Does The Back To Work Order Create Difficulty For Construction Workers?

As the country now enters its ninth week of lockdown amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the Prime Minister addressed the nation last week, telling us that ‘anyone who can’t work from home, for instance those in construction or manufacturing, should be actively encouraged to go to work.’  Guidance has been published for employers on how they can encourage staff back to work in a safe manner.  One particular document is specifically for ‘Construction and other outdoor work’ which sets out the safe working measures when returning to work on site.

Many sites across the country are reviewing their procedures to stay in line with the safe working rules, but many of their workers are worried as they rely on public transport to travel to work, and government guidelines warn against using public transport where possible.

This is all likely to cause conflict, as aside from public transport issues, social distancing of 2 metres can be difficult to maintain on a building site, particularly where certain jobs require more than 1 person.  With PPE being in such short supply, this too is likely to be a bone of contention between employers and employees.

Employees have a legal right to raise concerns about their health and safety and can refuse to work if they feel that they are at imminent risk of harm, without fear of disciplinary action.  This could, of course, present site managers with a huge challenge; the health and safety of the whole workforce has to be paramount. Those not prepared to take the risk of going back to work, and those who are not adhering to the social distancing rules whilst at work will surely be causing their employers more stress.

One thing is true though; in order for the economy to even begin to recover, all sectors of industry need to be working, whether it be in construction or manufacturing. And whether the current conditions employees are forced to work under will be the ‘new normal’ remains to be seen.

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What Coronavirus means for the Construction and Trades Industries

New measures came into force on 23rd March stating that you should only leave home for one of four reasons; shopping for basic essentials and medicine, one form of exercise a day, medical needs or caring for the vulnerable, and travelling to and from work but only where this cannot be done from home.

There are many industries where it is impossible to work from home, and one of these is construction.  In order for our economy to stay buoyant, industry and manufacturing must keep up production, as so many other sectors are closing down for the foreseeable future.

A growing number of construction companies have downed tools in a bit to help stop the spread of the coronavirus, but there still seems to be some confusion about the government’s advice about social distancing, and whether all construction is deemed as essential.

The government has said that work can continue so long as social distancing rules are adhered to. Some argue that a 2 meter distance between people on construction sites is not only difficult to police, but also to maintain.  In the light of this, many house builders have closed their sites amid fears that spreading the virus was a very real danger.

Shortly after lockdown rules had been announced, the Communities and Housing Secretary, Robert Jenrick stated: ”It’s important that we make sure that construction and manufacturing can continue and that seems to me to be the safest way of ensuring that we can maintain appropriate social distancing rules in a way which ensures that people who cannot work from home continue to do so.”

However, not all construction is carried out on large sites.  Many builders have to enter people’s homes in order to carry out their work.  Work on home extensions which involves close contact with the homeowner has been deemed ‘inappropriate’ but reconstructing or building a home where there is no one present is appropriate and can continue.

Government rules also state that ‘No work should be carried out in any household which is isolating or where an individual is being shielded, unless it is to remedy a direct risk to the safety of the household, such as emergency plumbing or repairs, and where the tradesperson is willing to do so. In such cases, Public Health England can provide advice to tradespeople and households.’

In such unprecedented times, it’s impossible to gauge when life might begin to return to normal, but for those whose livelihoods depend on them returning to work it can’t come soon enough. 

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Important factors that an HGV driver must consider

Everyone’s busy.  We’re all trying to get from A to B as quickly and safely as possible. But have you ever considered the extra care that HGV drivers have to take in order for their loads to reach their destinations in one piece?

Here at Eynesbury Plant Hire we provide road haulage container contractor services, which means that a lot of our lorries are on UK roads every single day.  Although our drivers are trained to drive these heavy goods vehicles (which are up to ten times the size of an average car), with traffic on our roads constantly increasing, there are far more hazards than ever before.

With accidents involving HGVs being amongst the more serious due to the sheer size and weight of the vehicles, HGV drivers need to be far more vigilant than the average car driver.  Here’s why:

Parking

Small car drivers can park relatively easily just about anywhere.  Some won’t think about how much remaining space is required for a lorry to pass through safely.  For an HGV driver parked cars are one of the biggest obstructions when it comes to reaching their destination safely.  Cars parked near to, or opposite junctions are dangerous, as a lorry’s turning circle can be seriously compromised.

Distance

Keeping a safe distance is vitally important for an HGV driver.  Due to the size and weight of the vehicle, stopping distances are hugely increased in comparison to a car.  Likewise, cars should keep a safe distance from lorries, as the length of the vehicle can make it very difficult for the driver to see any vehicles travelling behind them, even with the use of mirrors.

Timing

HGV drivers have targets to meet. They have to get their loads to their destinations on time the same as you have to get to work on time.  You’ll rarely see an HGV breaking any speed limits, but it doesn’t mean that they aren’t eager to get to where they need to be.  It just means that they’re taking every care to get there safely, to get their load there undamaged, and to make sure that you, the other drivers, aren’t in any danger from them on their journey.

Consideration

Any person that drives an HGV is under strict rules to take a break after every 4.5 hours of driving.  This means they have to find safe places to stop, which can sometimes be difficult on single carriage roads.  This is why you’ll often see huge lorries parked up on roadside laybys. It’s not that they’re time wasting; they’re required by law to take regular scheduled breaks.  General consideration to and from other road users is part of an HGV driver’s training. Signalling of manoeuvres, safe driving distances and overall awareness of the road conditions will help to keep everyone safe!

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