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
EMBARGO: 15th March 8am
An independent economic report has laid bare the impact of the partial lockdown of construction on the industry, its employees, clients, and the wider economy. The CIF presented the report to the Government to demonstrate the shutdown’s negative impacts are unnecessary as HSE evidence shows construction does not impact on Covid-19 spread.
CIF, Director General, Tom Parlon, said:
“HSE monitoring of construction has shown minimal cases since September. This is because the industry can operate at full capacity without contributing to the spread of Covid-19. This report shows every week of this unnecessary shutdown; costs 800 homes, €427m in lost output, €156m per week in lost profit and wages, €32m in lost Exchequer revenues and almost 2,800 fewer persons employed. In addition, 60,000 construction, instead of contributing to the economy safely, are costing the Exchequer €21m in PUP weekly.
Ireland is the only country to shut down its construction industry and this is having an number of unintended consequences that again are hugely detrimental and totally unnecessary. On a weekly basis, I hear from members about the impact of the lockdown on the mental health of our workers. Thousands of workers are now considering leaving Ireland in search of work in any other jurisdiction. This will have significant impact on the medium-term capacity to deliver essential housing and infrastructure for both private and public sectors.
In addition, the cost to Ireland Inc in terms of international investment is also immeasurable. This shutdown impacts primarily on private sector related construction whilst most public sector projects continue. This targeting and ongoing uncertainty about reopening on the 5th April is impacting on investment decisions.
Finally, in the middle of the State’s worst housing crisis, the industry is precluded from building homes with potentially 10,000 homes taking out of supply. This could extend the housing crisis for another three years as the housing sector struggles to overcome existing systemic barriers to producing the required 35,000 house output annual considered optimal.
What is most frustrating is that the industry has proven construction sites can be kept Covid-19 free due to national and CIF safety protocols. Concerns about mobility are totally unfounded as cases on sites have never surpassed 56 whether there are 80,000 or 40,000 construction workers on site regardless of the variant of Covid-19 we face. We’re calling on the Government to end this unnecessary lockdown and allow our industry to contribute to economic recovery and ending the housing crisis because it is safe to do so.”
Recent data from Construction Information Services, the CIF’s research partner, found approximately 50% of projects over €1million are operational currently suggesting about 40,000 workers on site. There are 39 cases associated with construction indicating just how safe construction sites have been made, rendering any lockdown unnecessary. The economic impact report, commissioned by the CIF, and carried out by EY lays bare the impact of the shutdown on construction companies affected by the lockdown. It found that:
- The level of new housing commencements declined by 23.5% in the first nine months of 2020 to 17,615 on the same period in 2019. This will have serious repercussions for the supply pipeline in 2021 and 2022.
- A 13-week lockdown will see the level of housing supply significantly undershoot the pre-Covid-19 projection for 2021 of 28,000 units. Following the Covid-19 impact in 2020, the IHBA had revised their projection for 2021 to 24,000 completions even before the current 2021 lockdown.
- With construction sites closed for 19 weeks in total, business performance has been severely dented with many firms facing challenges around their cash flow, working capital requirements and retaining their highly skilled staff.
- Contractors could also face tighter margins upon the reopening of the sector, because of the changing market conditions plus additional costs, which will see businesses forced to close.
- The ability of contractors to reach tender thresholds for future public sector work may be limited due to reduced income over the lockdown. This could significantly impact the industry’s capacity to deliver critical public sector projects within the NDP.
- Similarly, the opportunity to bid for work overseas may be impacted by the lockdown in Ireland. The top 50 contractors in the industry had a combined Republic of Ireland turnover of €6.7bn in construction activity in 2019. Assuming their turnover mirrors the sector’s decline; €490m in 2020 and €759m in 2021 would be wiped off industry’s turnover. These firms exported €3.3bn in construction expertise, a figure which is also likely to be lower due to the challenges with operating in a partial national lockdown.
- Many of the smaller firms in the sector – 96.5% of construction firms (55,616) employ less than 10 persons – may work in the renovation sector and on smaller home extensions, which are not deemed essential and as such as disproportionately impacted by the partial lockdown.
