The recently formed Highways Sector Council (HSC) has published practical guidance for the local highways today.

The ‘COVID-19 Highways Safe Operating Procedures document’, developed by the HSC’s COVID-19 focus working group, is designed to address the specific issues faced by local highways maintenance workers against the backdrop of the coronavirus.

Although based upon the construction industry guidance created by the Construction Leadership Council, the HSC guidance goes further, and addresses specific challenges related to the local highways sector. In particular, it specifically considers operational highways activity at maintenance and improvements sites, as well as at highway depots.

It provides guidance on social distancing and avoiding close working, handwashing, cleaning, travel, site access, eating arrangements and procedures to follow if someone falls ill.

James Haluch, Managing Director for Amey, said: “Local highways maintenance and planned improvement work is providing a vital service keeping the country moving. We have to ensure that NHS staff and other key workers are able to continue delivering essential public services and that means ensuring hospitals and supermarkets are equipped with essential supplies.

“It is vital that sites are able to operate safely, to protect the workforce, the public and minimise the risk of the spread of infection. We have been working closely with the DfT to produce this guidance to provide consistency and ensure that health and safety isn’t compromised on site and in the depots that workforces operate from. If an activity cannot be done in line with current guidelines, it shouldn’t take place.”

Darryl Eyers, President of ADEPT, said: “It is critical that roads, footways and bridges continue to be repaired, that road gullies are emptied to avoid unnecessary flooding and that roadside grass is cut to maintain visibility so that those legitimately still using our local road networks can do so safely. That’s why those working in the highways sector are not just key workers – they are critical to the country as a whole.

During lockdown, local highways authorities across the country have been taking different approaches, with some reducing services to emergency and essential, whilst others have maintained business as usual whilst it has remained possible to do so. However, the sooner that reduced levels of service can return closer to business as usual, the quicker that the highways sector can recover as the threat of Covid-19 subsides.”

The Highways Sector Council has been created to help transform the highways sector, using a unified voice and approach to work in greater partnership with central and local government. It aims to drive innovation and investment across England to deliver economic, environmental and social benefits for business, communities and all road users.