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Government must give clearer guidance on building sites says British Safety Council

As the UK heads into at least three weeks of lockdown, concerns are being raised across the country as thousands of construction workers headed out to work, including on packed London Underground trains.

Last night the Prime Minister gave an instruction that everyone should stay at home for all but the most essential reasons. This morning the Cabinet Secretary Michael Gove said all major construction work should go ahead but jobs carried out at close quarters in someone's home would not be appropriate. A tweet from the Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said: “If you are working on site, you can continue to do so. But follow Public Health England guidance on social distancing.”

Construction workers have raised concerns that they are not able to practice social distancing and stay at least two metres apart from one another on site.

The Chair of the British Safety Council Lawrence Waterman said from his home today:

“The construction sector needs clarity from the government – on most sites social distancing will be impossible or simply unsafe. All non-essential construction should end now so that construction workers can go home and stay home like everyone else.”

“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.”

He went on to say:

“Many thousands of construction workers are self-employed and don’t get paid if they don’t go to work. The government and developers need to work together to ensure that workers are protected when their building sites are shut down. We can’t have scenes like this morning when the country is told to stay at home, but the tubes are crammed full of people setting off to work on a building site.”

About Lawrence

Lawrence headed the programme for the delivery of the safest and healthiest major construction project in Europe, the venues, infrastructure and athletes’ village for the London 2012 Olympic Games, for which he was appointed the OBE in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Honours. In a career dedicated to health, safety and environmental management, Lawrence has led the development of occupational health and safety programmes for a number of major organisations, dealing with some of the most challenging environments.

Since London 2012, he worked on major projects as Director of Health and Safety for the Battersea Power Station and the Royal Albert Dock Developments, advisor on the Tideway and Lower Thames Crossing projects, and as a member of the Canterbury Safety Charter for rebuilding Christchurch.    He remains a member of Tarmac’s Senior Health and Safety Leadership Team, adviser to the London Legacy Development Corporation, which continues to develop the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, and Partner of the Park Health and Safety Partnership.  As well as Chairman of the British Safety Council, he chairs the Strategic Forum for Health and Safety in the Mineral Products Sector.