This document is one of a set of documents about how to work safely in different types of workplace. This guidance is intended for use by the construction sector. It first came into effect on 6 April 2020 and extends until further notice. Companies should consider their operations in light of this guidance.
This guide is underpinned by a spirit of collaborative working between companies and their workforce. Throughout, the term companies and trade union or workforce representatives is used in that context, recognising that companies have a legal responsibility to maintain workplace health and safety and must consult with the health and safety representative selected by a recognised trade union or, if there is not one, a representative chosen by workers. Companies cannot decide who the workforce representative will be.
In line with the joint position published by the Scottish Government and the relevant Health and Safety enforcement authorities, it is essential that employers carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment. These should be developed where possible together with union health and safety representatives. For workplaces, without union representation, union health and safety representatives will be available upon request to support the development of workplace risk assessments.
The guidance emphasises in particular the importance of undertaking a robust and ongoing risk based assessment with full input from trade union or workforce representatives, and to keep all risk mitigation measures under regular review so that workplaces continue to feel, and be, safe.
Publication of this guidance does not signal a change in Scotland’s lockdown policy, except where otherwise indicated.
The Coronavirus (COVID-19): framework for decision making – Scotland’s route map through and out of the crisis, was published on 21 May and states that in Phase 1: We are also planning for the construction sector to implement the first two phases in its restart plan (planning and pre-start site preparations) with a decision to move to 'phase 2' of the construction sector's plan (soft re-start) only after consulting with government to ensure it is safe to do so and in line with public health advice. Decisions on the timing of progression through phases will be made in line with the Route Map.
Business and physical distancing
This guidance should be read in conjunction with the Scottish Government’s business and physical distancing guidance. It provides further guidance for the construction sector to help businesses determine what constitutes ‘essential’ work that may be able to continue.
As laid out in the business and physical distancing guidance, essential services are defined in relation to the 13 Critical National Infrastructure (CNI) sectors (energy; communications (Telecommunications, Public Broadcast, Postal Services, Internet), government, transport, finance, civil nuclear, defence, chemicals, space, health, food, water and waste, and emergency services). The 13 CNI sectors collectively provide the essential services on which daily life depends and each sector has critical interdependencies with the others.
The Scottish Government has initiated a broad collaborative process to develop sectoral guidance which will underpin that managed transition and provide clarity and confidence to industry, employees and local communities, protect public health and concurrently optimise economic recovery. Aligned with that we are reviewing and enhancing testing and enforcement arrangements, and ensuring that the guidance is coherent and connected, recognising for example transport and other inter-dependencies.
We are working with the UK Government to align our approach and guidance, where possible and on the basis of scientific evidence on the levels of infection in Scotland. This guidance aims to assist employers, businesses and their workforce ensure a safe working environment and readers will recognise consistent themes within this guidance with the UK Government’s Working Safely during COVID-19 publications.
The Scottish Government has high expectations of how fair work principles should be applied during the current crisis and have issued a joint statement with the STUC which should be taken into account when applying this guidance.
Companies should ensure their health and safety professionals and representatives have the skills, training and knowledge to understand the risks associated with COVID-19. Where companies and their workforce do not have access to these skills in-house they should together explore external support options to put in place appropriate mitigation measures, for example through their trade association, health and safety consultancies or trade union health and safety representatives. All can help companies understand the risks associated with different activities and situations within individual companies and offer the support managers and workers may require.
As the Test, Trace, Isolate, Support approach rolls out (Test and Protect as we are calling it), all workers should continue to follow health protection advice to isolate either themselves or as part of their households should anyone in the household exhibit COVID-19 symptoms. Advice within workplaces should continually remind people of the symptoms to look for and clear advice be provided on how to respond should symptoms become apparent at work. Advice for employers on helping staff who need to self-isolate is also available.
This document contains further guidance on construction sites and associated works that can continue under specific conditions.
There has been an unprecedented package of support announced from both the Scottish and UK Governments to support businesses.
This support should help many employers preserve their business, maintain jobs and pay their workers throughout this crisis. Information on this support is available through findbusinesssupport.gov.scot. We urge all businesses to make use of this.
In the event of construction site closures all available support measures must be utilised to protect the jobs and incomes of construction workers.