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Construction Industry COVID-19 Operational Guidance

Last night the Prime Minister ordered:

  • people to stay at home, except for very limited purposes;
  • closure of non-essential shops and community spaces; and
  • the banning of gatherings of more than two people in public.

The UK Government in its guidance confirmed that travelling to and from work was permitted, but only where this is absolutely cannot be done from home. Following the Prime Minister's announcement the Communities and Housing Secretary tweeted advice for the construction industry, "If you are working on site, you can continue to do so. But please follow Public Health England guidance on social distancing".

This has been confirmed by the Cabinet Minister Michael Gove, who this morning stated ". . . construction should continue on sites. People should exercise sensitivity and common sense and follow social distancing measures, but construction in the open air on those sorts of sites can continue . . . It is important that when we have construction work that is going on which can be done safely in the open air on new sites that does continue."

It is difficult to reconcile this guidance with the construction industry, which is by its nature a collaborative effort involving teams of people working in close proximity. Government guidance exempts from the order preventing public gatherings of more than two people, any gathering which is essential for work purposes but these meetings should be minimised as should all other gatherings in the workplace.

So what conclusions can developers and contractors drawn from the various Government announcements?

Construction is not an industry which the Government has ordered to close and the Government consider it is important the industry continues and stay open, but the sites should only stay open if it is safe to do so. It will be for each developer and contractor to determine if the construction operations can be carrying out safely while maintaining social distancing measures. In particular, can welfare facilities operate safely while still maintaining social distancing measures? The Construction Leadership Council (CLC) has published Site Operating Procedures, which should assist in making these difficult decisions. The CLC's SOP announcement is available here.

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About this Author

Amanda John Construction Attorney Katten London
Associate

Amanda John is on the Construction team, dealing with both transactional and contentious matters. She works with both private individuals and businesses ranging from startups to public limited companies within a broad range of sectors. These include hospitality, property development, health care, IT, energy and automotive.

Practical assistance with construction when it's needed most

Amanda has been around the construction and engineering industries most of her life. Her clients are located throughout the world, as well as in the UK. They include individuals and companies at...

44 (0) 20 7770 5244
Matthew Needham-Laing, Litigation lawyer, Katten Munchin
Partner

Matthew Needham-Laing is a partner at Katten Muchin Rosenman UK LLP, with more than 20 years of experience in construction and engineering as both a litigator and a transactional lawyer. Matthew provides his clients with a one-stop-shop legal service spanning both contentious and non-contentious matters relating to construction, engineering and infrastructure projects.

As a litigator, he is experienced in adjudication, arbitration and alternative dispute resolution and has acted as an adjudicator in numerous construction and engineering disputes. On the non-contentious side, he drafts and negotiates all forms of construction and engineering contracts and advises on bonds and guarantees related to those contracts. Matthew also has considerable experience advising on engineering contracts for oil and gas companies and pharmaceutical infrastructure projects.

Due to his training and practice as an architect in the 1980s, Matthew's experience extends across the real estate sector. As an architect, he worked on hotel, office and retail projects and this background lends unique insight into the problems associated with construction projects. He is well known in the real estate sector and in the 2016 edition of Chambers UK, Matthew's clients note that he is "well respected in the industry."  

Matthew lectures on matters relating to construction law and adjudication, and his articles on construction in the pharmaceutical industry and cybersecurity in the construction industry have been published in a number of construction industry magazines. He also has been a contributor to the Architects Legal Handbook.

He is recognized by Chambers legal directory as a leader in his field and has been interviewed by the BBC, Sky TV and quoted in The TimesThe Daily TelegraphEvening StandardThe New York Times, and TODAY (Singapore), as well as numerous other publication and news outlets.

 

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