New guidance from the Scottish government on public health during the coronavirus crisis makes clear that work on construction projects should only continue if it is directly crucial to combatting the coronavirus pandemic.
Even then, even essential projects can only continue operating if they can comply with guidance on social distancing, safety and welfare during the Covid-19 outbreak. Any site unable to meet these requirements should close.
Essential projects include:
- those to create or repurpose facilities which will be used directly in Covid-19 related activities;
- projects to create or repurpose facilities that will be used to accommodate key workers, or free-up space in facilities to be used directly in Covid-19 related activities;
- projects that are considered essential public services;
- the repair and maintenance of critical infrastructure.
The government gives examples of ‘essential’ projects, including Edinburgh Children’s Hospital and Department of Clinical Neurosciences. The work is not directly contributing to the Covid-19 situation at this point, but could provide additional capacity if the situation changes, it says.
Economy secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “We recognise that this is an extremely difficult time for businesses of all kinds, but the Scottish government’s priority is saving lives and fighting Covid-19. To this end, all construction sites should close unless they are essential to the health and welfare of the country during this crisis. I want to make clear our thanks to the construction workers who are continuing to work on these essential projects.
“This guidance offers clear and comprehensive advice on how the industry should respond in these unprecedented and difficult times. I am grateful to the STUC [Scottish Trades Union Congress], Unite the Union and Construction Scotland for their input. In this public health emergency it is vital that all businesses act responsibly and align fully with the social distancing measures introduced to protect the nation’s heath, well-being and economic future.”
In a letter sent to highway authorities and senior managers of utility companies, the Office of the Scottish Road Works Commissioner said: “You will no doubt have seen the latest guidance from the Scottish government advising that all non-essential construction activity should stop to reduce the spread of Covid-19. However, there are some essential areas where work needs to continue to ensure that vital services are provided including electricity, gas, heat, water, transport and telecommunications networks.
“In terms of road works, in my statement of 27 March 2020, my guidance was that only works falling within the emergency and urgent works categories as defined in the Code of Practice for the Co-ordination of Works in Roads were likely to pass the test of being essential for the wellbeing of society. For the avoidance of doubt, this may include the provision of vital electricity, gas, heat, water, transport and telecommunications works to assist in the management of Covid-19 and mitigate its spread.”
The statement from the government says that work on construction in the following sectors should be halted at this stage, subject to limited exceptions:
- domestic housing
- schools, further and higher education institutions and early years provision
- office buildings and other commercial properties
- garages and showrooms
- community centres
- non-health related civic buildings
- public realm - hard and soft including (but not limited to) roads, which includes footpaths, footways, cycle lanes and verges; pavements; parks; and grassy areas
- justice and custodial
Operations should be shut down safely and securely, ensuring that partially-built structures are safe, and if necessary wind- and water-tight, associated equipment is properly stored, and sites have suitable security for the duration. As an exception, if sites can be safely completed within five working days they can be completed. Companies should put in place suitable arrangements for monitoring site security and safety, and personnel may be allowed on-site to carry out essential remedial work in line with existing contracts, or in the light of urgent work emerging.