- Construction firms not deemed to be undertaking essential projects are incurring their normal head office overheads/non-site-based costs as their staff work from home and this poses significant cashflows challenges.
- The availability of adequate skilled resources in the industry has been a challenge for some time in advance of Covid-19. There are an estimated 50,000 qualified skilled crafts persons and an estimated 46,000 self-employed persons in the construction industry. With all European construction industries fully opened, there is a risk that workers may opt to emigrate to where work is available rather than remain on PUP payments. This is a factor which could derail the construction recovery when the lockdown is eased.
The Construction Industry Federation (CIF) and the Trade Union Federation (TUF) today signed a Return to Work Safety Protocol at a Collen Construction site in Haymarket, Dublin. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, the site has been closed since 8th January last.
Jean Winters, CIF Director of Industrial Relations said: “The Protocol demonstrates the commitment of both side to continue our collaboration to protect construction workers and their families from Covid-19 when work resumes on all sites. Collectively, employers and workers in construction have kept the incidence of cases on-site to negligible levels within the industry’s workforce. Since 4th January, with over 30,000 workers on essential services sites there have been 29 cases of Covid-19, even with the elevated levels of the new variants in our communities.”
David Lee, Collen Construction Director said: “The Return to Work Safety Protocol reinforces the commitment of the parties to the CIF Standard Operating Procedures and government guidelines to continue to prevent the importation of Covid-19 on to construction sites. The Protocol provides for the appointment of worker representatives whose role is to collaborate with management on site to ensure Covid-19 safety. The Protocol also provides for the continuation of Covid-19 testing on sites and it promotes the uptake of the vaccine when it is made available. The parties to the agreement are committed to ensuring the industry can continue to protect the health and livelihoods of all construction workers and their families.”
Brian McAvinue National Compliance Officer, CONNECT, said: “The agreement stresses the importance of complying with the COVID Health and Safety guidelines and the paramount safety of all workers as well as the responsibilities of employers to have Safety worker representatives across all construction sites in the State. In each workplace, the worker representative must receive the necessary training to ensure Covid-19 safety on site. The cost of providing training will be borne by the employer. Site personnel may raise all safety concerns with the worker representative who is required to discuss these with management.”
Brendan O’Sullivan, General Secretary, BATU said: “The Protocol identifies the voluntary encouragement for all workers to avail of the virus vaccines now been rolled out by the HSE. The parties to the agreement have identified the positive impact this would have for tackling the virus from entering building sites. In addition and in accordance with traditional custom and practice, workers are selected for lay-off on a site-by-site basis; where all things are equal relative to skills and experience, where possible direct employees will be recalled first.
John Regan, SIPTU Sector Organiser, said: “The Protocol provides for ongoing and regular engagement between TUF and CIF. Where a Covid-19 complaint has not been dealt with locally on site, it should be referred to the TUF who will engage with CIF, where required. It is agreed that every effort will be made to deal with all complaints promptly. In the event that the complaint cannot be satisfactorily resolved in a timely manner, the matter will be referred, jointly or individually, by TUF/CIF to the Covid-19 department of the Health and Safety Authority.”
Front from left to right: David Lee Collen Construction, Brendan O’Sullivan BATU
Middle: Brian McAvinue CONNECT
Back from left to right: Jean Winters CIF, John Regan SIPTU
The CIF is deeply disappointed with the Government’s decision to extend its lockdown of parts of the construction industry. HSE monitoring of the construction industry has consistently shown negligible levels of Covid-19 cases associated with the construction industry.
The industry is an international exemplar of safety and operating under Covid-19 and has proven it can operate at full capacity without contributing to the spread of Covid-19 in the community. The extension of the partial lockdown in construction will now see 800 homes per week taken out of supply. Over 60,000 construction employees are now on PUP and thousands of their jobs are permanently threatened. Thousands of the 50,000 plus SMEs in the industry are now facing huge uncertainty. The impact on Ireland’s attractiveness to foreign direct investment is incalculable at boardroom level as this lockdown disproportionately impacts private sector investment and no other country has locked down construction. This is an unforced error for Ireland Inc as there are no benefits in preventing Covid-19 set against the huge societal and economic costs to those suffering in the housing crisis, the wider economy and Ireland’s international reputation.
