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The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on all of our lives. We are here to support you and your business during this difficult and uncertain time.

Since the start of the outbreak, the FMB has prioritised ensuring our members have the right information to keep safe and to keep their business on track. We know small builders were affected hard by the first lockdown, with 96% of FMB members having to stop some or all of their work.

Through our coronavirus hub we have shared tailored guidance, resources such as contracts, reminders of our member helplines and other support services, as well as the latest official advice where you live. We have also made sure that governments across the UK have heard the call of small builders. Working collaboratively across the construction industry we have made the case for financial support for small businesses, for sites to remain open safely, for a focus on the repair, maintenance and improvement sector, and an assurance that we will build back better and greener.

While coronavirus is still very much with us, we are also playing a leading role in efforts to shape the recovery so that it works for Master Builders.

Key statistics

How we are representing your views

The FMB sits on the leading construction industry bodies that are working with the governments in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

Guidance on building work during COVID-19

This guidance sets out advice to members and their clients about what steps they may want to think about when starting or restarting a building project during the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis. The guidance is based on three principles:

  1. Protecting health and safety – members of the FMB are committed to protecting the health and safety of their workers, workers’ families, clients, their supply chains, and the public.
  2. Supporting the building industry – members of the FMB must be supported in a way that recognises their important contribution to the UK economy. Coming out of the coronavirus crisis we will need a robust construction sector that can deliver on the Government’s objectives to build more homes, improve the quality and energy efficiency of our building stock, and provide the infrastructure to enable the UK to compete.
  3. Promoting best practice – members of the FMB and their clients need to be adhering to best practice to ensure all building work is done to the highest standards and within a safe environment. 

As always, all activity should be underpinned by open communication and collaboration. This guidance is aimed at members working in the domestic sector and is a framework to help businesses decide whether work can be carried out safely on their specific site, and what steps they might consider putting in place as they return. You should check official sources of information before making any decisions about how to proceed, and you should keep the situation under review. There are links to that advice throughout this document. 

FMB members also have access to our specialist advisors. Please log in to the members area to access helpline numbers or call 0330 333 7777 for further information.

 

What are the rules where I live? 

Despite the recent reintroduction of restrictions in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, all four governments have confirmed that tradespeople can still carry out building and maintenance work inside people’s homes. Further advice, including for work on larger sites, can be found for each of the nations as follows: 

England

From 5 November, for a minimum of four weeks, England will return to a national lockdown. Despite a return to greater restrictions on our movements, the guidance is clear that construction and work inside people’s homes can continue, so long as this is done in a COVID-secure way. Builders merchants will also remain open. The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (the ‘furlough’ scheme) will remain open during this time, and there will be ongoing support for the self-employed.

Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland a ‘circuit breaker lockdown’ will be in place from 16 October for a duration of four weeks. 

At present, there are no imposed restrictions on undertaking building work within people’s homes.

Scotland

In Scotland level four rules will apply in 11 council areas across western and central Scotland from 6pm on Friday 20 November until 11 December. The council areas are: East Dunbartonshire, East Renfrewshire, Glasgow, Renfrewshire and West Dunbartonshire, North and South Lanarkshire, East and South Ayrshire, Stirling and West Lothian.
 
What does this mean for construction and the trades working in level 4 areas?
Construction operations taking place outdoors can continue. However the guidance from the Scottish Government states that tradespeople should only go into a house in a level 4 area to carry out or deliver essential work or services, for example:

  • To carry out utility (electricity, gas, water, telephone, broadband) safety checks, repairs, maintenance and installations.
  • To carry out repairs and maintenance that would otherwise threaten the household’s health and safety.
  • To deliver goods or shopping.
  • To deliver, install or repair key household furniture and appliances such as washing machines, fridges and cookers.
  • To support a home move, for example furniture removal.

For all other Covid-19 protection levels in Scotland, tradespeople can work in other people’s homes. They should stay two metres apart from the people who live there, wear a face covering and follow good hand and respiratory hygiene. Construction Scotland has guidance here for the construction sector on safe working during the Covid-19 pandemic. We will update members as and when relevant guidance from the Scottish Government changes.

Wales

On 9 November 2020 Wales came out of a 17-day national lockdown. New nationwide Covid rules are now in place to replace the ones in place during the lockdown.

Working during COVID: What steps do I need to consider? 

