The management of the impact of the Coronavirus is an emerging and fast changing issue.
For the most up to date information, from health care professionals, members are advised to monitor the HSE website: www2.hse.ie/conditions/coronavirus/coronavirus.html
The CIF welcomes the Government’s decision to allow construction to remain operating under the strictest safety procedures.
This is an awesome responsibility. Construction companies, and employees will now redouble efforts to deliver housing and critical infrastructure for the economy in the safest possible manner. Remaining open during level five is testament to the incredible efforts over the past five months in keeping the incidence of Covid-19 to a minimum on construction sites.
This week is Construction Safety Week and we will use this opportunity to remind everyone in the industry about the importance of safety generally and in terms of combatting Covid-19. It is a privilege to keep operating when so many other sectors face unfortunate restrictions. Construction companies and employees will adopt any measure required to protect themselves, their families and the wider community.
We would ask members of the public to work with us as we continue to operate in this difficult environment. Our members and employees are reporting increasing levels of pressure as they adapt to existing safety challenges and Covid-19. I would like to assure everyone that the industry is doing its utmost to maintain essential economic activity whilst keeping safe.
The Construction Industry Federation and the Construction Employers Federation have jointly called on their members to collaborate on a cross border basis on tackling Covid-19. The construction industry straddles both jurisdictions with contractors and employees crossing the border in both directions daily. Both industries have emerged from the previous lockdown with excellent records in terms of safety and low incidence of Covid-19.
The recent increase in Covid-19 numbers North and South of the border have led to the border counties of Donegal, Monaghan and Cavan being increased to Level 4 and further significant restrictive measures introduced in Northern Ireland. To maintain low numbers of Covid in the construction industry as community transition increases, the representative bodies from North and South are calling on their members to redouble their efforts to ensure employees adhere to their standard operating procedures whilst on site and general health guidelines in their communities.
Tom Parlon, Director General, CIF stated:
“Construction across the island has performed well so far and we’re asking our members to encourage their employees and their sub-contractors to keep disciplined when it comes to Covid-19 whether they are on site, off-site or on the way to site. Because of the strong ties across the border, we’ve asked our members to engage with Northern Irish contractors operating on their sites to ensure adherence with our SOP. As usual, the response has been positive and our industry, North and South is responding. Such is the importance of keeping Covid-19 out of our sites, we’re finding companies are willing to put in place any measure that’s viewed as helpful.”
Mark Spence, incoming Managing Director, CEF stated:
“The construction industry north and south on the island has led the way in adapting to the evolving safety measures required to keep our people and our communities safe. The latest escalation in Covid-19 cases on both sides of the border with related increased restrictions makes it more important than ever for everyone involved in construction across the island to reinforce compliance with the best practice guidance from CIF and CEF in each jurisdiction. The common principles whether on-site or off-site of hand washing, social distancing and face coverings remain vital to maintaining the relatively low incidence amongst the construction community whilst vitally protecting the wider community in which we work and live. Only by doing this can we protect lives, sustain economic activity and retain jobs in our industry.
The CIF Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) has been updated to align with the National Protocol for a Safe Return to Work.
The SOP is specific to the construction industry.
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The CIF has welcomed the launch of the Government’s National Protocol for the safe return to work.
This protocol was agreed between industry, Government and unions and outlines how industries like construction can return to work. All construction workers are allowed to return to work on the 18th May where it is safe to do so. This National Protocol set out how companies can prepare to return to work in the coming weeks.
Speaking at the launch of the Government’s Return to Work Protocol at Government Buildings, CIF Director General, Tom Parlon stated:
“This national protocol will help businesses return to work safely, protecting our workers, our families and our communities. The collaborative approach between industry, union and Government is welcomed and this must continue on the ground to protect workers and the public. The construction industry has been preparing for a month to return to work. As part of this ongoing preparation, in the coming weeks companies will be carrying out site safety assessments to ‘Covid proof’ construction sites around the country to prepare for a gradual return to work.”
This will involve putting in place extra hygiene facilities, adding safety modifications on sites and carrying out essential maintenance on sites to ensure safety.
