Is The UK Government Putting Developers Profits Before Health of Construction Workers?

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The UK Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has thrown down the gauntlet regarding the construction industry.

In a letter sent out to everyone working in the UK’s construction sector, Alok Sharma has paid tribute to “all those who are working tirelessly within the construction industry.”   In this letter he has stated –

“To help ensure that it is safe for you to operate in your workplace, the industry has worked to develop Site Operating Procedures (SOP), which were published by the Construction Leadership Council. These align with the latest guidance from Public Health England. As this health guidance updates, the SOP will reflect any changes.”

Which basically means that someone in an office has sent out some paperwork that site owners are supposed to follow.  Unless site owners have hired an army of cleaners and accept that half the works will not be done, these Site Operating Procedures are not worth the paper they are written on.

The section on close working shows just how little thought for the safety of the workers has gone into these procedures –

Avoiding Close Working

There will be situations where it is not possible or safe for workers to distance themselves from each other by 2 metres.

General Principles

· Non-essential physical work that requires close contact between workers should not be carried out.

The Secretary of State is saying that these new Site Operating Procedures will help ensure that it is safe to operate in a workplace.  The procedures themselves are admitting that there are situations where it will not be safe.  If it is known that it is not safe, why is the UK Government pushing construction workers to continue in unsafe conditions?  Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has intimated that he is not happy with construction works continuing in the capital but the UK Government have overruled his misgivings.

Contrast that with First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon who has stated

“My judgement on construction is that apart from construction that is really essential eg construction work on hospitals or construction works that is required to help us with the fight against coronavirus it is not clear to me that non essential construction can continue as normal. In a way that protects people’s health in other words with safe social distancing measures being applied.

And therefore, if I can’t be sure of that then the judgement I reach is a precautionary one. How do we make sure that we are taking the action we need to take to maximise our ability to save lives and reduce the number of people who die and that is the judgement I have reached.

The economic impact of what we are doing right now is significant, it is going to take time, effort and resources to repair the economic damage once we are on the other side of the virus.  We can repair that, we cannot bring people back to life.”

In these turbulent times it seems incredible that the UK Government appears more interested in allowing developers to continue building luxury homes than the health of the population.

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