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Wed July 15 2020

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Coronavirus Site Operating Procedures revisions ripped up

3 Apr The two-metre rule for construction sites remains just a good idea today, and not actually mandatory. That’s the conclusion to be drawn from yesterday’s carry-on among industry leaders.

Social distancing on site. Image posted by Tim Brownbridge, BAM Nuttall academy manager
Social distancing on site. Image posted by Tim Brownbridge, BAM Nuttall academy manager

A new version of the new Site Operating Procedures was published yesterday by the Construction Leadership Council but withdrawn within just a couple of hours after ‘feedback’.

Version 2 of the coronavirus Site Operating Procedures for the construction industry stated that where it is not possible or safe for workers to distance themselves from each other by two metres then work should not be carried out.

Version 1 had only said that contractors should do their best to observe the two-metre rule, not that they should stop work if they cannot.

Version 1 acknowledged that “There will be situations where it is not possible or safe for workers to distance themselves from each other by two metres.”

But Version 2 added a crucial extra sentence, saying: "In these situations, work should not be carried out."

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Less controversially, Version 2 also added the request from Transport for London to avoid using the tube network during peak times. And the guidance from Public Health England was updated in regard to the need for self-isolation for those living with someone who has shown signs of Covid-19 infection or is shielding.

But the Construction Leadership Council, an unelected body of ministerial appointees, had failed to carry genuine industry leaders with it and was forced into a speedy climb down. Any tightening of the rules for the construction industry was too much for certain important people to tolerate, it seems.

While it has not yet emerged who it was that forced the CLC into a climb-down, two or three hours after putting Version 2 online, the CLC had withdrawn it, with the coda: “There has been significant feedback on the update Site Operating Procedures Version 2. Whilst the feedback is reviewed the CCL has re-issued Version 1 which is the document the industry should be complying with.”

The Site Operating Procedures, and its revisions, are produced for the CLC by the Build UK trade federation. This morning Build UK said: “Unfortunately, the updated version issued yesterday resulted in more confusion than clarity… We are extremely sorry for any disruption caused; like many of you, we are doing our best to keep construction operational whilst protecting the health of our people during these difficult times.”

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