We thank the 75,000 construction employees who have completed the online safety inductions on Covid-19 and we encourage the remainder of employees who aren’t working from home to do so this week. Equally, thousands of construction companies have adopted the CIF’s new safety operating procedures in preparation of a return to work. The construction industry has a vital role in driving Ireland’s economic recovery by getting people back to work and delivering the housing and infrastructure this country requires to move forward through this pandemic. I’m very proud that we are taking the steps to reopen our economy together and I working collaboratively with our partners, employees and the public, we can adapt and safely build a new economy and society.
The CIF’s SOP helps companies prepare for any type of construction projects. Companies now are using it to ascertain if work can be carried out safely in any context or environment. This national protocol, the HSE’s guidance and our own SOP will allow companies to decide whether projects should go ahead on a safety basis and thus determine which construction workers can return to work.
As a result of the National Protocol, the public may see small teams working on sites in the coming weeks as part of the site safety preparation process as company’s ‘covid-proof’ their projects. We anticipate there will be a gradual increase of workers returning to work from the 18th. Companies are being sensible and practical and carrying out assessments, modifying sites, shutting canteen facilities, appointing compliance officers, liaising with workers representatives etc. Companies will most likely gradually increase people on site to test and monitor how social distancing works for example. We’ve seen on sites in Ireland that were able to operate during the last month, and in every other EU construction industry, that these measures work. Implementing these measures will be challenging and working with unions, employees and the HSA we will continue to learn and adapt and improve measures.
The CIF reiterates that construction companies should adopt the SOP, ask their employees to complete our induction and continuously assess safety protocols. If it is not possible to work safely, stop, review, assess and adapt.
The CIF Safety and Health Subcommittee, mindful of the best available guidance, nationally and internationally, has developed this document, Construction Sector C-19 Standard Operating Procedures which serves as a guide for the management of COVID-19 on a construction site for the duration of the pandemic. The actions set out in this document should be implemented in tandem with an amended Construction Stage Health and Safety Plan. The purpose of this document is to protect workers, their families and the community, whilst also recognising the need to protect livelihoods. The document has been endorsed by the Federation’s Executive Body for implementation.
Simply put, this is the most important document the CIF has distributed to this point in terms of preparing your organisation to operate in the construction industry after restrictions are relaxed.
This guidance document provides information on how you can protect your business, your workforce and your community.
You should use this document in a few very specific ways to ensure you and your clients collaborate productively in adopting new COVID-19 health guidelines such as social distancing. This is critical because if work cannot be carried out under these new circumstances, then work shouldn’t take place.
Please remember that in most instances, compliance with these Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) involves changes to the schedule or delivery programme for construction projects. Therefore, the implementation of these SOP’s must have the support of the client and be implemented in accordance with the necessary contractual instructions from clients.
A contractor cannot operate unilaterally and each site and project is unique in terms of its design and the tasks associated with its construction. Clients must therefore accept that adapting and complying with the good practice illustrated in this SOP has productivity and cost implications. It is therefore recommended that before construction resumes on any site, a revised risk assessment is conducted by the client and contractor to ensure the project can recommence, revised delivery schedules are agreed, revised work programmes are agreed and/or any necessary contractual instructions are issued by the client which make it possible to comply with these SOP’s.
On certain projects where the client and the builder are the same entity (such as housing projects) it is still recommended that a revised risk assessment is carried out before implementing these SOP’s
- This is not a legal document. Members should review this guidance to ensure they are following best practice relative to their specific sites to ensure safety.
- Conforming to HSE restrictions on sites remains the key criteria for any construction activity. If work cannot be done safely, it shouldn’t happen.
- Convincing relevant authorities that construction sites can reopen will be critical in the coming weeks. Members should be advised that this document is supported by an online induction module. Immediately on completion, workers will be issued with an electronic card confirming they have completed the programme. All workers returning to work must undergo this tutorial. Its free , takes max 15 mins and is accessible on a smart phone, laptop , iPad etc.
- This SOP should be used by companies to review their safety plans.
