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Non-essential construction ‘must end to keep workers and public safe’

by Jennie Ward

The Government needs to issue clearer guidance to building site workers and operators, according to the British Safety Council.  

As the UK heads into at least three weeks of lockdown, concerns are being raised across the country that thousands of construction workers are still headed out to work, including on packed London Underground trains.

On 23 March the Prime Minister gave an instruction that everyone should stay at home for all but the most essential reasons. The following morning Cabinet Secretary Michael Gove said all major construction work should go ahead but jobs carried out at close quarters in someone’s home would not be appropriate. A tweet from the Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said: “If you are working on site, you can continue to do so. But follow Public Health England guidance on social distancing.”

Construction workers have raised concerns that they are not able to practice social distancing and stay at least two metres apart from one another on site.

Lawrence Waterman, Chair of the British Safety Council, said: “The construction sector needs clarity from the government – on most sites social distancing will be impossible or simply unsafe. All non-essential construction should end now so that construction workers can go home and stay home like everyone else.

“Some building work will be deemed essential – for example, building work that will improve access to hospitals or road access which will help tackle the virus. It is also the case that half-built buildings need to be made safe and workers should prioritise work that can safely suspend construction for as long as necessary.”

He continued: “Many thousands of construction workers are self-employed and don’t get paid if they don’t go to work. The government and developers need to work together to ensure that workers are protected when their building sites are shut down. We can’t have scenes like this morning when the country is told to stay at home, but the tubes are crammed full of people setting off to work on a building site.”

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