With the HSE's recent indication that where it becomes aware of employers which are not compliant with the relevant PHE guidance then it will consider actions ranging from specific advice through to issuing enforcement notices, timely operational guidance has been issued by industry bodies in the waste and recycling, construction and onshore wind sectors.
It is important to stress that this is guidance only which will be updated on a regular basis to reflect the ever changing situation and challenges of this pandemic. Businesses should therefore ensure, when referring to the guidance, they have the most up to date version.
Moreover, since this industry body guidance has not been formally endorsed by the HSE (albeit the HSE has often commented on it), following the guidance does not guarantee legal compliance. Whilst the guidance issued by these bodies will inevitably assist its members in these uncertain times, it remains each dutyholder's responsibility to ensure their own arrangements comply with Government, PHE and HSE requirements.
With the above in mind, this article sets out below links to the guidance issued by the Waste Industry Safety and Health ("WISH") Forum, the Construction Leadership Council ("CLC") and SafetyOn/RenewableUK, and identifies the operational issues each set of guidance comments on; to include "social distancing" in the workplace and the Government and HSE guidance that this needs to be observed "where possible", (which acknowledges the practical reality that there will be many circumstances where essential and critical work activities cannot be carried out safely whilst maintaining social distancing).
WISH Forum Guidance - INFO13 COVID19 and waste management activities issue 1
This guidance was issued on the 2nd April 2020 and can be accessed at https://wishforum.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/WISH-INFO-13-COVID19-and-waste-management-activities-issue-1-2-April-2020.pdf.
The guidance was prepared at the invitation of Defra and is not endorsed by the HSE or Public Health agencies.
Consistent with the other guidance referred to in this article, WISH confirms that "You should first always follow the latest HM Government guidance". Notwithstanding this caveat, the WISH Forum document provides helpful guidance on the following:
- Good hygiene;
- Social distancing;
- Cleaning procedures;
- Handling waste;
- Vulnerable persons;
- Maintaining critical competencies and standards;
- Change management;
- Inspections, testing, maintenance and repair;
- Vehicles and collections operations;
- Bulky waste collections;
- Mobile plant;
- Landfills, MBT and transfer stations;
- MRFs and recycling plants;
- Civil amenity/household waste recycling sites;
- Welfare facilities;
In response to criticism about a lack of clarity regarding government guidance in relation to ongoing construction projects, the Government has confirmed that construction sites should continue to operate during the current coronavirus pandemic. To assist businesses operating in the construction sector, CLC issued guidance on 23rd March 2020 – a second version was recently issued but, given the significant feedback, has subsequently been withdrawn whilst the feedback is reviewed. It is anticipated a further version will be issued in due course so watch this space!
The Business Secretary, Alok Sharma, confirmed that the procedures published by the CLC are aligned with PHE guidance that must be implemented in the workplace. A copy of the procedures can be found at http://www.constructionleadershipcouncil.co.uk/news/coronavirus-update-updated-site-operating-procedures/ .
These procedures address:
- The procedure if someone falls ill;
- Arrangements for travel to site;
- Site access points;
- Hand-washing facilities;
- Toilet facilities;
- Canteens and eating arrangements;
- Changing facilities, showers and drying rooms;
- Avoiding close working, where possible (both general principles and also site meetings);
It is not clear from this document whether the HSE commented on these site operating procedures. However, the guidance acknowledges that "These are exceptional circumstances and the industry must comply with the latest Government guidance on coronavirus at all time. The health and safety requirements of any construction activity must also not be compromised at this time. If an activity cannot be undertaken safely due to a lack of suitably qualified personnel being available or social distancing being implemented, it should not take place".
This guidance is dated 31st March 2020 and has been developed by the industry and is supported by the HSE. The document "will be regularly reviewed and updated in line with any changes to Government guidance" and is "guidance for SafetyOn members and should not be considered legally binding. The SafetyOn default position is official HSE guidance".
The guidance (which can be accessed at https://cdn.ymaws.com/www.renewableuk.com/resource/resmgr/publications/guides/COVID_19_SafetyOn_Industry_N.pdf?utm_source=Email&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=Feb%20Member%20update) provides industry comment on arrangements for:
- General safety arrangements in relation to Covid-19;
- Service centres, equipment stores or similar;
- Turbine and substations;
- Service lifts and ladders;
- Lunch and breaks;
- Paperwork/computer related tasks;
- Training and competence;
- Medicals and fitness to work;
- Statutory inspections;
- Emergency response and rescue of technicians;
- Mental wellbeing.
Given the critical nature of these activities to society, it is encouraging to see industry bodies rallying to support their members in these extremely challenging times.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.