Covid-19 Construction Safety Hotline Launched for Worried Workers

UNITE, the UK’s construction union, has warned the government that the latest guidance on how construction sites should operate during the current COVID-19 pandemic, is unsafe and places construction workers at unnecessary risk.

In response, the union has launched a hotline to report concerns on unsafe working and a lack of social distancing on construction sites.

Site Operating Procedures (version 3)

The latest of the site operating procedures (version 3) published by the Construction Leadership Council (CLC), is noticeably weaker than previous versions. It was issued to coincide with a return to work at a large number of sites this week, particularly in the London area.

Unite is principally concerned about the fundamental reduction in the requirement for workers to socially distance at work. The guidance now says that where workers are required to work within two metres of each other they should:

“work side by side, or facing away from each other, rather than face to face”

When this is not possible and workers have to work “face to face” within two metres of each other workers should: Keep this to 15 minutes or less where possible”.
 
The CLC has stated that the renewed guidance is based on advice they have received from Public Health England.

Unite has written to Alok Sharma, the Business minister, saying the new watered-down guidance is endangering the lives of construction workers, their families and the general public, adding, “We would go as far as to say it undermines the safety of workers on construction sites and may even become a contributory factor to the spread of Covid-19 in our communities.”

Construction Safety Hotline

Unite has launched a hotline so that workers can report concerns and provide evidence of unsafe working practices. This can be on an anonymous basis. The union has also produced a video highlighting its message.

To provide information on unsafe working and a lack of social distancing on construction sites call 0207 622 2442 or email construction@unitetheunion.org

With a number of large sites reopening, Unite is also concerned that workers must be able to socially distance from ‘home to home’. The union again believes that the CLC advice is deficient in this area.

Unite national officer for construction, Jerry Swain said, “Unite’s position remains unchanged; no site should be working unless it can do so safely and that means two metre social distancing must be maintained at all times.

“Contractors and clients also have a moral duty of care for workers from when they leave their home to when they return.  Construction workers should not be forced to use overcrowded public transport, potentially endangering their health and that of our key workers.

“If our members believe their health is being directly compromised, they should stop work and seek the assistance of Unite.

“Workers on sites need to be our eyes and ears.  If they are concerned about a lack of social distancing, a lack of cleaning or any other issue of compromised safety, please contact Unite via the hotline.  Your identity will never be revealed to your employer.

“The current site operating procedures need to be withdrawn immediately and tougher safer guidance must be adopted and then vigorously enforced.

“Unite is absolutely committed to assist in drawing up new safer procedures and helping enforce safer working on sites.”
 

To provide information on unsafe working and a lack of social distancing on construction sites call 0207 622 2442 or email construction@unitetheunion.org

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