UK construction prepares for possible shut-down

By Murray Pollok24 March 2020

The UK’s construction industry is seeking urgent clarification from Government on what the new social isolation measures will mean for construction and building sites.

An industry-government task force on COVID-19 has so far interpreted the new guidance to mean that not all activity needs to cease immediately. However, in Scotland, the devolved government in Edinburgh has requested construction work to halt. The Scottish Government is now preparing guidance for businesses.

Construction site

Andy Mitchell, Chair of the Construction Leadership Council (CLC), has advised the Cabinet Office that the UK construction industry will come to work today, and prepare to shut down works safely whilst awaiting further information.

The CLC said in a statement today; ”We are in exceptional circumstances and are doing our utmost to keep construction sites operational wherever it is practical and safe to do so. Whilst the guidance from Public Health England may change in future, for the time being construction sites of any size that are operating during the Coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic need to ensure they are protecting their workforce and minimising the risk of spread of infection.

“To implement the Government’s social distancing recommendation the Construction Leadership Council has now published Site Operating Procedures. I would strongly recommend that these procedures are implemented by every operational construction site, with the aim of us having a standard approach across the industry that all firms and workers can adopt.

“It is also vital that the health and safety requirements of any construction activity must not be compromised at this time. If an activity cannot be undertaken safely due to a lack of suitably qualified personnel being available, or social distancing being implemented, it should not take place. We are aware that emergency services are also under great pressure and may not be in a position to respond as quickly as usual.”

The Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) said; ”At a minimum, industry must do whatever is necessary to leave works in a state that can be safely left for some while, and to secure plant, equipment and materials. This must also include the maintaining of site security, ensuring the stability of partially-constructed structures that could become unstable and potentially dangerous, and maintenance of systems that it would be unsafe to stop.”

Today, TfL commissioner Mike Brown said that, due to the fact that only critical workers should be travelling in London at present and, in line with government advice, construction work would now cease on the capital’s Crossrail network.

“TfL and Crossrail,” he said ”will be bringing all project sites to a temporary safe stop unless they need to continue for operational safety reasons. This means that work on all such projects will be temporarily suspended as soon as it is safe to do so. Essential maintenance of the transport network will of course continue.”

Some of the biggest housebuilders in the UK also announced that they will commence a shutdown of all of their current projects.

Barratt Homes, Galliard Homes, Taylor Wimpey, Bovis, Cala and Hill said they will cease operations with immediate effect.

A Barratt Homes spokesperson said, “The health and safety of customers and employees is our number-one priority and yesterday we took the decision to temporarily close our 400 offices and sites across the country. We are in the process of doing this safely and securely as quickly as possible.”

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