workers at risk, site operating procedures

Unite the Union has sent an open letter to Mark Reynolds, the skills workstream lead of the Construction Leadership Council (CLC), warning that the organisation’s site operating procedures (SOP) are placing workers at risk

Various versions of the CLC’s operating procedures have acted as a template for a safe site during the pandemic, with the latest version published last week.

Unite is primarily concerned about the section which deals with Work Planning to Avoid Close Working which states: “If you are not able to work while maintaining a two-metre distance, you should consider whether the activity should continue.” It goes on to say “that management should minimise the frequency and time workers are within two metres of each other.”

Unite has called for site work to be planned in a way that allows social distancing to be maintained with appropriate protection for workers on the very rare occasions when this is not possible and working within two metres of each other cannot be avoided.

However, the SOP version four says: “Workplaces should not encourage the precautionary use of extra PPE to protect against Coronavirus (COVID-19).” The union says that it will not support any guidance that could deny construction workers the appropriate PPE.

Personal protective equipment

In the open letter to Mark Reynolds, Unite construction officer Jerry Swain said: “The SOP could and should be revised to explicitly state that the job should not be undertaken without appropriate PPE, which of course would include masks.”

Unite also raises a similar concern about more than one person travelling together in a work vehicle and says that if two-metre social distancing cannot be maintained then workers should be supplied with an appropriate mask which must be worn.

The industry is under the spotlight

Jerry Swain said: “Since the pandemic began, the CLC has become the go-to place for construction sites trying to operate and keep workers safe.

“It is essential that the information in the site operating procedures is clear, comprehensive and complete. As the procedures are currently written, the health of workers is placed at risk.

“Unite has been constructive in the development of these procedures throughout and has fed its views into the CLC. It is imperative that the CLC ends the confusion and republishes revised procedures.

“No one should be required to work within two metres of someone else on a construction site and on the extremely rare occasion when this is simply not possible then the full appropriate PPE must be issued. It is also essential workers are fully trained in the safe usage of this equipment.

“Our industry is under the spotlight; now is the time for the CLC to show leadership and do the right thing by workers. I truly hope, for the sake of our workers’ health and the battle against the spread of this virus that Unite receives a positive response from the CLC.”

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