COVID-19 operational guidance released for roads sector

26/04/2020
Dominic Browne

The Highways Sector Council (HSC) has released specific health and safety operational guidance for the roads sector to protect itself during the coronavirus pandemic.

The guidance comes after HSC's regular discussions with the Department for Transport (DfT) on how best to tackle the spread of COVID-19 and ensure highways works continue throughout the crisis.

HSC states that 'these are exceptional circumstances and the industry must comply with the latest Government advice on Coronavirus (COVID-19) at all times'. It adds that 'if a depot or site is not consistently implementing the [new guidance] measures...consideration is to be given to safely closing it down'.

The Highways Safe Operating Procedures (SOP) guidance is intended to introduce 'consistent measures in depots and on sites of all sizes in line with the Government’s recommendations on social distancing and ensure employers and individuals make every effort to comply'.

It states: 'Supervisory personnel at depots and work sites should remind the workforce before work commences every day and at all break times of these Highways Safe Operating Procedures which are aimed at protecting them, their colleagues, their families and the UK population.'

The document covers (click here to read):

  • When to travel to work 
  • Travel to depot/site 
  • Driving at work 
  • Depot/site access points 
  • Hand washing 
  • Toilet facilities 
  • Canteens and eating arrangements
  • Changing facilities, showers and drying rooms 
  • Work planning to avoid close working 
  • First aid and emergency service response
  • Cleaning

The SOPs are based upon the Construction Leadership Council (CLC) Site operating procedures Version 3 and adapted for the highways sector, as well as current Public Health England (PHE) guidance. 

Other restrictions and advice may apply in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland which must be followed if working in these areas.

PHE guidance for construction states 'where it is not possible to follow the social distancing guidelines in full in relation to a particular activity, you should consider whether that activity needs to continue for the site to continue to operate, and, if so, take all the mitigating actions possible to reduce the risk of transmission'.

The Health and Safety Executive is the relevant enforcing authority for PHE guidelines. If a depot or site is not consistently implementing the measures set out by PHE, it may be subject to enforcement action.

COVID-19 has been classified as a Notifiable Disease under RIDDOR Maintenance and repair depots and sites operating during the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic need to ensure they are protecting their workforce and the general public, as well as minimising the risk of spread of infection. This includes considering how personnel travel to and from site.

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