Site working in the UK and COVID-19

As of 10 May 2020, advice issued by the UK Government has been for people to stay at home as much as possible, work from home if you can, limit contact with other people and keep your distance (2m apart where possible) if you go out. Advice from Scottish Government, Welsh Government and Public Health Agency Northern Ireland, has not been updated in line with UK Government at the current time.

In England, construction sites are being ‘actively encouraged’ to open, subject to implementing effective safety procedures. The Prime Minster has recognised that capacity will remain limited due to the impacts of social distancing.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has stated that the Prime Minister's comments do not apply in Scotland and that those currently not working in Scotland are not being asked to return to work. Scottish Government is, however, ‘looking at’ the advice for the construction sector as a priority. Currently, only ‘essential’ construction sites are permitted to open in Scotland.

Government Ministers in Wales and Northern Ireland have issued similar cautious statements and have not eased stay at home instructions, but construction sites in Wales and Northern Ireland remain permitted to open.

We understand that a significant number of members and Registered Organisations have been taking steps over the past weeks to return to work where possible, subject to procedures designed to ensure safety.

CIfA's advice is to follow the government advice in whatever region you are working in. This means working at home wherever possible. Some archaeological organisations may also be working on site due where that work can be undertaken safely. 

On 11 May UK Government published guidance on Working safely during Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Construction and other outdoor work. The guidance specifically encourages employers should consider any advice that has been produced specifically for your sector, forexample by trade associations or trades unions. To this end, CIfA has endorsed Prospect's guidelines on UK site working, updated on 4 May. We are also working with Registered Organisations to share good practice examples with the intention of helping to define common standards across the industry.

The Industry Working Group issued this statement on Promoting a Safe Working Environment on Construction Sites during the COVID-19 Pandemic on 4 May. CIfA will be continuing to work with Industry Working Group colleagues to examine evidence of site working practices and reflect on the application of guidance and where there is need for improvments.

Archaeological contractors may also find this Coronavirus site safety checklist from FASET useful. The checklist is designed for you to ask clients to complete to ensure that appropriate precautions have been taken to ensure safety on site. We recommend that CIfA members and ROs make use of this.

On 29 April the UK Government confirmed that construction workers (this includes archaeologists working on constructions sites) are eligible to apply for Coronavirus testing if they exhibit symptoms. Click here for details of how to book a test.

CIfA will continue to work with FAME and Prospect to identify how we can best support the sector at this very difficult time. If you are a member or a Registered Organisation and have concerns about the safety of work environments you are exposed to, please let us know. All accredited members and Registered Organisations have a duty of care to employees, colleagues and volunteers under Principle 5 of the Code of conduct. Any member who find themselves in an ethical dilemma where they are confronted by competing loyalties, responsibilities or duties should act in accordance with the Principles of the Code.  

CIfA members are also encouraged to read this FAQ on COVID-19 from the Protect advice service. CIfA membership grants access to the Protect service and members can call for free, confidential whistleblowing advice. We recommend that if you are being asked to work in unsafe conditions that you consult this advice and to contact CIfA for informal and anonymous advice

Our coronavirus advice webpage is regularly updated with information so please keep checking this.