As you determine how to work during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, these steps are designed to help guide your considerations and ensure you keep you and your clients safe. Each business will need to decide on the specific actions it needs to take, appropriate to your business, your workforce and the particular site you are working on, in order to work safely. The FMB has taken account of official advice in preparing this guidance note.

Who cannot return to work?

If you, a member of your workforce or any contractors working for you, meet any one of the following criteria, they cannot return to work:

  • If you/they are experiencing coronavirus symptoms, however mild including a high temperature, persistent cough, or loss of taste or smell.
  • If you/they are considered to be a vulnerable person due to age, underlying health or clinical condition or if they are pregnant.
  • If you/they are living with someone who is self-isolating or a vulnerable person.

In applying this guidance employers should be mindful of the need to treat everyone in their workforce equally. It is breaking the law to discriminate, directly or indirectly, against anyone because of a protected characteristic such as age, sex or disability. Employers should therefore consider whether they need to put in place any particular measures or adjustments to take account of their duties under the equalities legislation.

 

Contracts, finances and insurance

Before you start or restart work you will need to:

1. Assess whether you can meet your contractual requirements

Liaise with your suppliers and workers to check whether they are able to meet your requirements. The FMB contracts are based on the parties working together on a project, and that includes finding solutions to this unexpected and unpredictable situation. You will need to cooperate with your clients, staff, suppliers and subcontractors.

2. Agree any necessary contract changes

Agree any changes to your FMB contract on the works period or completion date, price for the works, quality of materials due to limited supplies, working hours or methods to reflect the requirements above and remobilisation costs. These should be recorded in writing and signed by both parties using the FMB Change of Works Form (available on the Contracts page in the Members’ Area). Other forms of contract will have similar mechanisms for dealing with changes.

3. Establish understanding about the uncertainty of the current climate

Ensure your client understands the uncertain nature of works and that you have recorded any assumptions that are reflected in your revised date, price, quality, or other statements. FMB members can contact the FMB Dispute Resolution Team for advice if they are unable to reach agreement with their client.

4. Plan for further restrictions

Communicate with your client what you will both do in the event that future restrictions are placed on the works or your site that may prevent works being carried out or cause further changes to the time, cost or quality you have listed in your changes.

5. Keep talking

Continue to communicate clearly, openly and regularly as the situation is still changing. You should inform your clients of any unforeseen problems or delays as early as possible and discuss how these affect your clients’ aims for the project. You should do this remotely in order to maintain social distancing. 

6. Check your insurance

You should have notified your insurer that you were stopping work, and you will also need to notify them that work has restarted. Specifically:

  • Notifying Liability Insurers once work has restarted: all cover that may have been amended or reduced while the site was closed will need to be reinstated to ensure you are properly covered for the work you are doing. Cover for your employees will similarly need to be reinstated if it has been amended.
  • Notify Professional Indemnity Insurers of your intention to go back to work.
  • Warranties for domestic work: Notify your insurer that you are recommencing work and the new estimated completion date. If the specification of work has changed, you will need to submit this to the insurer in writing to ensure that the new works/materials are covered.
  • New homes insurance: If the work is a new homes site, you will need to confirm any new or amended specifications and will need to confirm any anticipated completion dates if these have changed so that any onsite inspections can be rearranged to fit the new construction timetable. Remember to refer to the UK Government’s guidance on working safely in construction and other outdoor work if you are working on a new build site. 

7. Keep your lender informed

You may need to notify your bank if you have obtained funding to finance the project.

 

Carrying out building work inside people's homes

If you are going to return to work, what precautions can you take to protect yourself, your workers and clients?

Risk assessments

  • Carry out a risk assessment: As the responsible contractor and employer, your risk assessment will be your starting point. It is vital that the risk involved in each job is assessed and documented, and that key considerations to do with health, safety and welfare are the primary concerns for any work you undertake. Legally, only employers with more than five employees are obliged to produce a written risk assessment, but the FMB would encourage all members to keep a written note of their assessment of the risks involved in the work. This will mean that you can more easily share your findings with others, including workers, and that you can demonstrate the steps you have taken if there are any incidents that could lead to an investigation or insurance claim in the future. No one can completely eliminate risks, but it could be very important for you to show how you have done everything reasonably practical to minimise the risks, using sensible measures and following advice and guidance.

