On 18 May, the Construction Leadership Council (“CLC”) published v.4 of its Site Operating Procedure (“SOP”). You can access the SOP here (https://www.constructionleadershipcouncil.co.uk/news/site-operating-procedures-version-4-published/).
The updated SOP takes into account the Government’s COVID-19 Secure guidelines for construction and outdoor worksites published by Government on 11 May (the “Guidelines”). The most significant changes reported by CLC are:
• Removal of the requirement for face to face contact to be kept to 15 minutes or less
• The section on PPE now links to the latest Government guidance on face coverings
• References to one-way systems and the reconfiguration of seating and tables and an update on portable toilets
• The requirement to share risk assessments with the workforce
• Clarification on when to travel to work, as set out in the Government’s COVID-19 Recovery Strategy
• Updated links and wording on social distancing.
Face to face working
Instead of requiring face to face working lasting for no more than 15 minutes the SOP has adopted the recommendations in the Guidelines, which include keeping face to face working to the minimum time necessary and considering all alternative methods of working first. They also recommend cohorting and paired working to keep the number of people workers have contact with to a minimum.
The Guidelines do not recommend precautionary PPE in non-clinical settings save for in a very limited number of scenarios. It’s not clear from the SOP if it adopts the position entirely or if it considers it appropriate to consider PPE when social distancing can’t be maintained. Ultimately, both documents leave decisions on PPE for the employer/operator based on an assessment of risk. The CLC SOP defers entirely to the Guidelines on use of face coverings which distinguish face coverings from PPE. The Guidelines do not require that face coverings be provided to workers but do point out that they “may be worn in enclosed spaces where social distancing isn’t possible” and that there may be some evidence of them being “marginally beneficial” as a “precautionary measure” to prevent the spread of virus to others.
The Guidelines have no legal authority so care should be taken to satisfy not merely compliance with them but that all reasonably practicable steps to minimise risk so far as possible have been taken. This is the test required to be met to discharge the legal duties. We urge extra care in considering whether PPE of some form or another is necessary to minimise risk so far as reasonably practicable, particularly in circumstances where staff are working face to face in close proximity. Keep detailed records in the event that decision-making is required to be defended in court.