Three significant announcements have been made by the Scottish Government today.

  • Scotland will move to phase 1 of the 4 phase route map for lifting COVID-19 restrictions from 29 May
  • The “Coronavirus (COVID-19): Construction Sector Guidance has been substantially updated. The changes include Construction Scotland's 6 phase construction restart plan.
  • Construction sites can move to phase 1 of the 6 phase construction restart plan from 29 May.

What does the route map say about the construction sector?

  • Phase 1: Construction – Phases 0-2 of industry restart plan can be implemented. Industry to consult government before progressing to phase 2 - APPROVED
  • Phase 2:  Construction sector to implement remaining stages of phased return - To be confirmed

What does the 6 phase construction restart plan say?

  • Phase 0:  Planning - APPROVED
  • Phase 1:  Covid-19 Pre-start site prep - APPROVED
  • Phase 2:  "Soft start" (only where physical distancing can be maintained) - To be confirmed
  • Phase 3:  Steady state (only where physical distancing can be maintained) - To be confirmed
  • Phase 4:  Steady state (where physical distancing can be maintained and/or with PPE use) - To be confirmed
  • Phase 5:  Increasing density/productivity - To be confirmed

What does the updated Guidance say?

  • Work on construction in non essential sectors should remain halted.
  • The role of the HSE is emphasised: “HSE can, and will, use the Health and Safety at Work Act to ensure social distancing in the workplace in relation to workers….Where HSE identifies employers who are not taking action to comply with the relevant public health guidance to control COVID-19 health risks to workers, HSE will consider a range of actions to improve control of workplace risks including the provision of specific advice to employers through to issuing enforcement notices. These actions will be taken under existing health and safety law. A framework agreement between Police Scotland and local authorities supports the referral of complaints about lack of reasonable physical distancing at work.”
  • Construction Scotland’s 6 phase restart plan is adopted.

When will phase 2 of the construction restart plan start (“soft start” to site works)?

The date of phase 2 is not yet known. This is the key phase as it is when site works can actually start. It has not yet been reached. The Guidance states:

“Progress through these stages will be evidence-led and dependent on all parties working in genuine partnership.  As an initial stage, we are planning for the construction sector to implement the first two phases in its restart plan from 29 May, with a decision to move to 'phase 2' of the construction sector's plan only after consulting with government to ensure it is safe to do so and in line with public health advice.”

The way ahead

The Scottish construction sector knows that it is currently in a very different place to England. It has, to date, willingly followed the Scottish Government’s Guidance.

That Guidance is not mandatory, but it is important to remember that all businesses that are operating are required - as a matter of law - to take all reasonable measures to comply with social distancing criteria. See my colleague Colin Clelland’s blog on the impact of The Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions) (Scotland) Amendment (No. 2) Regulations 2020: The Construction Industry and COVID-19 – Where are we now?

The Scottish Government’s decision not to immediately sanction the move to phase 2 of the construction restart plan (“soft start”) will come as a disappointment to those who have been diligently preparing for a return to site recognising the need to observe social distancing criteria. We still have a long way to go before it gives its blessing to the full operation of sites in Scotland.

We will be running a webinar on 9 June: “Unlocking Lockdown: Key Issues for the Construction Sector”. Please contact us if you would like to receive an invitation.