Relief for SA construction industry

CAPE TOWN- The construction industry has welcomed the easing of the national lockdown in South Africa which kicked in on Monday and contractors may be able to recover some of the delays incurred and cost of implementing new health and safety measures.

According to MDA Attorneys consultant Michelle Kerr all construction sites may reopen on condition that Covid-19 health and safety measures are adhered to.

“Contractors have an obligation to implement various measures on site to minimise the risk of transmission of Covid-19 among workers. Not only do the measures carry a cost to execute, but they will also result in time losses which will need to be accounted for in the programme,” said Kerr.

There will be some relief for contractor as the standard form contracts recommended by the Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) will enable contractors to claim back the unforeseen costs incurred as a result of lockdown. 

South African contractors should be able to claim an extension of time for the lockdown period itself, the time taken to secure the site for the lockdown period, and the costs required to restore the site to the condition it was in once the lockdown ends.

“Depending on the contract form governing their project, contractors may also be able to claim site de-establishment and re-establishment costs, standing time costs and preliminary and general items under the clauses dealing with change in legislation, employer’s risk or force majeure,” said Kerr.

The additional health and safety requirements could result in further delays and substantial costs as contractors have to ensure that the appropriate hygiene and social distancing measures are followed by workers.

Contractors are required to procure masks, sanitisers, PPE, respirators, safety goggles, surgical gloves, non-contact thermometers, appropriate Covid-19 signage, and provide additional transport for workers to ensure that it complies with social distancing protocols said Kerr. 

A number of actions must be taken for a construction to resume operation, some of these actions include reviewing and updating health and safety risk assessments, providing necessary hygiene equipment, minimising the number of workers through rotation, and minimising contact between workers

Some contractors have invested in additional technology such as misting booths and nano silver-based sanitising spray. “These initiatives go further than what is required for compliance, but of course such technology can be costly. As always, contractors should have a clear understanding of what their contracts provide for and what is solely for their account,” said Kerr.

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