  • Keep following existing legal obligations: Carrying out a COVID-19 risk assessment does not supersede any legal obligations relating to health and safety, employment, or equality law, and it is important that you continue to comply with these.

  • Include your workers in the process: It is important to take a collaborative approach with workers when assessing risks and proposing measures to mitigate them. Employers must engage with workers, or workers representatives in order to agree any changes in working arrangements. Your workers are able to choose their own representative, employers cannot decide who the representative will be. The aim is to have clear and consistent communications, to achieve understanding and compliance. It is good practice to have workers confirm in writing that they have received and understood information about such changes.

  • Resources to assist in assessing risks: To help, you can download the FMB's basic risk assessment Word template or find more comprehensive templates in our Document library (available to FMB members only).

  • Some actions to consider: In producing your risk assessment you should follow the commonly used hierarchy of risks:

    • Eliminate the risk – can the risk be eliminated, for example by not carrying out a particular task?

    • Reduce the risk – for example by using social distancing and good hygiene.

    • Isolate the risk – for example by limiting work to very small teams who stay together.

    • Engineered controls to reduce risk – such as physical barriers.

    • Administrative controls to reduce risk – such as staggered breaks or start times.

    • Using PPE to reduce risk, which should be the last resort, not a substitute for other measures.

Once you have completed your risk assessment, you should regularly review and update it as the situation changes. 

Health, communication and planning the work

  • If either party becomes unwell: Clients have a responsibility to inform their builder if they or any other occupant at the property become unwell, and vice-versa, so that the risk of spreading the virus can be minimised. Do not delay in passing on information if anyone begins to show symptoms or has been in contact with others who have the virus and follow the official advice about self-isolation.
  • Your health and your workers’ health: No work should be carried out by any tradesperson who is showing coronavirus symptoms, however mild. No worker should be pressurised into coming to work if they have concerns about risks to their own health or that of family members. While the FMB supports the return to work of the building industry, we are clear that this must be done safely. No one should be made to work in an unsafe workplace.
  • Workers wellbeing: Make sure you look out for your workers at this time. Further support is available via the Lighthouse Club Construction Industry Helpline.
  • Call ahead each day to check the health of the household: Call ahead on the day each day you intend to be on site to check that no one in the household has started to show symptoms of the virus, has been diagnosed, or is self-isolating. No work should be carried out in households which are self-isolating, are shielded, or are showing coronavirus symptoms unless it is to remedy a direct risk to the household, such as emergency plumbing, heating or electrical repairs, or other safety risk, and where the tradesperson is willing to do so, taking all possible precautions
  • Maintaining your reputation: It is important that neighbours and other third parties who are aware that work is re-starting on a domestic site are informed that the work is being carried out in accordance with official guidance on safe operations. This will help to safeguard your reputation as a responsible contractor for the future.
  • Avoid unnecessary face-to-face contact: You and your clients should communicate as much as possible via phone, email and video call, in order to minimise meetings and all face-to-face contact, including any signing of documents or provision of certificates. Remember not to shake hands, this is often instinctive.
  • Stick to all health and safety regulations: Ensure your client and you as principal contractor are complying with your respective obligations on the health, safety and welfare of anyone on the site under the CDM Regulations.

Travelling to work

  • Travel alone when possible: The safest way for workers to travel to site is to go alone using their own transport. 
  • Hygiene: Vehicles should also be regularly and thoroughly cleaned, paying particular attention to frequently used areas such as door handles. All workers must wash hands thoroughly on arrival and regularly throughout the day in line with Public Health advice.
  • Avoid public transport wherever possible: If this is not possible then employers should discuss options with workers, such as staggered start times so that rush hours can be avoided. When travelling on public transport, you must wear a face covering.