Since January 4th the industry has been operating at approximately 40% capacity with minimal cases on sites even whilst the new variant of Covid-19 has spiked in the community. Construction workers are adhering to the agreed safety protocols that are as relatively robust as those in the medical setting. Other sectors that are currently allowed to keep operating are doing so with minimal safety protocols and have seen large increases in cases and outbreaks.
The reality is that this lockdown only affects people’s wealth not health. The CIF estimates that the current lockdown has already taken 8,000 homes out of supply for 2021. Last year’s six-week lockdown wiped circa €3billion off industry output. This lockdown’s impact could be even greater due to lower commencement levels of activity, particularly in the housing and commercial sectors. Extending restrictions on housing beyond March 5th could take 800 homes a week out of 2021/2022 supply.
The CIF will continue to press the Government to consider the industry’s safety record and the wider evidence and allow the industry to reopen entirely at the earliest date.
As you’re aware, the Government has elected to effectively lockdown the construction industry from 6pm today. The Government have provided details around the legislation determining what essential construction can continue during the lockdown.
The overarching principle of strict adherence to the CIF’s SOP is still in place regardless of any exemptions issued by the Government.
Any company operating on Monday must recognise that there will be significant attention and scrutiny around all activity. The HSE will continue to monitor incidence on site. The rate of Covid-19 in the community is exceptionally higher than any previous point in time. Preventing the disease entering sites is your best protection so please take note of the entirety of this AMC.
I urge you to do the following in advance of any work commencing on Monday if the Government deems your project essential:
- Consult with your client. The onus is on them to establish if projects are essential. Without their confirmation, we do not advice any activity commencing.
- Consult the CIF’s SOP and ensure everyone on site knows their roles and responsibilities.
- Adopt the steps outlined in the guidance note on ‘operating and presenting your site as essential and in engaging with the public during lockdown’ in this AMC
The entire Government regulation can be found here. The relevant text pertaining to essential services is below:
Health Act 1947 (Section 31A – Temporary Restrictions) (Covid-19) (No. 10) (Amendment) Regulations 2021
(2) Part 2 of the Schedule to the Principal Regulations is amended –
(a) by the substitution of the following paragraph for paragraph 5:
“Construction and development
- The following services relating to construction and development:
(a) the construction or development of essential health and related projects, including those relevant to preventing, limiting, minimising or slowing the spread of Covid-19;
(b) the construction or development of essential educational facilities at primary and post-primary level, including school building projects, which will provide additional capacity for students or involve essential maintenance or refurbishment works in support of the continued provision of education;
(c) certain essential projects relating to the construction and development at Technological University Dublin Campus Grangegorman;
(d) construction or development of social housing, whether contracted by, or on behalf of, a local authority or an approved housing body, (including those properties in a housing development that a local authority or approved housing body has agreed to lease, or where a developer has agreed to transfer ownership to a local authority or approved housing body or agreed the grant of a lease to a local authority in accordance with section 96(3) of the Planning and Development Act 2000 (No. 30 of 2000)) where –
(i) the local authority, or the approved housing body concerned, confirms that the completion of the housing project is necessary to alleviate homelessness, overcrowding, the numbers in emergency or temporary accommodation and to facilitate transfers from emergency accommodation or other forms of social housing in order to prevent, limit, minimise or slow the spread of Covid-19,
(ii) the project is funded, or has been approved for funding, in whole or in part, by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, and
(iii) the project is scheduled to be completed by the 28th day of February 2021;
(e) essential works on vacant residential properties, owned or controlled by a local authority or an approved housing body, which are necessary to allow the property to be allocated to a household on the social housing waiting list, and which are scheduled to be completed by the 28th day of February 2021;
(f) works of adaptation relating to a housing adaptation grant paid in accordance with Regulation 5 of the Housing (Adaptation Grants for Older People and People with a Disability) Regulations 2007 (S.I. No. 670 of 2007) where the person in respect of whom the grant is payable consents to such works of adaptation being undertaken in his or her home;