- Most importantly, members should engage with their clients on the content of this SOP in the coming days and weeks so they have an understanding of the comprehensive steps members need to take to ensure safety.
- Member should engage with clients in this way to flag the expected costs and delays inherent in adhering to comprehensive guidelines relevant to each project. The document makes it clear that clients will need to be flexible and collaborative in allow companies the time and space to implement new ways of working.
This document will be used by the Federation to support our efforts to convince the political system that the industry can comply with new safety guidelines. The period before the shutdown where there was widespread coverage of non-compliance by construction workers both on and off construction sites needs to be expunged.
Please note: every employee returning to work after any relaxation of the COVID-19 restrictive measures must undergo the online induction module referred to above. This is a critical step in protecting your employees, your business and your communities. It also is key in convincing the public and the political system that a return to work is safe.
The online induction module referred to above will be finalised and available to members towards the end of this week. Members will be advised as soon as this is available.
The government has decided that everyone, until 12 April 2020, can only travel to and from work or for the purposes of work only where the work is an essential health, social care or other essential service and cannot be done from home.
Government has this evening 28 March published its list of essential services as outlined in the attached document. The purpose of this document is to provide guidance to employers and employees as to what constitutes an essential service where workers cannot work from home and have no option but to travel to work.
The government also recognises that many companies in Ireland are critical to global supply chains that are responding to the COVID-19 crisis, and many companies also perform critical global roles in other aspects of medicine, as well as security, cyber, cloud and data centre infrastructure. It is intended that these essential global roles are encompassed within this national guidance.
What employers should do
- refer to this guidance to decide whether your organisation is providing an essential service; it is not necessary to seek official authorisation
- if you are providing an essential service, you should identify those employees (including sub-contractors and so on) who are essential to the provision of that service and notify them. This can be done by category of employee or by individual; it could include all employees of the organisation
- if you are providing an essential service, latest public health guidance should be followed at all times
In the manufacturing sector, there are many companies that you provide services to that are considered essential. You should engage with your clients (public and private) as soon as possible to establish if they deem you central to their operations. If so, you will need to establish what employees are essential to your operation in serving your clients. We recommend that you get your clients to provide a written letter to the staff you deem essential.
Non Essential Services
If you are not engaged in the provision of essential services, then you are not permitted to travel to and from work until 12 April 2020.
There will be a grace period until 6pm on Monday 30 March for people who need to make necessary arrangements to wind down their activities in an orderly way. This should however be done in a way that minimises travel and personal interaction as much as possible.
In exceptional circumstances, it is accepted that some extra time will be needed for a wind down of activity, or necessary for a site to continue to operate at a reduced level of activity, for example in complex manufacturing processes or very large construction projects.
Construction services provided under the following headings are considered to be essential:
- essential health and related projects relevant to the COVID-19 crisis, and supplies necessary for such projects
- repair/construction of critical road and utility infrastructure
- delivery of emergency services to businesses and homes on an emergency call-out basis in areas such as electrical, plumbing, glazing and roofing
All contractors contracted by Government Departments or Public Bodies will be advised as to whether a project is deemed essential or not.
Members are advised to review the attached document and make a determination as to whether their specific construction projects can be deemed to be an essential service or not.
Director General of the CIF
Following the Taoiseach’s statement on new Covid-19 measurs that outlined workers must stay at home in all circumstances except where work is an essential health, social care or other essential service that cannot be done from home.
According to Minister Simon Harris, construction is not deemed as essential service and as such construction workers should stay at home effective from midnight last night.
The Government is finalising a list of essential services to be completed later today that might outline some limited forms of construction essential to combatting Covid-19 directly.
In the meantime, the CIF is calling on its members should secure construction sites immediately. We recommend that members sending teams to secure sites should call ahead to Gardai to inform them.
As ever, the construction industry is ready to help combat Covid-19 in any way possible. The CIF will continue to engage with Government and the HSE to explore ways the industry can contribute.
The ICTU and CIF are advising construction industry companies and their employees to comply with HSE guidance and protecting themselves from the Covid-19 virus.