Carrying out the work

  • Daily briefings: Carry out daily briefings with your workers to remind them of the additional health and safety measures that they must follow. Maintain a zero tolerance to breaches of the rules you put in place for this purpose. The aim should be to provide clear consistent and regular communications to improve workers’ understanding and compliance. 
  • Nominate a coordinator to track reports of illness: Identify a coronavirus coordinator, who will be responsible for keeping records of who is on site and when, and any reports of illness or breaches of the guidance. Make workers aware that they should report any concerns to that individual.
  • Keep a record: Keep a written record of measures that have been taken to comply with safety guidance on site, from the day you return to site and on a daily basis thereafter. This could be kept with your risk assessment document. 
  • Separate building work from residents of the home: If the part of the home that you are working in can be divided off from the rest of the house, leaving the clients in residence with sufficient kitchen and bathroom facilities, this will enable any work to be carried out whilst still observing social distancing. Where this is not possible, residents should stay in a different room with the door closed. Keep rooms well ventilated at all times.
  • Washing facilities and common areas: Separate washing facilities should also be arranged where possible. You are responsible for ensuring that paper towels are provided, along with hot water and soap. Whilst on site, continue to follow the advice on frequent hand washing when not wearing gloves, using hand sanitiser and not touching the face. Social distancing and good hygiene are the most effective ways of minimising transmission of coronavirus. Workers should be reminded of the importance of washing hands more often than usual for 20 seconds using soap and water, particularly after coughing, sneezing and blowing their nose.

    Only establish common areas for refreshments and breaks if absolutely necessary. If common areas are needed, they should be cleaned regularly at least twice a day. Examples of items that should be regularly disinfected are door handles, ladders, taps, and toilets. This list is not exhaustive, and you should conduct your own risk assessment to identify areas of heavy use. Workers carrying out cleaning duties need to understand the required contact times of any disinfectants or other products they are using
  • Hands, face, space: Keep your distance on site. Ideally keep 2m between you and another person, and where this drops to 1m, add in the following measures for greater security:
    • Increasing frequency of hand washing and cleaning.
    • Keeping the time taken to carry out the activity as short as possible.
    • Use screens or barriers to separate people.
    • Work back-to-back or side-to-side (rather than face-to-face) if possible.
    • Reduce the number of people each person has contact with by using small fixed teams.
    • If people must work face-to-face for a sustained period with more than a small group of fixed workers, then you will need to assess whether the activity can safely go ahead.
    • Wear a face covering, or the relevant PPE where the task at hand requires it, for example dust work.
  • Washing your clothes: Any clothing worn on site should be changed as soon as you get home and washed so as not to harbour viruses. Any re-useable PPE (e.g. safety glasses) should be washed. Any wipes, disposable gloves etc should be bagged up and disposed of in accordance with local waste regulations. Check your Local Authority website for information on waste disposal. The Construction Industry Council has produced short video which includes information on this.
  • Don’t share: Tools must not be shared between workers. If this is not possible, tools should be disinfected before and after use by one person, before passing them on to another worker. Under no circumstances should PPE, including facemasks be shared. Note that sharing mobile phones/ tablets/ pens etc may risk infection.
  • Keep a tidy site: Good housekeeping and keeping a safe, tidy site is even more important than usual. Tools and equipment should be cleaned and disinfected, at the start and finish of any job, and all materials left tidily. There is information on the Government website about cleaning workspaces, but nothing specific to construction sites. All belongings from the work area should be removed from site at the end of the working day. If you are cleaning after a known or suspected case of COVID-19 then you should refer to the specific guidance.
  • Take a break – alone: Workers should take their breaks separately, for example eating lunch in their own vehicles or well away from each other. Consider staggered break times.
  • Splitting shifts if possible: Consider using a split shift pattern or compartmentalising sites between identified crews of workers who work inside their own compartment area to minimise physical proximity between workers.
  • Keeping small teams together: It is best if workers work alongside the same people each day as far as possible to minimise risk of transmission. This applies particularly if working within a confined space. Consider using a fixed pairing system so that it is always the same workers who work in close proximity during a two-person job.
  • Accepting deliveries: Maintain social distancing and hygiene measures when accepting deliveries, for example by requesting electronic copies of delivery notes. Collect materials in bulk to reduce the frequency of collections. Where possible and safe have single workers load or unload vehicles. If using pairs of people use the same pairs whenever possible. Ask delivery drivers to call ahead so that you can plan the unloading process.
  • No visitors to site: Do not allow any non-essential visitors to access the site. Any visitors or inspectors who must be allowed access should follow all of the same rules as the workers on site.

