UK construction faces COVID-19 dilemma

By Murray Pollok24 March 2020

BuildUK, one of the largest trade bodies representing the UK’s construction and building sector, said the industry was facing a dilemma following the announcement of far stricter restrictions on travel and business to contain the COVID-19 outbreak.

In a statement this morning, the organisation said; ”The message is clear: stay at home, avoid all social interaction, and only travel to work if absolutely necessary. The dilemma facing construction is that a significant number of people cannot work from home, many won’t get paid if they don’t work, and there has been no specific instruction to shut construction sites.”

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The association said the UK’s Construction Leadership Council (CLC) would meet today, while BuildUK itself said it would talk to its members and provide an update later.

Where work has stopped, the Government is supporting business, said BuildUK, and where it is continuing the CLC has published Site Operating Procedures, developed by Build UK, to implement the Government’s social distancing requirements and minimise the risk of spread of infection.

CLC Co-Chair Andy Mitchell said; ”We are in exceptional circumstances, and doing our utmost to keep construction sites operational wherever it is practical and safe to do so. Whilst the guidance from Public Health England may change in future, for the time being construction sites of any size that are operating during the Coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic need to ensure they are protecting their workforce and minimising the risk of spread of infection.

“To implement the Government’s social distancing recommendation the Construction Leadership Council has now published Site Operating Procedures. I would strongly recommend that these procedures are implemented by every operational construction site, with the aim of us having a standard approach across the industry that all firms and workers can adopt.

“It is also vital that the health and safety requirements of any construction activity must not be compromised at this time. If an activity cannot be undertaken safely due to a lack of suitably qualified personnel being available, or social distancing being implemented, it should not take place. We are aware that emergency services are also under great pressure and may not be in a position to respond as quickly as usual.”

The procedures provide clarity on canteens and eating arrangements, as well as specifying that the workforce should be required to stay on site once they have entered it and not use local shops. Build UK said it fully supported the implementation of the procedures on all sites across the UK.

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