Having identified over a 100 work items that are currently performed in the finishes and interiors sector where it was deemed difficult to maintain the two-metre working rule, a Task Group established through specialist trade body, Finishes and Interiors Sector (FIS) reviewed methods of work and assigned a ‘traffic light’ category (red, amber, or green) to each task. This has resulted in a Four Step People First COVID-19 Safety Protocol and supporting toolkit aimed at helping contractors manage their return to work during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Four Steps are:

  • Start Safe – Essential information for workers and guidance on travelling to site
  • Site Safe – Building on requirements in the Construction Leadership Council’s (CL) Site Operating Procedures
  • Task Safe – Assessing tasks against the 2m working rule
  • Home Safe – Advice on decontamination processes

The Task Group set-out to review common tasks in the sector through a detailed survey, the results of which identified eight tasks (red) that cannot be done by following current methods and 32 tasks where significant change to the process is required in order to maintain the two-metre social distancing rule (amber).  The Task Assessment Tool collates the data and against each task provides a suggested review of existing methods of working and controls for the two-metre rule.

Work is ongoing and the Task Group has been meeting virtually every few days and is supported by over 30 H&S experts from the sector through the COVID-19 H&S Task Group established through the FIS.  Whilst new tasks can still be reviewed against the criteria, the focus of the group is now on developing clearer information on appropriate PPE, reviewing innovative ideas and exchanging and sharing best practice in order to support safer working across the sector.

FIS CEO, Iain McIlwee said “It is clear that the top down approach from the CLC needs to be supported by a bottom up approach through the specialist sectors, the devil is in the detail.  Collaboration is critical at the moment.  There is a lot of information out there, but it can be difficult to line up and lacks critical detail – this has the potential to lead to conflict and compromise.  Some compromises could take us too far – our approach has to be people first.  Beyond this, we are aware of the contractual pressures on our community and it is vital that companies have a formal review process to identify if people can get to site safely, the site itself is safe and that work that needs to continue can be managed safely.  The easier we can make and the more we can support this review process, the less disputes there will be.  The industry now needs to be better than it has ever been – for too long we have been overly contractual and this has led to risk avoidance rather than risk management.  As we start to return to work we must leave the bad old days behind us, avoid the disputes, siloed thinking and tiered approach, instead focussing on finding ways to support one another, putting our energy into innovation rather than infighting”.

These resources are all available through the FIS website.

Howard Collins, Managing Director COBRA Insurance Brokers who has been working closely with the FIS added:

“The FIS Four Step People First Covid-19 Safety Guidance and Task Assessment Tool supports members and their employees with their risk management planning for returning to constructions sites. UK Employers’ Liability Insurance is designed to provide cover for an Insured’s legal liability for injury arising out of the Insured’s actions or failures to act where a duty of care is owed. The safety of workers is paramount in the minds of the association and its members, following the four steps protocol will help companies to protect their employees and demonstrate to their insurers that they have a considered approach to risk assessments.”

The four step protocol and task assessment tool can be downloaded from the H&S Toolkit on the FIS Website