23 Apr 2020

In this article our Managing Editor Alex Shaw suggests how using the information at this link can help ensure your project fulfils its obligations to provide safe working conditions on site and ensure the correct documentation.

Communication is the key
We are all in this together, so working together is going to be essential to making things work under COVID-19 construction restrictions. In order to work together without proximity, we need good communications between Principal, Consultants, Contractor and others. Ensure the right cooperative environment is created to mutually resolve, in a timely manner, the issues that will crop up.

Disseminate Information
To ensure everybody is on the same page disseminate the relevant information from what is listed here. It should be issued for information only, at this point do not make it part of your Contract or Specification. Effectively the Government response to COVID-19 has resulted in an effective change in law. The guides, protocols and standards listed here (and elsewhere) are virtually sanctioned by Government, and most will be administered and interpreted by WorkSafe.

Principal's Site Health and Safety Plan
If the Principal has an existing plan or intends to write one, this should be referred to in the Masterspec section 1220 PROJECT, clause (1.9 unmodified) PRINCIPAL'S SITE HEALTH AND SAFETY PLAN. This clause does not need further amendment. These plans are sometimes required for non-residential sites/buildings that remain occupied during construction. The plan will need to be updated to incorporate COVID requirements.

Contractors Health and Safety Plan
The Contractors Health and Safety Plan, referred to in the Masterspec section 1260 PROJECT MANAGEMENT, clause (1.36 unmodified) HEALTH AND SAFETY PLAN, will now need to incorporate COVID requirements. No amendments to the Masterspec standard health and safety clauses is necessary as the wording is enough to encompass the compliance with relevant documents like the COVID, guides, protocols and standards.
Ensure the Contractor has a H&S Plan in place before opening the site. Along with the Principal review the H&S Plan.

Designer Site Observation
For levels 3 & 2, avoid going to site unless absolutely necessary. Use digital options when possible and practical. If unavoidable, follow the Contractor's H&S requirements and general COVID-19 guidance. Don't go if feeling unwell. Site meetings must be digital meetings.

Increased Cost and Time
It is quite possible that some increased construction costs and time will occur. How these should be treated will depend on the Conditions of Contract used. Most Contracts do not cover a pandemic and the results that we are experiencing, however some Contracts, like NZS 3910, indirectly do. In most cases, such a situation would necessitate a negotiated solution, possibly leading to issuing of variations and/or extensions of time. Legal and/or expert advice may be necessary.