General Secretary of Congress Patricia King said
‘Essentially workers should adhere to social distancing guidelines, carry out regular hand washing and use gloves and masks if possible to help contain the spread of the virus in the workplace. The HSE has issued guidelines on the Coronavirus and we recommend that this guidance is adhered to by workers in the construction industry. Congress will continue to watch the situation closely , she said.
Tom Parlon, Director General, CIF, stated
‘Social distancing’ and compliance with HSE guidance on Covid-19 is now critical to the continuation of the construction industry and for our nation. We urge contractors and workers to work together to enforce social distancing regardless of any impacts on productivity or deadlines.
The CIF is also asking companies to remind workers that social distancing is critical off-site and on the way to the site. Workers should not travel in groups and while visiting local businesses (shops etc) must maintain the 1-2 metre distance guideline. Construction workers are to be commended for continuing to operate safely as they deliver essential projects that enable essential services including emergency health facilities, sewerage, electricity, power, data and water, all critical to society.
It is absolutely critical that all HSE guidelines are implemented and enforced fully. We are again asking members to ensure that they are in compliance.
It’s our understanding that non-compliance with the HSE Public Health Guidelines could be deemed to be a breach of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 requiring provision of a safe place of work.
Non-compliance would also put your employees, their family and the wider community at risk. As such, we are asking you to remain vigilant with HSE guidelines as it is the only way the industry can continue to operate in these difficult times. We would also ask you to remind employees that they must comply with social distance guidelines outside the site for example, in local shops, entering the site, and whilst travelling to and from work.
Again, where you think it isn’t possible to meet these guidelines, you should engage with your client immediately to establish a way of working that does comply so activity can continue in a safe and compliant manner.
The CIF is also in discussions with the Government to secure a commitment that contracting authorities will not penalise contractors for issues pertaining to the adaption of these essential safety guidelines.
All feedback from Government is that they want construction activity to continue where it is safe to do so in compliance with HSE guidelines.
The Construction Industry Federation is constantly advising its members in relation to all HSE Guidelines and Chief Medical Officer recommendations pertaining to Covid-19. The Federation has issued Guidelines for Actions to take now to provide for health and safety for management of construction sites and behaviours for construction site personnel.
Industry is continuing to deliver on contractually agreed commitments for public and private sector clients while adhering to HSE and Chief Medical officer requirements/ recommendations. The industry and its 147,000 employees are critical to both the economy and wider society as essential emergency works, housing, hospitals, roads, schools and other projects are delivered.
Construction companies are doing all they can to keep their workers in employment in the safest possible environment. Industry will continue to follow all Government guidelines to ensure the safety of these employees and the general public whilst engaging in construction activity
As construction sites are workplaces, construction companies must observe the HSE Guidelines on dealing with Covid-19. Construction companies have and are adapting to the social distancing guidelines as are other industries such as manufacturing, retail and transport so they can keep essential parts of the economy operating during the outbreak.
Many companies have now embedded social distancing into their daily routines including measures such as staggered work, social distancing in canteens, employees taking lunch individually. They now run induction talks on entry to work and hold regular ‘toolbox’ talks to constantly reinforce new safety guidelines. Building sites are complex workplaces and employers and employees are working together to addresses any issues of concern that arise.
The industry will continue to work with the Government and follow advice and guidelines on this issue as they evolve over the coming weeks.
The CIF does not condone any behaviours that contradict the HSE’s guidelines. Any such behaviour should be reported to employers so the issue can be addressed.
The Covid-19 situation is evolving on a daily basis.
Today, CIF members are continuing to deliver on their contractually agreed commitments for public and private sector clients while adhering to HSE and Chief Medical officer requirements/ recommendations. The industry and its 147,000 employees are critical to both the economy and wider society as we deliver essential housing and infrastructure projects.
Our members will continue to take every possible step to ensure the safety of these employees and the general public in construction activity. The Federation is in constant contact with Government in relation to Coronavirus and its impact on construction activity. As construction sites are workplaces, members must observe the HSE Guidelines on dealing with Covid-19.
