Work guidelines on the COVID-19 site have been abandoned | Building News

The return to normal on construction sites took a big step forward today with the removal of various restrictive government guidelines relating to COVID-19.

Advice to mandate mask-wearing in certain confined spaces, stagger break times and frequently clean specified surfaces has been dropped by the Construction Leadership Council (CLC), co-chaired by Business Minister Lee Rowley.

This decision follows a government decision, described in its Living with COVID-19 plan, to archive its Working Safely During Coronavirus guidelines – which only applied in England – from today (April 1).

The government has also dropped the requirement for all employers in England to explicitly consider the virus in health and safety risk assessments.

In response, the CLC clarified that its own industry-specific guidance notes, related to site operating procedures and face covering, are now obsolete. These outlined a number of steps entrepreneurs were asked to take to ensure they complied with government advice regarding the pandemic.

Measures employers were asked to take by the CLC included introducing one-way systems on site, providing additional handwashing or sanitizer stations and keeping workers in small, separate shifts. Face coverings have been advised for crowded and closed areas in the workplace.

Despite the removal of guidance, the Living with COVID-19 plan says employers must “continue to consider the needs of employees most at risk from COVID-19.” It adds that companies should take responsibility for implementing workplace risk mitigation measures that are “appropriate to their situation”.

Kathryn Moffett, a partner at law firm CMS, said the legislation was being scrapped to “help return to pre-pandemic life”.

She added: “While this will remove the requirement to explicitly address COVID-19 in the workplace, it is up to employers, as the guidance refers to empowering businesses to take responsibility and mitigate the risks associated with their specific circumstances.”

Free testing for the general public also ended today, with only certain health, care and high-risk staff, and particularly vulnerable people, still eligible to receive kits without paying.

Adults are no longer legally required to self-isolate when they have the virus and are only asked to “try to stay home” for five days.

Ministers said more than £15billion had been spent on testing, tracing and isolation during the pandemic.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said this week: “Through our COVID plan, we are leading the way in learning to live with the virus. We have made tremendous progress, but we will retain the ability to respond to future threats, including potential variants.

“Vaccines remain our best defense and we are now offering spring reminders for the elderly, care home residents and the most vulnerable – please come forward to protect yourself, your family and your community.”

Since the COVID-19 outbreak in early 2020, more than 165,000 people have died in the UK within 28 days of a positive test result.

The Office for National Statistics estimated that one in 16 people in England had the virus in the week ending March 19 – rising to one in 11 in Scotland.

Some coronavirus-related rules and guidelines remain in place in different parts of the UK.

Alice F. Ponder