Health and safety for construction lone workers during the Covid-19 pandemic

Employers must safeguard construction lone workers’ health & safety in the Covid-19 pandemic.
Employers must safeguard construction lone workers’ health & safety in the Covid-19 pandemic.

Construction has been one of the first parts of the UK economy encouraged back to work since Covid-19 lockdown restrictions lifted. With the UK economy now in a coronavirus-related recession, there is all likelihood that construction will be one of the sectors which will be operating at full capacity during the recovery phase. The UK government has already signalled that infrastructure projects will probably be heavily favoured in the future to help the economy recover. For construction lone workers and their employers, it’s all the more important that they can stay safe while working on busier construction sites. In this blog, we’ll be looking at the health and safety of these workers during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Government guidance about working safely in construction

Across the UK as a whole, the construction sector employs some 2.1 million workers. Typically, there are many jobs in the sectors where working alone is a major component of the job. For instance, roles involving security at plant or on sites will involve regular stints of working out-of-sight of colleagues. And for smaller operations in particular, workers can be working alone on certain shifts. The sector takes its responsibilities towards lone workers seriously – not least because the stakes are often high for accidents in construction.

With the current conditions, it’s both the health and safety of construction lone workers that is in the spotlight. The government has published a sector guide to working safely in construction during the Covid-19 pandemic. https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/construction-and-other-outdoor-work On the plus side, construction projects are mostly outdoors, which in itself limits the risks of coronavirus spreading. Less positively, it can be difficult to maintain social distance for certain tasks and at various phases of the construction process.

Protecting construction lone workers against a full range of risks

The guidance points out that it’s of course still vital to consider non-coronavirus risks for construction workers. It’s important to keep risk assessments up to date, and to have clear lines of communication around safety policies and procedures. If PPE is normally needed in a particular role, it should still be worn as usual. There is no substitute for safety helmets, gloves, eye protection, high-visibility clothing, safety footwear and safety harnesses. Some roles may involve respiratory protective equipment, such as face masks used to protect against dust or fumes. However, employers may also decide to recommend separate face coverings for lone working roles involving more indoor activity and client-facing roles to limit the asymptomatic spread of coronavirus.

As for the specifics of reducing coronavirus risks, these focus on maintaining social distance and limiting contact where at all possible. It can help if people are split and fixed into teams or shift groups, especially if workers are staying in onsite accommodation so that where contact is unavoidable, this happens between the same people. For shared tools, materials or job instructions, employers should find ways to remove direct contact, for example by using drop-off points or transfer zones. Minimising worker congregation at bottlenecks such as timeclocks, entrances and exits and maintaining social distancing during shift handovers. Employers should also improve their cleaning and sanitising protocols to minimise contact transmission. But the key action which construction lone workers can take, in common with everyone else, is frequent hand washing.

Safe Hub provides all-round protection for construction lone workers

Safe Hub can provide emergency, proactive, reactive, and virtual barrier protection for all construction lone worker roles, whenever employees need it. The focus at the moment is rightly on protecting the health of employees and preventing the spread of coronavirus. But it’s also vital for construction sector employers not to overlook all the usual safety issues that impact on lone workers. The construction sector has higher than average rates of workplace injury compared to other sectors, and many such injuries affect lone workers. What’s more, social distancing protocols mean that more workers are likely to be out of sight of colleagues on site.

Many of the safety risks to construction lone workers focus on slip, trip and fall scenarios. With the reactive Worker Down fall and detection impact feature, construction lone workers have rapid access to help from emergency services. But there can also be times where construction lone workers need to trigger an active emergency alert, which is when Red Alert comes into its own. Meanwhile, the Safe Beacon function is especially useful for workers dealing with hazardous materials. By setting up virtual barriers around areas storing such materials, employers can set up dynamic risk notifications to workers to pay attention to the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) regulations which might affect them. And those staff can easily signal if they get into trouble in an area where they need to spend limited time. #ConstructionLoneWorkers #BackToWork #CustomisedSafety #LoneWorkerSafety

Contact Lone Worker Solutions and the Safe Hub team today to find out more about health and safety for construction lone workers during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Post by Spencer Wild

Spencer is an Account Executive at Lone Worker Solutions (LWS). As well as supporting existing clients, he works to introduce new clients to Safe Hub, and its package of emergency, buddy, proactive, reactive, broadcast and virtual barrier protection for anyone working alone or out of sight of colleagues. The system supports lone and remote workers on the widest possible array of BS8484:2016 Gold Certified devices, including Android, Apple and Windows smartphones, BlackBerrys, standard mobiles, PCs, intrinsically safe devices, specialist personal safety devices and satellite phones.