Statement on Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic

11th May 2020 – Updates shown highlighted

Purpose

This statement has been produced to summarise the Stack London Ltd response to the currently developing COVID-19 pandemic seen around the world, and highlight particular risks and mitigation methods being employed by Stack to respond to Government advice and the need to reduce the risk of spread of the virus.

The new statement from the Prime Minister on the evening of the 10th May has updated previously issued guidance, and this note has been updated to reflect the changed circumstances that we find ourselves in. The updated guidance does not contain a great deal of change for the construction industry, which has been permitted to continue working throughout the restrictions on movement imposed on the 23rd March. However, it is noted that many other commercial sectors are now being encouraged to return to work, with workers generally permitted to work where they CANNOT work at home. Whilst this does not affect work on our sites particularly, it will affect the numbers of people travelling in the morning and afternoon peaks.

As well as the updated statement from the Government, there are updated suggested Operating Procedures from the Construction Leadership Council (Version 3) that remain the reference document for activities on site.

Introduction

Stack London operate on multiple sites primarily in the South East of the country, but operations can be broadly categorised into three typical scenarios:

  • Office based staff/activities (e.g. Head Office)
  • Construction site based activities
  • Works ‘in the field’ in occupied properties (e.g. customer care visits)

The risks in each scenario are broadly similar. The Coronavirus is spread through close contact in a similar fashion to common flu, and our response to each situation is aimed at minimising the risk of transmission through this contact, using a standard risk assessment hierarchy of prevention, group protection and individual protection. Mitigation for each of the above scenarios is taken in turn below:

Office based staff

Our office based staff (circa 15) are all located within our Farringdon Head Office. In line with Government advice and to eliminate unnecessary interaction at work, we have taken the precaution of closing our office and asking all staff to work from home on normal duties.

  • Each member of staff has a laptop with remote access software and the ability to access all required software and emails as if they were sat at their office chair.
  • The company switchboard can also be operated remotely, and is functioning as normal, with calls diverted through to staff mobiles. Externally, there will be no difference in operation.
  • Planned meetings have either been postponed, or will be carried out using audio or videoconferencing facilities as appropriate.

We will continue to monitor the situation, but expect that our office will remain closed until the end of May at the earliest. We are currently considering a plan that will permit opening of the office while maintaining social distancing measures. This is likely to include a limit on numbers that will require careful planning of attendance.

Construction site based activities

The majority of Stack activity (in terms of manpower) is carried out on our construction sites. These sites are generally manned by a relatively small number of Stack staff and a much greater number of operatives from sub-contractors and agencies. Of course, the work undertaken on construction sites is predominantly manual, and therefore cannot be carried out from home. This set of circumstances require a different set of mitigation strategies to reduce the risk of Coronavirus spread:

Our principal reference document is the Construction Leadership Council (CLC) Site Operating Procedures, which was produced by the CLC to assist construction companies with guidance on how to protect the workforce.

  • All Construction Phase Health and Safety Plans have been amended to refer to the CLC guidance, and the guidance is posted outside welfare facilities and site offices. Stack will work to the recommendations of the document in keeping facilities safe and cleaned regularly.
  • Contractors RAMS information must be updated to incorporate requirements on social distancing and reinforce to operatives the importance of working safely. Where work cannot be carried out maintaining social distancing, consideration should be given to re-planning work to remove the risk. Where this is not possible, suitable PPE should be issued and used to ensure safety.
  • Travel to site should be by walking, cycling or by car where possible. Where operatives must travel to site by public transport, consideration should be given to staggering shift starts to avoid peak times. This is particularly important as more people return to work.
  • Measures to be put in place to decrease the density of workers in any one place. For example, where work is being undertaken in discrete plots (e.g. a house or flat), the number of operatives should be limited to a maximum of two per plot, working in separate rooms unless completely unavoidable (for a task requiring two pairs of hands for example).
  • Traditional meetings in site cabins MUST be avoided. Where required, meetings should be held outdoors (weather permitting) and attendees should be limited strictly to those necessary. Social distancing advice from Public Health England MUST be followed.
  • Work in confined spaces should be avoided, and limited to only one operative. If this is not possible, work should be postponed until further notice. This is to be controlled through the usual permit to enter system.
  • Rest periods should be staggered to reduce the number of operatives in welfare and drying units as much as possible. This may require that breaks are evenly spread throughout the day rather than specific times. There have been numerous photos shared on social media of packed canteens on large sites, and we must stress that this IS NOT acceptable. As above, Public Health England Guidelines on Social distancing MUST be followed.
  • Toolbox talks (remembering to limit numbers and undertake outside) on the need to wash hands frequently and avoid touching face etc, all in line with Government advice. A sample Toolbox talk on the dangers of Coronavirus has been produced and circulated to all Project and Site Managers.
  • Temperature of operatives to be taken using Infrared Thermometers on entry to site each day. Any operative with an elevated temperature (compared to an average reading of others) should be advised that they would return home and self-isolate for 14 days in line with Government advice.
  • Any operatives that report or display symptoms of Coronavirus (elevated temperature or a continuous new cough) should self-isolate for 7 days in line with Government advice.
    We expect that the measures above will assist in slowing the transmission of the virus whilst still maintaining progress and the ability of people to come to work, and is fully compliant with the aims of Government advice and strategy. Of course, we will continue to monitor this and respond to any changes or development in Government advice as it happens.

We believe that a responsible attitude to the risks is necessary, and again re-iterate the seriousness of the situation. We must adhere to the guidelines issued by Government and Public Health England if we are to slow the spread of this virus.

Works ‘in the field’

The third aspect of works carried out by Stack involve operatives visiting residents in their own homes to carry out aftercare or warranty work as required.

Whilst the risks from this type of work are similar to those already noted above, mitigation measures are difficult and perhaps not easy to assess for each case. With this in mind, Stack have suspended all Customer Care visits for routine or non-emergency works indefinitely. Reports of defects will still be taken and recorded, but will not be acted upon until further notice.

Works in occupied properties that are essential to maintaining progress on contract works MAY be undertaken subject to specific risk assessment. Any proposed works of this nature should be referred to the Construction Director for consideration and approval or otherwise PRIOR to works being carried out. There are no exceptions to this rule.

Where works are of an emergency or critical nature (loss of heating, leaks etc) an individual risk assessment will be carried out to determine mitigation measures to be taken prior to any visit. Any visits of this nature should be discussed with Contracts Manager or Construction Director PRIOR to proceeding.

Updates

This document will continue to be updated and distributed as the situation evolves, and if there is any doubt about measures required, please do not hesitate to contact Alex Miller or John Friel to ask for clarification.

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