jobs. Utilising the airless paint specialists existing technology, it offers consistent and thorough surface coverage.
JSP are already a well-established player in the health & safety sector and they have made us of that expertise in developing a new Helmet Mounted Cough Guard. Intended to complement social distancing amongst workers, the screen reduces the likelihood of any exhaled airborne droplets directly contacting the wearer’s face and helps prevent touching of the face, and is compatible with the same manufacturer’s helmet-mounted ear defenders respiratory products.
In the months ahead we must all work together to stay apart, and technology has a role to play. SiteZone Safety already has a considerable pedigree in producing devices that alert construction plant operators of the presence of workers on foot around their machine, and has extended that proven concept to its personnel distancing system (PDS).
In fact, in order to keep that crucial 2m distance, the proximity warning specialist, donated six of these systems to key construction staff on site at NHS Nightingale, Birmingham. The PDS consists of a small, lightweight 2kg pack, and a detection ‘tag’ which can be worn on the safety hat, attached to a belt or upper arm, with 100 hours of rechargeable battery life. The ‘trigger’ point, or “exclusion zone” can be configured to suit the site’s needs, and the unit is easy to charge. The proximity alarms are triggered if workers get too close to each other, when both their wearable tags will vibrate and the PDS alarms.
Another social distancing technology from safety company, Tended pairs its existing wearable safety solution with an ultra-wideband proximity sensor. It will then automatically notify workers in real time if they come within a two-metre distance, whilst companies can also set the minimum separation distance they want to enforce. The system also provides employers with an overview of any social distance breaches within their organisation and how long employees have been in contact with others. A useful feature is its ability to trace contact back. If a worker tests positive for Covid-19, employers can see who, if anyone, they have been in contact with and for how long, and send them an alert to self-isolate or get tested themselves.
Plant and Machinery
It’s not just about people because if plant and machinery has been left idle for a significant period then it may well need additional checks before it can be brought back into service. The Construction Plant-hire Association Guidance on Pre-operational Checks is resource that builders can consult in order to stay safe.
To access the CPA Guidance on Pre-operational Checks visit cpa.uk.net/news-events/guidanceenhancedpre-operationalchecks/
To review the latest Site Operating Procedures from the Construction Leadership Council visit constructionleadershipcouncil.co.uk/news/site-operating-procedures-version-4-published
For an accompanying CITB checklist to the above visit citb.co.uk/documents/coronavirus/cc01_site_operating_procedures_compliance_checklist.pdf
For the latest government guidance on working safely on site during the coronavirus visit gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/construction-and-other-outdoor-work
If you’re working in other people’s homes visit gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/homes