Lorna Carter

+44 (0)1223 785299 lecarter@greenwoodsgrm.co.uk

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Kathryn Gilbertson

+44 (0)1733 887621 kgilbertson@greenwoodsgrm.co.uk

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Battening down the hatches and mothballing construction sites: what you need to know

Construction / 30 April 2020

Over the last month or so, the construction industry has been grappling tough decisions: whether to shut down sites and the ramifications for doing so, or if you decide to keep going, how to ensure compliance with seemingly conflicting social distancing and health and safety rules? We have covered these issues in our previous updates. In this update, we discuss the related topic of how to mothball a construction site.

Safely securing a site is nothing new: all sites should always be left safely. Our Head of Construction, Lorna Carter and Head of Regulatory, Kathryn Gilbertson, recently hosted a free seminar series ‘Batten Down The Hatches’ highlighting the importance of property management and health and safety during recent periods of adverse weather.

Deciding to mothball a site during the coronavirus pandemic is another good example of ‘battening down the hatches’ to protect worker’s health and safety, particularly in circumstances where builders have still not been deemed ‘essential workers’ despite being permitted to continue working.

Practical tips to batten down the hatches and mothball sites

If the practical realities of coronavirus force you to close a site, it is critical you take certain steps to ensure the site is safe. We recommend the following steps to MOTHBALL a site:

 Make sure you reach out to everyone involved on a project (clients, supply chain, design team, insurers and neighbours) to ensure they understand what is happening – all communications can be made remotely. We also recommend making sure you have an emergency list of up-to-date contact details for everyone;
– Observe existing health and safety legislation to shut down safely and ensure your site’s plant, equipment and materials are safe and secure to mitigate the risk of an inadvertent safety breach, for example a scaffolding collapse onto a member of the public walking past the site during a period of adverse weather;
– Take plant and valuable technology off site if possible or lock them away securely to protect against theft;
– Hazard awareness – make sure you have a comprehensive record of potential hazards and risks, including fuel on site, or even the risk of birds or animals nesting on site during Spring. This could cause big problems for your project when it comes to restarting;
– Be vigilant and make sure you have security cameras which work and can be monitored by someone working from home;
– Avoid becoming complacent – make sure you continue to maintain the safety of the site throughout the lockdown, through CCTV, monitoring devices or physical inspections;
– Let the downtime be a positive for your business and use time off site productively to get your house in order: carry out a gap analysis of compliance to check what you are doing well/not so well/ or where you can improve;
– Look after your and your employee’s mental health during more than ever whilst off site.

Many construction businesses throughout the UK will be facing difficult decisions and situations ahead. Ensuring your closed site is safe and secure and taking proactive steps to check the safeguards you have in place for safety during the downtime will help to facilitate a speedy restart of projects.

Our Regulatory and Construction experts are on hand to provide urgent advice in respect of the implications of mothballing your site, from both a contractual and health and safety perspective. Please do get in touch.

Visit our CORONAVIRUS HUB for insight and guidance to help you and your organisation during this complex time.


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This update is for general purposes and guidance only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. You should seek legal advice before relying on its content. This update relates to the prevailing circumstances at the date of its original publication and may not have been updated to reflect subsequent developments. If you have general queries about our updates, please email: mailinglists@greenwoodsgrm.co.uk

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