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Debate over wearing face masks on site continues

The coronavirus pandemic has raised all kinds of new health and safety concerns and a raft of new guidance measures for organisations in all sectors. In the construction and FM sectors, where the vast majority of work is carried out on site and not in enclosed spaces, the advice is perhaps less clear or well-defined.

The government and the Construction Leadership Council (CLC) is aligned in their advice for those working in enclosed spaces where social distancing is not possible and where they are in contact with people they do not normally work with. In these instances, employers should provide workers with face coverings, which are defined as cloth or fabric coverings for the nose and mouth. They are not classed as PPE as they do not protect from work-related hazards and are not manufactured to a recognised standard. The government has also encouraged workers on construction sites to wear face coverings for the reasons outlined by the CLC.

Government guidance for PPE on construction sites has remained constant. It says: “Workplaces should not encourage the precautionary use of extra PPE to protect against COVID-19 outside clinical settings or when responding to a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19.”

It adds: “Supplies of PPE, including face masks, must continue to be reserved for those who need them to protect against risks in their workplace, such as health and care workers, and those in industrial settings like those exposed to dust hazards.”

The CLC’s latest guidance is that the wearing of face coverings when not in enclosed spaces should be discretionary. This is in response to construction businesses asking for advice on when and where site workers should wear face coverings.

As the national trade body for the permanent and temporary façade access equipment industry, SAEMA – Specialist Access and Engineering Maintenance Association – is a keen observer of the latest developments and initiatives from the government post-COVID-19.

SAEMA is dedicated to ensuring adherence to safe and best practice for the provision of access to buildings and other structures for the purposes of cleaning and maintenance. SAEMA cooperates with other organisations, specialist bodies and institutions involved in the provision and maintenance of façade access systems and equipment.