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How the construction industry can survive the "pingdemic"

How the construction industry can survive the "pingdemic"

How the construction industry can survive the "pingdemic"

Further to our recent article providing guidance for businesses in all sectors on the government’s self-isolation rules (available here), the Construction Leadership Council (CLC) has published updated construction specific guidance on the rules for self-isolation and Site Operating Procedures (SOP). Below is our overview.

What is the CLC guidance?

The guidance notes that construction workers must self-isolate immediately if:

  1. They have symptoms of COVID-19
  2. They have tested positive for COVID-19
  3. Someone they live with has symptoms or tested positive
  4. They have been told by NHS Test and Trace that they have been in contact with someone who has tested positive
  5. They have arrived from a ‘Red List’ country or an ‘Amber List’ country and have not been fully vaccinated

The guidance also explains that if a worker receives an alert from the NHS Covid-19 smartphone app, rather than being contacted by NHS Test and Trace, although there is no legal requirement for the worker to self-isolate it is still advised by the CLC. This is different to if a worker is contacted by NHS Test and Trace, where it is a legal requirement to self-isolate.

There are certain exemptions from self-isolation. These exemptions will only apply to construction workers in an extremely limited number of circumstances. The main exemption which may apply in the construction industry is if the worker’s absence will have a major detrimental impact on the availability, integrity and delivery of essential services. The guidance explains that this exemption includes where a worker’s absence may compromise the integrity of a building and could cause significant loss of life and casualties. This may apply in construction projects if urgent safety works are required.

What are the changes from 16 August 2021?

The guidance explains that, from 16 August 2021, if a worker has been fully vaccinated they will not have to self-isolate if they come into contact with someone who has tested positive. The worker is advised to take a PCR test as soon as possible.

On 23 July 2021 the CLC published a separate press release calling for these rules to be moved forward, commenting that businesses across the industry are being “severely hampered” as workers are forced to self-isolate. The press release comments that this further exacerbates problems in the industry, such as the materials shortage. In the CLC’s call for the 16 August rules to be moved forward, Andy Mitchell (CLC Co-Chair) is quoted: “We have reports from across the industry of plants, sites and offices having to wind down activities as staff have been asked to isolate. This is putting very significant pressure on the sector, risking project delivery and even the viability of some firms”.

Site Operating Procedures (SOP)

The CLC’s SOP were originally published in March 2020 as a set of measures which could be taken on construction sites to ensure workers adhered to the latest COVID-19 rules. It was strongly recommended by the CLC that all the procedures were implemented on all operational construction sites. The SOP were regularly updated to remain in line with the latest government guidance and legal restrictions.

Since Monday 19 July 2021, nearly all legal restrictions have been lifted in England. The CLC has not updated the SOP in line with this lifting of restrictions, but have kept the SOP as a reference document for companies in the construction industry on the procedures they should follow during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Summary

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to cause disruption in the construction industry, affecting supply chains and causing workers to self-isolate. These disruptions are further compounding wider issues such as the materials shortage and Brexit. The SOP and guidance from the CLC have helped the construction industry adopt standard COVID-19 practices and acted as a guide through the turbulent last 18 months. Given that the pandemic continues across the country, the CLC guidance and SOP will remain a helpful reference point for the construction industry. The SOP should continue to be followed, as far as possible, to mitigate against the risk of the spread of infections and workers being required to self-isolate.

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