(g) construction or development funded by the pyrite remediation scheme in accordance with the Pyrite Resolution Act 2013 (No. 51 of 2013) which are scheduled to be completed by the 31st day of January 2021 and where the completion of such construction or development is essential to prevent, limit, minimise or slow the spread of Covid-19;
(h) the repair, maintenance and construction of critical transport and utility infrastructure;
(i) the supply and delivery of essential or emergency maintenance and repair services to businesses and places of residence (including electrical, gas, oil, plumbing, glazing and roofing services) on an emergency call-out basis;
(j) housing construction and completion works ongoing on the 8th day of January 2021 where such works are scheduled to be completed by the 31st day of January 2021 and will render the home under construction capable of occupation by that date;
(k) construction and development projects necessary for the maintenance of supply chains in respect of services specified in subparagraphs (h) to (p) of paragraph 2 or information and communications specified in subparagraphs (c) and (d) of paragraph 9 but shall exclude general purpose facilities such as office accommodation and car parks;
(l) construction and development projects that relate to the direct supply of medical products for Covid-19.”, and
In respect of the above members should be aware:
Social Housing Permitted Works
With regard to social housing projects members are advised works are permitted to continue as accounted for in the above regulations to social housing projects, to include Part V units, where the unit is scheduled to be completed by the 28th February 2021 and the local authority or the approved housing body concerned confirms in writing that the works are necessary to alleviate homelessness, overcrowding, the numbers in emergency or temporary accommodation and to facilitate transfers from emergency accommodation or other forms of social housing in order to prevent, limit, minimise or slow the spread of Covid-19.
Private Dwelling Permitted Works
With regard to private dwellings where a unit is under construction and works is ongoing on the 8th January 2021 and where the works are scheduled to be completed by the 31st January 2021 and the home under construction is capable of occupation on the 31st January 2021, these works may continue to the unit only meeting the above criteria.
Operating and presenting sites as essential/engaging with the public during lockdown
Once you have been informed by your clients that work can continue/or your housing activity meets the criteria, the CIF strongly recommends the adoption of the below actions:
- Re-examine the Construction Sector Covid-19 latest Standard Operating Procedure Version (SOP)
- Ensure your management team and those who will supervise employees are fully aware of all contents of the latest SOP
- Carry out a safety review for each site and put in place a continuation plan for each site for works permitted under the Health Act 1947 (Section 31A – Temporary Restrictions) (Covid-19) (No. 10) (Amendment) Regulations 2021
- Confirm and brief the Covid-19 Compliance Officer.
- Ensure all sub-contractors engaged in permitted works have the latest version of the SOP and are adopting it in their work practices. Latest work practices may be required to change to comply with the SOP and exempted works permitted.
- Ensure everyone working on the exempted permitted works has completed CIF’s online induction programme. Every worker. Every officer. All management that will visit a site and insist any unscheduled visitors demonstrate completion of same. To access the programme, go to this page : cif.ie/induction/. Please – Click on “Get a Digital Card” and follow the instructions.
- Brief your workers on the latest SOP to reinforce the messages at weekly briefings when completing permitted works.
- Ensure workers travel to work individually where possible.
- Ensure workers do not congregate on the way to site, on-site or leaving the site. Make sure they don’t go to local shops or take lunch in groups.
- Place the official notice/permission to work on the hoarding of the site naming the project and relevant associated Local Authority.
- Consider branding vehicles and sites as permitted essential services
- Appoint an appropriate person to talk to members of the public if queries arise.
- Inform local Gardai of your intention and permission to carry out work in advance and during the course of works.
- Provide a letter of confirmation from your head office on company headed paper to each employee travelling to work with regard to the purpose of their travel citing the employee name, address of work and regulation under which works are permitted
- Contact all supply chains to ensure materials are available and coordinate delivery only of same.
- Have readily available proof of contracts, programme of works, client agreements, snagging lists etc to demonstrate the works for private units are in fact due for completion and capable of occupation on the 31st January 2021 as per the regulation requirement .
These recommendations are provided for information purposes only and are not intended as a substitute for members and/or users carrying out a full risk assessment of works and review to ensure that all legal, contractual, safety, health and welfare at work requirements are implemented and complied with, in respect of any works, whether on site or elsewhere.
