Coronavirus crisis brings out best and worst of construction

Grant Prior 10 months ago

Responsible construction companies are trying to do their best by employees and clients during the current pandemic.

Sites like Hinkley point are enforcing social distancing measures to ensure work can continue safely
Sites like Hinkley point are enforcing social distancing measures to ensure work can continue safely

Contractors want to keep sites going as long as they are safe for workers and don’t put a strain on public transport.

Many have also offered to help others with initiatives like donating unused personal protective equipment to the NHS.

But some firms have are not behaving properly and have put pressure on their supply chain and site workers to protect their bottom line.

Here the Enquirer shares some of the many cries for help we have received from people who feel let down by their employers and want their plight highlighted.

All the following examples are from emails received by the Enquirer in the last 48 hours from readers.

From a concerned site supervisor….

I thought I’d give you a bit of an insight into the attitude of some Principal Contractors at the moment.

I work in a supervisory role for a well know PC in the UK. A couple of my colleagues did not come into work towards the end of last week because they began to display symptoms of the virus. As you can imagine, I along with several other members of the team had been in close contact with them throughout last week before they stopped coming to work.

It seems that the current stance of the PC is that unless we start showing symptoms we can’t go home to self isolate because we won’t get sick pay. So in essence we are potentially spreading the virus to other people on site and the senior management (not site based) are fully aware of this.

Having spoken with friends in the industry, this attitude seems to be quite common and in my opinion, completely undoes everything the government have announced over the last few days.

Following the announcement by Boris Johnson on Monday night the attitude doesn’t seem to have changed. I was surrounded by tradesmen when I arrived to site Tuesday morning, demanding to know what we are doing about the situation.

The truth is that site staff are not being given clear instructions from senior management so we are just as in the dark as the people working on site. The only thing we are being told is that we need to try and enforce the two metre rule, but practically that is almost impossible because of the nature of work being carried out.

It feels like construction workers are being treated as some sort of expendable resource (including site supervisors) and that if we go home because we start displaying symptoms, we’ll just be replaced.

I wanted to explain how site management are feeling about all of this and that we are trying to do the best we can. We’re not receiving much guidance and the information we are getting is being sent from senior staff that are safe at home working remotely. We’re basically stuck in limbo waiting for someone with enough seniority to make a proper decision.


From a concerned partner of a construction worker…

From what I can see construction workers are not classed as key workers, yet my partner is being told to work as normal.

If there was freak weather, eg. snow on the ground, they would be forced to stop working and I want to know why a global crisis seems to not apply to those in your industry? Many of the workers share vans, tools, toilets, canteens and offices.

Many of the jobs they do cannot be carried out practically or safely with the current social distancing advice. My partner who is in management in this industry,  has to come in to contact with many people on a day to day basis. This completely goes against the advice of no interaction between households.

Each one of them that goes out to work, brings further risk to those in their households that are doing there best to adhere to the guidelines. What about the families of these people in construction? And more importantly, what if those in construction have vulnerable high risk members in their households?

I urge the you to shine a light on this issue as my beloved partner and the many other people in the construction industry are not just putting themselves at unnecessary risk, but by being forced to ignore the current advice, are in turn putting their loved ones at an unnecessary risk also.

I have just this minute had a phone call from my partner telling me that the principal contractors on his site are all wearing masks, yet none have been provided to the contract workers on the ground. The sheer neglect of their duty of care to their employees is so very disappointing.


From a worried site worker….

I am working on (site name withheld) the men are all just standing about demoralised and frightened for their health. No-one is giving us any information about site closures, the hand sanitisers have all run out and I’ve just been told the canteen in compound A has no food .

It is impossible to keep two metres distance when in changing rooms in the morning and going home at night.

We are all getting told by government to stay home but sites are telling us to come into work and we are traveling on crowded buses tube train to get here.

A lot of men are traveling men want to go home to their families before it’s to late but if site won’t officially shut down some men won’t get standby pay.


From a concerned quantity surveyor

I currently work for a Main Contractor as a QS. I am not sure if similar main contractors have the same approach however I am disgusted by the lack of care they are taking for their employees during a national crisis, I really hope it’s not an industry wide problem.

