The six-phase approach has been devised by the industry in line with Scottish government guidelines. It allows for a slow build-up of workforces to optimum capacity while physical distancing to prevent the spread of coronavirus remains in force.
Work in this phase on ‘non-essential’ sites can only be carried out within physical distancing parameters, stressed minister for local government, housing and planning Kevin Stewart.
Earlier stages of the plan included health and safety planning and risk assessments, followed by preparatory work to implement new cleaning measures, install signage and arrange appropriate security at construction sites.
“The health and safety of construction workers and the public remains the top priority as we begin to restart the industry,” said Stewart. “In considering the industry’s readiness to move to the next stage, we have taken an evidence-led approach. The sector’s response to this crisis continues to be responsible and measured, and I am satisfied that it is well-placed to progress into this next phase.
“I must reiterate, however, that easing restrictions will not mean returning to how things were before the virus. Physical distancing, hand hygiene, and other critical behaviours will be essential in each area to ensure public and workforce confidence. I am pleased that we are now able to take this significant step in safely returning the industry to work. “
First minister Nicola Sturgeon had announced the progress in a briefing yesterday. She said: “I am very grateful to the sector and trade unions for the very responsible approach that they have taken during an incredibly difficult time.
“It’s important to be very clear though, that we still have a long way to go before construction will be working at full capacity, but there is no doubt this is a significant step in allowing an important industry to return safely to work.”
The Construction Industry Coronavirus (CICV) Forum has welcomed the inclusion of domestic work will be included amongst the scope of construction work now permitted. It said that the news has been eagerly awaited by all parts of the industry for whom domestic work makes up a major part of their business, and follows recent restart discussions between the Forum and minister Kevin Stewart.
CICV Forum chair Alan Wilson, who is also managing director of electrical trade body Select, said: “The announcement about a return to work and the inclusion of domestic work in the lockdown easing will be a huge relief to the lots of businesses across the whole sector which provide essential services to homeowners all over Scotland.
“However, as always in construction, safety is the overriding consideration and firms must prepare to carry out work in a wholly changed working environment, which will produce its own new challenges.”
Fiona Hodgson, chief executive of forum member the Scottish & Northern Ireland Plumbing Employers’ Federation (SNIPEF), said: “The response from the construction industry across Scotland during this crisis has been impressive, coming together to take positive action for mutual benefit.
“While the announcement is welcome, we are not out of the woods yet and every company and employee involved in getting back to work needs to abide by the new restrictions under which we all must now operate.”
Housebuilder Cruden Group is among those gearing up to enter the next phase of the restart plan on 15th June. The ‘soft start’ will see Cruden’s workforce return to construction sites where physical distancing can be maintained. The Cruden Group safely closed down construction activities in line with Government advice on 24the March. The group has now carried out phased and controlled pre-start site preparations across its clients’ sites and its own housing developments and has prepared a detailed ‘safe return to work’ plan.
Preparatory works have included a strong focus on the implementation of physical distancing measures, enhanced hygiene regimes and the testing of new protocols in order to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of employees, sub-contractors and clients. The housebuilder has also produced a “pre-start pack” of documents for employees and partners which includes additional guidance, risk assessments and controls for site working. These new procedures will be applied and monitored in accordance with government and public health guidance.
During the course of this week, Cruden has engaged with Unite, the Scottish Building Federation, Scottish Futures Trust and Construction Scotland to demonstrate examples of best practice on site. Visits have been hosted to inform partners about the newly implemented operating procedures and as part of a consultation to inform the Scottish government’s industry restart group.