With much of Britain in lockdown because of the coronavirus pandemic, two health and safety bodies have emphasised the need to protect the health, safety and wellbeing of construction workers during the crisis.
The British Safety Council (BSC) and the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) have both urged the government to do more to help construction workers, many of whom are self-employed contractors, to stay safe during the crisis and not feel under pressure to work on-site, especially if they are displaying symptoms of Covid-19.
The BSC said the government needed to give clearer guidance on whether work was able to continue on building sites. It warned that the lack of clarity meant thousands of construction workers were continuing to go out to work when other workers were staying at home or isolating.
It also highlighted that construction workers had raised concerns that they were unable to practice social distancing or stay at least two metres apart from one another on site.
BSC chair Lawrence Waterman said: “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.”
IOSH echoed this stance, emphasising that only essential construction work designed to help save lives should continue.
Richard Jones, IOSH head of policy and public engagement, said: “Essential construction to support the fight against COVID-19, such as hospital construction, vital infrastructure and safety maintenance, can be prioritised – while non-essential building work is safely postponed.
“Given the large number of self-employed construction workers, we believe government employment protection and financial support for the self-employed can help encourage greater compliance with vital social distancing to save lives,” he added.