What to do if anyone on the site shows signs of illness

  • The first principle to apply is that health concerns take precedence over any other issue.
  • Do not continue work if you show signs of coronavirus: If at any time a worker on site feels unwell, they should assess how to leave whatever they are working on in a safe state, contact their employer, and leave the site that day. Employers should make sure that workers are regularly reminded of this, and it should be clear to workers that they must not continue to work whilst showing any symptoms, or if they have been in contact with another person who has.
  • Your responsibility to report coronavirus cases: Understand your obligations to report any coronavirus cases arising from your project to the HSE under RIDDOR and follow all other HSE Guidance. Seek advice from the FMB’s Health and Safety Advice Line (available to members only) before making any RIDDOR reports. The individual affected should also contact NHS Track and Trace.
  • Next steps if coronavirus symptoms are displayed on site: If a worker, client or anyone who is on site shows symptoms of coronavirus, you should make a risk assessment and consider whether the site should be closed down. Workers who have been in contact with them should self-isolate, following the PHE Guidance.
  • Accidents and other incidents on site: Consider whether you have adequate trained first aiders and fire marshals onsite, and have workers undertake further training if this is not the case. Consider using FMB’s e-learning platform for basic training (available to members only).
  • Workers with safety concerns on site: Government advice is very clear that no worker who feels unsafe at work should be forced to continue to work. The FMB fully endorses this position. 
  • Communicate changes to costs or length of project: Taking the actions above will be very likely to cause further delays and increase project costs, so again a collaborative approach between clients, builders and supply chain will achieve the best outcome.
  • Keep a record: Keep written records of any of the above actions, including dates, times and names, which will be important for contact tracing.

Government support services

Access free expert advice

FMB members have access to the FMB business advisory helpline for free, unlimited expert advice on a range of matters from debt recovery, human resources, tax, health and safety, legal matters and more.

Find out more

 

Notes for consumers 

We've produced guidance for consumers who are considering whether to start or continue with building works in their home at this time. Below is a summary of key points for consumers to consider. Additional guidance and information for homeowners is available on our building during the COVID-19 pandemic page. 

  • The Work Safe. Safe Work campaign provides additional information for consumers about what steps you need to take to prepare for work being carried out. It also suggests some key questions to ask of your builder before, during and after the work takes place.
  • Beware of rogue traders: The coronavirus crisis has unfortunately created conditions where fraudsters and people who are not skilled or professional builders will seize the opportunity to make money from homeowners who want to get work completed. If you are approached by anyone offering to finish work quickly and cheaply, be very careful of this. Trading Standards are reporting increased levels of such activity. It is better to be patient than to risk using rogue builders. Please use the FMB’s Find A Builder service for an independently vetted Master Builder company in your area.
  • Don’t complete the work yourself: Consumers should not be tempted to complete any work themselves, other than the normal finishing tasks such as painting and decorating. Consumers should definitely not attempt to do any work on gas and electricity installations, which should only be carried out by qualified and accredited individuals. Consult Electrical Safety First or Gas Safe for further details.
  • Don’t put pressure on your builder: Consumers should not pressurise their builder to cut corners in relation to protecting health and safety in order to get their building project completed. It is highly likely that working in accordance with current coronavirus guidance, which is over and above the existing health and safety law, will mean that building projects take longer to complete, and will therefore cost more. This requires collaborative and open discussion between the parties to agree a plan to get the work completed safely.
  • Don’t be a victim of cyber-crime: Builder and client should keep in touch remotely, so that everyone is updated on how things are going and any likelihood of work resuming. Unfortunately, there has been a rise in cyber-crime, particularly criminals hacking into email accounts in order to re-direct payments to the attackers’ bank account. Everyone should be very careful about payments going to the right account, and perhaps make a test payment of a small sum first, ensuring it has gone to the right place before transferring any large amounts. Make sure your anti-virus computer software is up to date, and do not click on links from unknown sources. The National Cyber Security Centre website has more advice.
  • Do be prepared to work collaboratively: Please work collaboratively with your builder and be realistic about likely delays to the work. This is the best way to get your project safely and successfully completed.
  • Reassure your neighbours: They may have concerns about the building work continuing, so you should reassure them that this is being done in accordance with FMB safety guidance.
Disclaimer

Official advice is changing often, and this list is not exhaustive, so you should check official sources of information before making any decisions about how to proceed and keep the situation under review. This document offers general guidance only. FMB members can contact our advisors for help with a specific enquiry. The advisory helpline numbers are in the Members’ Area. If you require support with accessing FMB membership benefits, please call the Membership Team on 0330 333 7777, or email [email protected].

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