Building Control Inspection Policy following recent MHCLG guidance

 

There is a clear move to push the construction industry toward continuing and increasing building work under the current lock-down arrangements. As of 30th April, we are aware of National and Regional House Builders and Material Suppliers now recommencing their operations. On 21st April 2020 the MHCLG have issued guidance (see below link) concerning Inspection of building works:

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/application-of-the-building-regulations-during-the-coronavirus-covid-19-outbreak

Despite both commercial pressures to restart building sites and the MHCLG’s expectations of Building Control, we must not lose sight of Government’s objective which is for the containment of the spread of covid19 by reducing both travel and avoiding personal contact. In terms of Building Control inspections which involves both travelling and interaction, we have achieved this at Arun since the first ‘lockdown’ in March. We did this by undertaking Building Control Inspections remotely rather than the normal approach of physical Site Inspections. This remote approach has worked, but administering each remote inspection has been an arduous and time consuming process.

Whilst the lifting of the ‘lock-down’ and removal of ‘self distancing’ is someway off, the above seem to be a first steps towards increasing the physical presence of Building Control on working building sites. The MHCLG guidance provides an increased justification for travel, whilst at the same time keeping safe self distancing as the primary objective, so that inspection work can be undertaken in both a safe (for Arun Staff and Customers) and controlled manner.

Taken from the MHCLG publication, the key inspection issues in this regard are summarised below:

"Building Control Bodies should continue to undertake normal, regular on-site inspection activity where this can be done safely, in line with Public Health England guidance. Building Control Bodies may wish to consider the use of alternative methods of checking compliance to supplement physical inspections, for example using digital photographs and video or other remote means of checking compliance.

Building Control Bodies should satisfy themselves within the limits of their professional skill and care that these remote inspections are used appropriately. Remote inspections should not normally be used as the sole method of assessing compliance."

The guidance makes it clear that an inspection regime needs to continue but this may be through both physical presence on site which can be supplemented by remote inspection. The latter needs to be backed up appropriate by digital evidence provided by the main builder or property owner to which the Building Control Surveyor can make a judgement on the element of work being reviewed.

It is important to re-emphasise that in the first instance; Arun Building Control is committed to continuing its contribution to the key Government objective of protecting the NHS. To achieve this, we will avoid face to face contact and travel wherever possible to protect our own staff and our communities.

 

Site control

Consequently, to all this, we will now carry out some regular on-site inspections, where this can be done safely and in line with Public Health England guidance.

Attention is also drawn to guidance prepared by the Construction Leadership Council in the following link as well as other Government guidance:

https://www.constructionleadershipcouncil.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Site-Operating-Procedures-Version-3.pdf
https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/media/5eb961bfe90e070834b6675f/working-safely-during-covid-19-construction-outdoors-110520.pdf
https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/media/5eb967e286650c2791ec7100/working-safely-during-covid-19-other-peoples-homes-110520.pdf                                           

 

Types of Site Inspection now to be undertaken

  • Only on-site inspections of construction projects are to be undertaken where surveyor attendance is unobstructed and clear survey can be assured (2m distancing observed -see below)
  • The site will need to be open air
  • At ground floor level (no ladders, or stairs in occupied premises)
  • Ostensibly this will involve the following types of inspection:
    • Commencement of Works
    • Excavations
    • Concrete Foundations
    • Oversite Preparation
    • DPC and DPM
    • Foul Water Drainage
    • Surface Water Drainage
    • Soil Drains Test
    • SVP Test
    • Completions on new unoccupied housing

 

Pre- Inspection Contact and Questions

  • Is anyone at the site (property owner or builder) which is to be visited ill and/or is displaying the coronavirus symptoms;
  • Has anyone at the site (property owner or builder) travelled abroad within the last two weeks;
  • Is this inspection request for either external or internal building works;
  • Can the inspection be carried out only in the presence of the main builder or the homeowner (ie, a single representative on site)?

 

On-site Distancing Protocol

  • Different sites have different risks. Housing and commercial developments usually have space that allow far in excess of 2m. It must be remembered that 2m is a minimum and the further away the better. Domestic inspections carry a far greater risk, to occupants as well as staff, however, even on some domestic extensions, where the inspection is external, it should be possible to far exceed the 2m distancing;
  • If at any time ‘Distancing’ is not observed, then Building Control Surveyors are to inform this is the case and if this is in any way persistent the Surveyor is to exit and leave the site

 

PPE

Having referred the matter to the Council’s Environmental Health Team Manager (H&S at Work) Face masks are not to be issued as PPE for the following reasons:

  • They are not recommended by WHO or the Government
  • They ae likely to be the wrong type
  • They will not have been fitted professionally
  • They will be reused/misused so increasing risk
  • They provide a false sense of security meaning greater risks takenThey are needed by the NHS

However, Building Control Surveyors visiting building sites will be provided with:

  • A replenishable supply of disposable gloves
  • Alcohol hand sanitiser gel

Surveyors can source replacement sanitiser gel and disposable gloves from corporate stocks held by the Property & Estates Team

 

Reporting

  • All or any incidents (site operatives not respecting 2m distancing);
  • All Inspections are to be recorded in the Ocella Inspection System and in the attached Register of Inspections;  Register of inspections.docx [docx] 14KB
  • This would demonstrate that there had been a risk assessment and that if anyone did catch Covid 19 we would easily be able to trace where they had been recently;
  • The Register is saved on the G: Drive under Building Control – Health & Safety

 

Jim Henn
Building Control Manager
30th April 2020