Tomorrow morning the Welsh Government will enforce 'social distancing' at work with a law requiring employers to abide by the two-metre rule where "reasonable". Currently, employers are just advised to keep a 2 metre distance between staff in an effort to prevent the spread of coronavirus in workplaces.
There is no question that employers should be doing all they can to protect the health and safety of their staff and this new law may well help some workers who believe they are being forced to work in close proximity to their colleagues.
But how will it affect the construction industry? A lot of jobs on building sites include two or more people working closely together, indeed it would often be unsafe if they weren’t - if they are lifting heavy loads for instance. So, will all building sites in Wales now have to be shut down?
According to a report in the Sunday Times, the Construction Leadership Council, a joint industry and government body, issued guidance on social distancing at building sites, saying that unless workers could remain at least 2 metres apart, “work should not be carried out.” This guidance was swiftly reversed when it was realised that it would result in work on the Nightingale Hospital having to stop.
A lot will depend on the word “reasonable”. The new law will require employers to take all reasonable actions to comply with the two-metre distancing rule. This will give employers scope to argue that it is not reasonable to keep all construction workers 2 metres apart.
It will be interesting to see how this new law works in practice. Risk assessments will need to be carried out and perhaps only essential construction projects will continue.
Welsh Government is to enforce 'social distancing' at work with a law requiring employers to abide by the two metre rule where "reasonable".