Using technology to implement UK COVID-19 Guidelines for construction work

The United Kingdom Government issued its COVID-19 working guidelines for construction and outdoor work industries on 11th May 2020, which can be accessed on the Gov.uk website here.

These guidelines encompass a range of activities aimed at reducing potential exposure and transmission of illness, as well as containment methods. Implementing these guidelines means changes for everyone involved, from management to the workers and visitors on site. The changes vary from new types of risk assessments, to the implementation of sanitisation and new workforce management methods.

A wide variety of expertise and input is needed to meet the challenge of implementing these guidelines – every site and every project is different. 

However, the implementation of these guidelines can be made easier by leveraging technology to make policies and processes more effective. Systems like SignOnSite are able to reach the entire workforce and facilitating changes at scale.

Changes that require changes in communication and information management are the best candidates for augmentation with technology. And changing these processes can have a dramatic impact on how effectively people are socially distanced and how a site operates.

Social distancing on construction sites

What the guidelines say:

3.1 Coming to work and leaving work

Objective: To maintain social distancing wherever possible, on arrival and departure and to ensure handwashing upon arrival.

Steps that will usually be needed:

  1. Staggering arrival and departure times at work to reduce crowding into and out of the workplace, taking account of the impact on those with protected characteristics.
  2. Providing additional parking or facilities such as bike-racks to help people walk, run, or cycle to work where possible.
  3. Limiting passengers in corporate vehicles, for example, work minibuses. This could include leaving seats empty.
  4. Reducing congestion, for example, by having more entry points to the workplace.
  5. Using markings and introducing one-way flow at entry and exit points.
  6. Providing handwashing facilities, or hand sanitiser where not possible, at entry and exit points.
  7. Providing alternatives to touch-based security devices such as keypads.
  8. Defining process alternatives for entry/exit points where appropriate, for example deactivating pass readers at turnstiles in favour of showing a pass to security personnel at a distance.

3.2 Moving around buildings and worksites

Objective: To maintain social distancing wherever possible, while people travel through the workplace.

Steps that will usually be needed:

  1. Reducing movement by discouraging non-essential trips within buildings and sites. For example, restricting access to some areas, encouraging use of telephones where permitted, and cleaning them between use.
  2. Reducing job rotation and equipment rotation, for example, single tasks for the day.
  3. Implementing one-way systems where possible on walkways around the workplace.
  4. Using signage such as ground markings or being creative with other objects to mark out 2m to allow controlled flows of people moving throughout the site.
  5. Reducing occupancy of vehicles used for onsite travel, for example, shuttle buses, and when needed, social distancing measures should be followed within the vehicles.
  6. Separating sites into working zones to keep different groups of workers physically separated as much as practical.
  7. Planning site access and ‘area of safety’ points to enable social distancing.
  8. Reducing the number of people in attendance at site inductions and consider holding them outdoors wherever possible with social distancing.
  9. Regulating use of high traffic areas including corridors, lifts, turnstiles and walkways to maintain social distancing.

Site access, entry/exit and attendance

If a site was using turnstiles, keypads, fingerprint readers or other access control method before COVID-19, adapting to points 4, 7 and 8 of section 3.1 and point 7 of section 3.2 would mean making drastic changes, often moving to the seemingly simple solution of distanced entry/exit points with a paper register. However, the paper register itself is a transmission risk.

Instead, a contactless technology solution like SignOnSite can be used to set up many distanced site entry and exit points, without sacrificing the quality of information captured. SignOnSite uses mobile phones and a secure cloud platform to capture attendance for anyone entering and exiting a construction site. Instead of using a paper register, turnstiles or kiosks (all of which have a transmission risk), site workers, subcontractors and visitors sign-on and sign-off without sharing contact surfaces.

The free mobile app uses geofencing to make sign-in/sign-out out a quick and safe process. Kiosks and manual sign-in options are available as a backup.

On first use, the users register themselves with their necessary personal particulars. This registration is then used whenever that persons signs on and signs off any SignOnSite-enabled site. This attendance information is relayed to the secure Site Management platform in a real-time, giving managers the ability to view, control and manage their site personnel at scale.

SignOnSite instantly captures when someone enters and exits a site, down to the second. In addition to the real-time site view, historical records are also kept on the secure SignOnSite platform.

See how SignOnSite attendance works by clicking here, and how real-time site visibility works by click here.

Inductions

Item 8 of section 3.2 seeks to address the risk of transmission during site inductions, and does so by recommending that the speaking/listening component be conducted with social distancing. 

Another risk in the site induction process is in the information exchange of the personal particulars of site attendees, as well as copies of their qualifications and competencies. This is often done on paper sheets, which will end up being handled by multiple people. 

This process can be made contactless with technology, where the information exchange can be conducted on the individual’s device. The SignOnSite mobile application allows attendees to perform their induction without sharing items or devices. See how it works by clicking here.

Managing customers, visitors & contractors

What the guidelines say:

4.1 Manage contacts

Objective: To minimise the number of unnecessary visits to the worksite.

Steps that will usually be needed:

  1. Where site visits are required, site guidance on social distancing and hygiene should be explained to visitors on or before arrival.
  2. Encouraging visits via remote connection/working where this is an option.
  3. Limiting the number of visitors at any one time.
  4. Determine if schedules for essential services and contractor visits can be revised to reduce interaction and overlap between people.
  5. Maintaining a record of all visitors, if this is practical.

The SignOnSite Site Manager dashboard gives managers a real time view of site attendance, giving them the power to control attendance volumes.

The user registration process, combined with highly accurate attendance data, means that sites can easily produce a list of who was on site in any given time period, who they were there with, and how to contact them in the event of a potential exposure.

Further, the SignOnSite’s daily briefing feature allows managers and supervisors to:

  • relay rich information to everyone entering the site;
  • receive acknowledgement from every individual they’ve read, understood and agree to the briefing;
  • administer briefing compliance across the whole workforce;

Information such as the specific policies implemented on site, expectations of social distancing, declarations that they are symptom-free and agreements not to come work can all be issued directly to people’s phones.

The content can be displayed as text in multiple languages and also include images. The user will be notified of the Daily Briefing as soon as they sign-on, and will then be prompted to send back the acknowledgement, which will become visible in real time on the Site Management view.

Learn more

If you’d like to learn more about SignOnSite, please complete the form below for a printable information pack.