Decisions on construction site closures in firms’ hands

The Government has advised construction workers to go to work if it is safe to do so, but said Public Health England advice on social distancing and safety precautions must be followed, while calls for clarity from within the industry continue.

Guy Lawson, director of Civil Engineering Contractors Association North West, said some construction was essential and should continue, but the Government needed to be clearer. 

“I think we need to make some distinctions, and what we really need is some clarity on what would be deemed critical infrastructure. 

“There are some elements which we do need to consider as critical such as water supply and electricity supply, but when anyone says ‘construction’ it is seen primarily as building and it would be difficult to describe most building work as critical.” 

The guidance laid out by the Government has led construction workers to question the practicality of enforcing social distancing guidelines on construction sites, while many self-employed contractors are faced with uncertainty over their income should sites close. 

Speaking at Tuesday’s daily Government briefing, health secretary Matt Hancock, said that construction workers could and should continue to go to work as long as they are able to remain two metres apart at all times.

He added: “The judgement we have made is that in work, in many instances, the two metre rule can be applied. When it comes to construction, there are many countries that have made the same judgement that you can carry on with people two metres apart from each other.”

Meanwhile, speaking on BBC Breakfast, housing secretary Robert Jenrick said that essential work, like removing ACM cladding from buildings, was essential should continue.

Some companies, such as Taylor Wimpey, Barratt and ISG have decided to close sites to ensure the safety of workers, while prominent developers are taking proactive decisions, including Renaker Build which revealed today its sites would close from Friday. 

Meanwhile a spokesperson from Bam Construction said that it was closing sites this evening in order to review safety precautions with a view to opening sites which could reasonably adhere to Public Health England’s advice on Monday 30 March.

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