Coming out of COVID-19 – starting your building projects

From 13 May 2020 in England the government advised workers who cannot work from home that they may travel to work if their workplace is open. This means that building sites can now be open for work and therefore church building projects are restarting. There are two aspects to this that you need to consider. The first relates to your church employees and volunteers, and the second to the contractors, delivery people and others visiting your site.

If you as a church have employees and volunteers you should be taking responsibility for them and ensuring that their activities are risk assessed. You may already have risk assessments. These should be updated in light of the current additional risks with COVID-19. As well as carrying out risk assessments, you should also discuss with your employees and volunteers the risks and actions you are taking (or proposing to take). You also have a duty of care to contractors that are working on your property. This should include not asking them to carry out anything that would put them at risk.

Under the CDM regulations, where building work is taking place, you as the client are considered to be the “principal designer”, unless you have formally (in writing) delegated this responsibility to someone else (e.g. your architect). The principal designer is responsible for ensuring that the building is designed and constructed and can be subsequently used and maintained in safety. The risks to health and safety not only affect the construction workers themselves, but also members of the public who may be in close vicinity during building works, and those who may continue to use a building during alterations or extensions.

Contractors are responsible for their employees and subcontractors and have a duty of care to you to ensure they are not putting you or your employees, volunteers or visitors at risk. They should be carrying out risk assessments on the work methods they are using and should ensure that all workers comply with the agreed protocols.

It is key that you and your contractors agree on who is taking responsibility for different services and facilities on site and who is responsible for setting out procedures and enforcing safety measures on different parts of the site and project. This is normally set out in writing and can be included in the contract for the construction project.

You will need to risk assess the following:

·         Travel to and from work, as well as driving at work

·         Site access and exits

·         Meetings

·         Facilities on site including hand washing, keeping your workplace clean, toilets, rest areas and other communal areas, and first aid, emergency service response, accidents and security.

·         Working on site, including social distancing, planning work to avoid close working and additional precautions where social distancing is not possible.

We have produced a briefing paper, which gives more details of the government guideline. It will help you think through the issues that you have to risk assess and how you are to practically work with contractors, staff and volunteers on your building project.