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Video captures construction work in full steam despite coronavirus

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A video from this morning in east London captures the eerie contrast of soundless and deserted streets and the loud clang of construction work in full steam.

For while coronavirus advice from government has forced many businesses to close - from hair salons and shops, to churches and cinemas – there’s been no clear guidance for construction sites.

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said yesteday: “If you are working on site, you can continue to do so. But follow Public Health England guidance on social distancing.”

But construction workers have raised concerns that they are not able to practice social distancing and follow the government advice of staying “more than two metres” apart from one another on site.

Chair of the British Safety Council, Lawrence Waterman said from his home: “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.”

He added: “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.”

The BBC said today construction firms are ‘split’ with some firms closing sites and others keeping sites open. Housebuilder Persimmon has joined others in pledging to down tools, but Cairn Construction, which built 2,200 homes last year, was among those to say it would keep its sites open.

Waterman added that many thousands of construction workers are self-employed and don’t get paid if they don’t go to work. He said: “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.”

Government advice: businesses to close here

Guidance on social distancing for everyone in the UK here

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“We have powers to require businesses to stop work”: HSE

By Belinda Liversedge on 26 March 2020

HSE could use its powers to shut businesses down if they fail to take measures to protect the health and welfare of their staff during the coronavirus pandemic, its chief executive Sarah Albon has said.