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Staff Contact List
Martin Lang, CIF Director of Main Contracting
Effects on Contracts
Siobhan Kenny, Construction Lawyer, Eugene F. Collins Solicitors
Human Resources Considerations
Jean Winters, CIF Director of Industrial Relations
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Continuity planning is important at this time and the latest advice on this matter, including a checklist of preparatory actions can be found at: dbei.gov.ie/en/Publications/Business-Continuity-Planning-A-checklist-of-Preparatory-Actions-in-Responding-to-the-COVID-19-Outbreak.html
Members are advised to take practical steps to provide assurance to workers and to protect against infection. More in depth guidance on this is available on the HSE website. Employees should be advised of the following simple measures to protect against the spreading the virus:
- wash hands regularly
- practice good respiratory hygiene by covering your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve when you cough and sneeze
- put used tissues into a bin and wash your hands
- clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces
- do not touch eyes, nose or mouth if hands are not clean
The HSE has prepared a poster which can be displayed in all workplaces and sites. This poster can be downloaded at: dbei.gov.ie/en/Publications/Publication-files/COVID-19-Public-Health-Advice-Poster.pdf
Employees Who have Been to an Affected Area or in Close Contact with a Confirmed Case
Employees will need to be tested for coronavirus if they have symptoms (cough, shortness of breath, breathing difficulties and fever) and:
- have been to an affected area in the last 14 days
- in close contact with a confirmed case i.e. face-to-face contact / spending more than 15 minutes within 2 metres of an infected person / living in the same house or shared accommodation as an infected person.
- in a health care centre / hospital where patients with coronavirus were being treated.
Places where there is a spread of coronavirus (COVID-19):
- Hong Kong
- South Korea
While the symptoms listed above do not necessarily mean a person has the coronavirus, employees who have symptoms should be advised to isolate themselves from other people and phone their GP or local emergency department (ED) without delay. Employees should also contact HR.
Work Related Foreign Travel
Members are requested to be sensible regarding work related foreign travel. The HSE advise that there is a high risk of getting coronavirus if you travel to a place where there is spread of the virus (see list above). The Department of Foreign Affairs has advised people to avoid all non-essential travel to China and Northern Italy. Travel advise is available on the website of the Department of Foreign Affairs at www.dfa.ie/travel/travel-advice/coronavirus.
Useful websites to keep up to date on developments are as follows:
- Health Service Executive at: www.hse.ie
- Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) at: www.hpsc.ie
- Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade provide travel advice at: www.dfa.ie
- World Health Organisation at: www.who.int
- Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation provide a checklist of preparatory actions in responding to COVID-19 at: dbei.gov.ie/en
- The Health and Safety Authority: www.hsa.ie/eng/news_events_media/news/news_and_articles/coronavirus.html
- COVID-19 – Key contractual issues for organisations to consider: https://byrnewallace.com/news-and-recent-work/publications/covid-19-key-contractual-issues-for-organisations-to-consider.html
- Revenue announce measures to assist SMEs experiencing cashflow difficulties arising from COVID-19: https://www.revenue.ie/en/corporate/press-office/press-releases/2020/pr-130320-revenue-announce-measures-to-assist-smes-experiencing-cashflow-difficulties-arising-from-covid-19.aspx
Advice from Health & Safety Authority:
- COVID 19 – Advice for Employers: https://www.hsa.ie/eng/news_
events_media/news/news_and_ articles/covid_19_–_advice_ for_employers.html
- FAQ’s for Employers and Employees in relation to Home-Working on a temporary basis (Covid-19): https://www.hsa.ie/eng/news_
events_media/news/news_and_ articles/faq’s_for_employers_ and_employees_in_relation_to_ home-working_on_a_temporary_ basis_covid-19_.html
- COVID-19 Additional HSA FAQs: https://www.hsa.ie/eng/news_
events_media/news/news_and_ articles/covid-19_additonal_ hsa_faqs.html
- COVID-19 A3 Public Information Poster: https://www.hsa.ie/eng/news_
events_media/news/news_and_ articles/covid-19_public_ information_screen_poster.jpg
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