Safesite Facilities explains how equipment like temporary CCTV towers can support in keeping construction sites safe and secure, even during the challenges a pandemic brings.

Although construction work has been able to continue in the UK throughout the pandemic, many businesses have had to review whether keeping sites open is possible, in terms of maintaining the safety of all workers amidst public health concerns. For those sites that have had to temporarily close, taking necessary steps to ensure operations are halted safely and that sites are properly secured are vital.

Planning for site closures
It’s essential that the correct paperwork is checked and completed before a site closes such as reviewing contract terms, particularly those clauses relating to dispute resolution and force majeure. The impact that a temporary closure could have on any development approvals and building permits should also be considered. A timeline should be produced with an anticipated site re-opening date and a new date for completion of the project.

Shutting down a site isn’t simply a matter of downing tools and leaving the area. Areas of the site where work is in progress must be made safe and secure so as not to pose a risk to workers when they return to site, or to those passing by it.

Any machinery, equipment and tools left on site should be removed from site or securely locked away. Combustible or corrosive materials should also be removed. The site perimeter must be protected to prevent unwanted intrusion or theft.

If some areas of the site are able to remain operational safety barriers should be installed to separate these spaces from the rest of the site.

Construction sites will almost always have some existing security arrangements, and these should be reviewed to ensure they are fit to cover a period of extended vacancy. If mains power is not available due to temporary site closure, then it may be necessary to look for a security solution that can run off its own battery or an alternative power source.

An eye in the sky
Rapid deployment CCTV towers are becoming an increasingly popular choice, as they offer wide range surveillance from a single point, without the need for mains power. Solar power options are available providing eco-friendly energy back-up power if the battery runs low, which is ideal for unmanned sites.

During the pandemic some suppliers have seen a spike in the use of mobile CCTV Tower Units, particularly on remote or secluded sites, or where full surveillance across a large area is required. These types of CCTV systems are commonly linked to an alarm receiving centre (ARC), providing round-the-clock monitoring. This reduces the need for site owners to make specific journeys to carry out their own checks. An integrated Tannoy system makes it possible to sound warning messages from the tower in the event of an attempted intrusion – or to communicate with any workers still on site.

Enhancing health and safety protocols
Where construction sites have remained open during the coronavirus pandemic, the UK Government has issued guidance for business owners to help them maintain the health and safety of workers, whilst ensuring business continuity. This guidance has been regularly reviewed and updated in line with local and national restrictions, providing practical considerations to protect workers and visitors.

The guidance recognises that the nature of construction work makes it difficult for many workers to work remotely or from home. Therefore social distancing, increased hygiene and cleaning measures and virus detection are crucial steps to reducing infection transmission.

Social distancing
Where maintaining a 2m distance is not viable i.e. for tasks that require more than one person in close proximity, a 1m distance with risk mitigations is allowed. These mitigations may include working in fixed teams or partnering to limit the number of people each person works with.

Social distancing applies to all areas of the business, not only where construction work is being carried out. This includes entry and exit points, canteens, and meeting rooms.

Businesses should promote frequent hand washing, and provide opportunity for regular hand sanitisation. This can be challenging in a construction environment where workers are handling materials and machinery every day. Portable hand sanitiser stations can be positioned anywhere on a construction site, to provide mobile hygiene measures.

The Government’s latest update to the guidance includes new canteen and restaurant advice; these are areas which can typically become overcrowded during break times. Increasing the frequency of cleaning hand-touch surfaces and improving ventilation of shared spaces, among other measures, are suggested.

Canteens providing onsite sit-down’ food and drink services should now ask one member of every group (up to six people) to make their contact details available for NHS Test and Trace, or display the official NHS QR code so that workers and visitors can check-in.

NHS Test and Trace is being used to monitor infections and minimise transmission of the virus. Under the new Government Tier system, businesses in Tier 1 and Tier 2 are permitted to ask one person in each visiting or working party to provide their contact details to assist NHS Test and Trace. Organisations must have a system in place to collect information from people who cannot or do not want to use the NHS COVID-19 app.​

Keeping workers informed of the measures in place to help stop the spread of coronavirus is critical. Anyone who displays signs of COVID-19 should stay at home and self-isolate. They should not return to work until they have been medically cleared to do so.

Further guidance

Businesses are encouraged to find advice and support from their trade representative organisation or association. Build UK is a representative organisation for the UK construction industry, working with the Construction Leadership Council (CLC) to maintain effective Site Operating Procedures during the pandemic.

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