It would be advisable to review health and safety policies and plans to ensure that all works align with measures outlined in the CIF’s Construction Sector C-19 Pandemic SOP: C-19 SOP (cif.ie), in the Government’s Work Safety Protocol: Work Safety Protocol (gov.ie), to the webpage of the Health Services Executive: Coronavirus (HSE.ie) and to legislative health and safety requirements, considering the constraints of COVID-19.
Public health advice and guidelines must be followed; the Health and Safety Authority provides links to the most up to date information and advice on COVID-19: Public Health Advice & Guidance – Health and Safety Authority (hsa.ie)
CIF members have shown themselves to be committed, resilient and adaptable in the past, overcoming huge challenges to deliver excellence in construction. Now more than ever, the challenge involves following strict adherence to the above regulations and the works permitted under same, I know that companies will step up again and play their part in the National effort.
The CIF is likely to field regular calls from members of the public reporting companies at work. Our advice is to go above and beyond what’s normal and do whatever it takes to ensure employees comply with the SOP and attached documents.
Operating on Monday is an awesome responsibility to your industry, your employees and your community. I know you will rise to the challenge and do everything possible to operate safely in the coming weeks. As ever, if it is not safe to operate, do not do so.
Today, the Government provided more clarity on the restrictions they were placing on construction activity due to Covid-19. The CIF continues to seek clarity on specifics and to press the case for a return to work when deemed safe to do so by the Government.
These measures come into force from 6pm this Friday until the 31st January. It is advisable that sites of projects shutting down are secured; where required staff can maintain sites during the lockdown phase.
The full details of the announcement can be found here
We understand that:
Construction will close from 6pm on Friday 8 January, with limited exceptions including:
- essential health and related projects including those relevant to preventing, limiting, minimising or slowing the spread of COVID-19
- social housing projects, including voids, designated as essential sites by Local Authorities based on set criteria
- housing adaptation grants where the homeowner is agreeable to adaptions being undertaken in their home
- repair, maintenance and construction of critical transport and utility infrastructure
- education facilities sites designated as essential by Department of Education
- supply and delivery of essential or emergency maintenance and repair services to businesses and places of residence (including electrical, gas, plumbing, glazing and roofing services) on an emergency call-out basis
- certain large construction projects in the exporting / FDI sector based on set criteria
We are currently seeking more clarity on the ‘set criteria’ reference in the above. Please bear with us.
In all cases, it’s critical that members consult with their clients in the first instance. Previous experience points to keeping the channels of communication open with clients is critically important.
Please note the following from relevant CIF Departments:
A number of projects will continue whilst the vast majority will be shut down. In any case, please consult the attached note from our Contracting Department.
I attach documents outlining the latest on the income support schemes available to employers. Attached are also two template letters for members to tailor accordingly when placing employees on temporary layoff as a result of the industry lockdown taking effect from 6pm on Friday. Appendix 1 is to be used when employees are being placed on temporary layoff and paid a subsidy through the EWSS, and Appendix 2 is for when employees are being placed on temporary layoff and encouraged to claim the PUP.
I include links to some recent coverage from the CIF over the previous 48 hours in support of the industry remaining open.
There were multiple interviews across regional press also. In addition, as part of these efforts, we also released a joint statement with the Trade Union Federation.
I would like to commend you and the CIF membership on your commitment to safety and the protection of your businesses, employees and the wider community over the past year. In conversations with all Government Ministers and officials, your commitment to safety has been commended. The decision to restrict construction (and education) is an attempt to restrict people moving to a minimum to reduce transmission. It is not an aspersion on the industry’s capability to cope with Covid and to operate safely. Your work and that of the wider industry has proven our ability and this will stand to us in terms of how quickly we can return to work.
The CIF will continue to inform you as events develop. Today, the CIF’s Safety Committee met and has already begun preparing an updated ‘Return to Work’ Protocol to be made available to members in the coming days. We are now focussing all our efforts to have the industry reopened at the earliest point possible when the Governments deems it safe to do so. We will be pointing to the evidence we have of your ability to operate safely within the Covid-19 paradigm to convince Government, NPHET and the public that we can return to work early.
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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