As COVID-19 cases rise due to the emergence of the Omicron variant, the government’s Plan B swings into action. This has been met with a response from the Construction Leadership Council (CLC), which updated its guidance on mask-wearing on construction sites, to ensure a minimised risk of the spread of COVID-19.
What follows are the latest forms of guidance and a definition of valid forms of face masks which workers may require to conduct their work in a safe manner in the construction industry.
Latest guidance updates
The CLC bases its mask-wearing guidance update on official government guidance issued in England, so please note that guidance may differ to that issued in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Government guidance in England legally requires the use of face coverings in indoor public spaces, public transport and taxis.
New CLC guidance, drafted in response to the government putting Plan B into place, requires employers to issue workers with face coverings to workers which must be worn. This applies to workers who specifically find themselves in environments where Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) is not required but exposure to people they don’t normally meet is likely on a daily basis.
Government guidance does not encourage the precautionary use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) unless for use in a clinical setting or in response to suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the local environment. According to the CLC’s latest guidance, in line with government guidance, face coverings are not a legal requirement in hospitality venues where food and drink are consumed, including canteens.
Types of face coverings
It’s now important to define the differing forms of masks mentioned above which are valid for wearing:
- Face coverings are defined as fabric or cloth coverings which are not considered PPE, and therefore not made to a recognised standard but the bare minimum in terms of masks to be worn.
- Surgical face masks are made to a recognised standard and often used in medical settings, but not considered official PPE.
- Visors and respirators (the latter of which are often used specifically in construction work) are both classed as valid forms of PPE, and should be issued freely by employers, subject to the hazard identified first.