The National Custom and Self Build Association (NaCSBA) has welcomed the government’s easing of lockdown restrictions which could see increased construction work on self build sites in England, but insists the priority remains workers’ and homeowners’ safety.

The government published a 50-page document on Monday seeking to clarify comments made by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Sunday evening, who said that workers unable to work from home, such as construction workers, should go back to work.

Initially it was believed that this recommendation would apply from Monday, but foreign secretary Dominic Raab confirmed on Monday morning that these measures will apply from Wednesday. Mr Raab added that workplaces will receive guidance on how to become “Covid secure” in a document that will be released on Tuesday. 

Andrew Baddeley-Chapell, chief executive of NaCSBA, told Homebuilding & Renovating: “The priority on any self or custom build site is people’s safety. This should guide all activity that is undertaken (as was the case before Covid-19). With this in mind NaCSBA believes that work can continue on many custom and self build sites, and we are keen to see this happen where it is safe to do so.”

The government’s guidelines apply only in England, with the devolved governments of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland all sticking with their existing lockdown guidance. In Scotland, all non-essential construction work has been stopped since April. 

“The position on construction is clearly different in Scotland and we respect the right of all regional governments to do what they believe to be right, but would welcome a return work on smaller sites, in particular, when they consider that appropriate,” said Baddeley-Chappell.

New Safety Guidelines

Safety concerns were a paramount reason behind some construction firms closing, and builders and trades putting a pause on jobs, once lockdown was announced in March. But major builders’ merchants have begun reopening stores in recent weeks, and self build projects, as well as those renovating a house, are able to continue providing safety measures are implemented.

While some construction firms have remained operational during lockdown, those returning to work on Wednesday are now being encouraged by the government not to travel by public transport, and to wear a face-covering mask when social distancing is not possible. 

Brian Berry, chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders (FMB), said: “Builders have been calling for clear direction from the government and the Prime Minister has now made it plain that he wants a return to work. However, the virus remains a very real risk that needs to be effectively managed. More clarity is needed about the provision of PPE to ensure that all workers that need it can get it. 

“The forthcoming government workplace guidance needs to address this issue as soon as possible because builders who work inside people’s homes face a more tricky situation than those who work outside.”

Fighting for the Future

Construction is among the industries which has endured perilous challenges during the coronavirus pandemic, with some firms reportedly facing going bust.  

NaCSBA hopes the easing of lockdown measures will be able to kick-start growing activity in the homebuilding sector. “This is important as the sector has a big role to play in the economic recovery, in particular if the government delivers the commitments it made in its manifesto about supporting custom and self build,” said Baddeley-Chappell. 

NaCSBA has compiled guidance for workers on self build sites which it is updating regularly to reflect the latest government and industry guidance, and hopes to see the self build and custom build sector recover following a challenging few months. 

Furthermore, the FMB has created a guide for people deciding whether to undertake building work during the Covid-19 pandemic, while these essential resources will help you plan your project during lockdown.

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