For some months now, the Health and Safety Executive have been advising business that they would be carrying out unannounced workplace COVID-19 compliance inspections.
Therefore, in October this year it wasn’t a huge surprise when an Inspector arrived at the Rye demolition site in Harrow, northwest London.
From personal experience, the arrival of a HSE inspector at your site can be quite unnerving, no matter how rigorous your planning and enforcement procedures are. After all they have powers of entry greater than the police and can prosecute companies through the courts if they are found to be falling below the health and safety standards required by law.
Upon arrival, the Inspector introduced himself and provided our site manager with identification. He explained he was visiting to carry out a review of the site COVID-19 control measures and that this would be one of the sites within the local area that he would be visiting unannounced.
When the pandemic began and it became clear that our workforce may be impacted it fell to our Safety, Health and Environmental Manager at the time (James Stewart) to assess what the new risks were and what additional control measures were required to mitigate these risks sufficiently to continue working in a safe and healthy way. You can view a short video of James explaining this approach by clicking here.
In many ways demolition lends itself to safe working in a pandemic. Members of the workforce often work outside in relative isolation, or within their own plant. One of James’ biggest considerations would be how to allow the workforce to use the welfare facilities safely and take scheduled breaks with limited disease transmission risk.
Our Managing Director (Simon Barlow) has embedded a strong culture of health and safety and was eager to ensure all appropriate measures were taken, as well as committing to acting on any additional advice from the HSE.
All of the additional COVID-19 control measures identified by James incurred extra cost. These included additional resource to take temperatures of the workforce, more seating, toilet and drying room capacity to encourage social distancing and COVID-19 specific advisory signage to display around the development. Simon understood the importance of the additional control measures and signed them off without question.
The HSE inspector spent two hours at our development and reviewed our control measures in full. The site team were commended on their COVID-19 compliance. We were advised that additional outdoor mobile hand washing facilities would reduce risk further, so two of these units were procured immediately.
The visit provided the Rye management team with the assurance that we were doing the right thing.
We have a legal and moral obligation to look after our employees and ensure their health is not negatively impacted by coming to work and we will continue to review government guidance and adapt our working practices accordingly, whilst very much looking forward to a return to normal.
Ben Griffiths (SHE and Operations Director).