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Covid-19: an engineering approach to protecting workers during the pandemic

16 July 2020

Generic safety rules cannot be applied across all projects. Good engineers know that great design and construction is backed up by best advice and guidance. Developed during an ongoing pandemic, this document provides guidance for how a collaborative construction site-specific approach can be taken to assess individuals’ exposure to hazards.

Covid-19: an engineering approach to protecting workers during the pandemic
There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach for assessing health risks on construction sites.

Covid-19 has presented peculiar and sometimes particular threats to the population with some demographic groups potentially more prone to the severest outcomes, upon contraction of Covid-19; for instance, workers from a minority ethnic background, workers with underlying medical conditions or older workers.

That doesn’t mean that outside of those demographic groups people aren’t being affected, accordingly the construction industry must take appropriate measures to protect its workforce and their families, minimise the virus exposure risk and enable productive economic work to be carried out for as long as the virus is present in the local environment.

Therefore, when reviewing and revising Construction Phase Plans and related risk assessments, taking account of the potential presence of coronavirus and the likelihood of workers contracting Covid-19, employers must engage with and involve the individual employees in establishing their level of exposure risk and the appropriateness of the protective measures.

One size does not fit all

Developed by ICE’s Expert Panel on Safety, Health and Wellbeing this document has been designed to assist companies prepare and manage their workplaces in the pandemic, including any reopening and ongoing strategies, complementing the guidance from national organisations such as; the UK’s Construction Leadership Council’s (CLC) standard operating procedures (CLC 2020) or Construction Industry Federation in Ireland (CIF 2020) or Construction Scotland for example.

Purpose of this guidance

This document is a curation of what we understand from the numerous guidance and advice available, distilled into a practical worker-centred ‘solution finder’ that meets the needs of the public health emergency and the economic crisis.

It encompasses both the principles of prevention and ethically aligned design principles, making a substantial addition to the quality guidance available for those assessing the exposure risk and the health of their workforce, facilitating identification of safe working environments, and helping to restart or continue work on construction sites while maintaining and rebuilding this sector of the economy. Guidance covers how to deal with the exposure risk when:

  • planning, designing, and/ or carrying out construction work;
  • travelling to and from the workplace; and
  • workers are living away from their normal homes.

For all the stated reasons ‘a one size fits all’ approach is not an appropriate approach. This guidance, to be read in conjunction with appropriate statutory guidance, will help avoid blanket rules and restrictions being applied across the construction industry in a less than caring fashion, answering the relevant question; how can workers work in a safe and healthy manner during a pandemic?

Covid-19 An Engineering Approach to Protecting Workers during the Pandemic July 2020

Content type: Best practice

Last updated: 05/07/2022

Author: Adam Kirkup

  • Adam Kirkup, engineering communities manager at ICE