Business and physical distancing
This guidance should be read in conjunction with business and physical distancing guidance.
Physical distancing duties are set out in regulation 4(1) of the Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions) (Scotland) Regulations 2020. A person who is responsible for carrying on a business or providing a service must take all reasonable measures:
- to ensure that a distance of 2 metres is maintained between any persons on the premises (except between members of the same household or a carer and the person assisted by the carer)
- to ensure that they only admit people to its premises in sufficiently small numbers to make it possible to maintain that distance
- to ensure that a distance of 2 metres is maintained between any person waiting to enter the premises (except between members of the same household or a carer and the person assisted by the carer)
The construction industry has now developed alternative working methods for many of the activities that would traditionally have required close working. The need for close working, using PPE, is therefore limited to a reduced range of critical activities and situations for which no alternative method of working has yet been found.
Health Protection Scotland (HPS) have provided COVID-19 information and guidance for general (non-healthcare) settings which offers advice on the use of PPE, confirming workplaces should use PPE consistent with local policies and in line with measures justified by a risk assessment. Both the Scottish Government and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recommend a risk based approach focused on a hierarchy of control which seeks to eliminate risks, combat risks at source, adapt workplaces to individual needs, ensure adequate staff training around processes to manage the risk and then use PPE where required. Where PPE is deemed necessary, an adequate supply and quality must be maintained which is provided free of charge to workers and which must fit properly.
The HPS guidance also reiterates that people should not travel if they exhibit any COVID-19 symptoms. The HPS advice and any subsequent safe travelling advice should be factored into company decisions on planned returns to work.
We have 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.
We have 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.
In line with Test and Protect everyone should follow the NHS Inform guidance on self-isolation if they or anyone in their household shows coronavirus symptoms.
The priority is to public health in order to break the chain of transmission of COVID-19. Advice for employers on helping staff who need to self-isolate is also available.
Support for businesses and workers
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.