The Government made it very clear to cease non essential working which I’m pretty sure includes building luxury apartments for millionaires in central London.

I received an email this morning from a member of the board communicating the need to carry on working on site and telling our supply chain to do the same.

If they don’t I have been instructed to “rigorously” put subcontractors on notice of delay and tell them they will be held responsible for any delay associated with their non-attendance.

I do hope other construction employees aren’t experiencing the same issues.

Latest news

Tube chiefs tell contractors trains are safe for builders

Contractors encouraged to stagger site start times in London
3 days ago

Construction recovers to pre-pandemic level

New work output grew 3.5% in November lifting output above February 2020 pre-shutdown level
2 days ago

Colas rolls out weekly Covid rapid testing for staff

Build UK trade body offers member firms lateral flow kits at a discount
3 days ago

Self-employed wages up 9% in north west

Average freelance trade wages running nearly 10% below pre-pandemic level
2 days ago

Cemex invests in “kit of parts” offsite housing firm

Materials giant backs Modulous to "revolutionise" housing industry
2 days ago

House building bounce back hailed by minister

Latest official statistics show completions tripled in the third quarter of 2019
3 days ago

Government clears 514-home London Master Brewer scheme

Housing secretary decides not to call in Hillingdon Gardens scheme
3 days ago

Aarsleff shifts to expansion after return to profit

Ground engineering contractor optimistic with 12 months of good work visibilty
3 days ago

Fresh shock structural steel price hike

Price of structural steel jumps nearly 50% in just over six months
4 days ago

Former Carillion bosses face new legal action

Eight ex-directors could be banned from boardroom for up to 15 years
4 days ago

Firms due £50m Covid dividend in R&D tax rebates

Contractors eligible to make tax credit claims for efforts to make sites Covid safe
4 days ago

Colmore Tang joins race to reclad unsafe towers by 2021

Midlands builder sets up cladding remediation arm as pace quickens to retrofit 2,000 unsafe buildings
4 days ago

Winvic starts £93m Edgbaston Stadium build to rent job

Civils arm will also deliver highways improvements for Warwickshire County Cricket Club
4 days ago

GLP starts work on 1m sq ft of warehouse space

Contractors given green light on latest round of development as demand soars for logistics schemes
4 days ago

Marshalls to build block plant as orders rebound

New concrete block factory will be built at St Ives in Cambridgeshire
4 days ago

Revenue offers contractors advice as IR35 changes loom

Free online workshops as controversial changes start in April: Sign up for places
5 days ago

Mace achieves net zero carbon goal

Carbon offset and 50% carbon emission cut achieves net zero target
4 days ago

Keltbray hires Multiplex project commercial director

Jason Gibbons joins as commercial director for built environment division
5 days ago

Winners revealed on £80m demolition framework

Sixteen secure places from 17 tenders received
4 days ago

BAM to trial innovative 5G use in construction

5G-powered cameras, drones and sensors to monitor Scottish construction sites
5 days ago

Breedon lures Amey boss to grow contracting arm

Highways specialist James Haluch to join GB Contracting in March
5 days ago

New pothole machine delivers road repairs four times faster

JCB Pothole Pro machine can repair a pothole in under eight minutes and at half the cost of a road gang
6 days ago

“Vital construction continues” during latest lockdown

New Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng praises industry's "major contribution"
5 days ago

Ductwork contractors hit by soaring steel prices

Firms warn steel shortages could hit jobs if situation worsens
6 days ago

Fears grow over Covid contract disputes as attitudes harden

Construction leaders warn of perfect storm from Brexit, falling activity, reverse charge VAT and surge in claims
6 days ago

Plans in for £60m Stockport’s Weir Mill flats

Capital & Centric advances scheme as a blueprint for inner city regeneration
6 days ago

£75m infrastructure funding deal for £1bn Purfleet town scheme

Main infrastructure works will start next month
5 days ago

WYG name disappears after US consultant takeover

Tetra Tech name adopted 18 months after WYG sale
5 days ago

Dive under team to slide in 11,000 tonne tunnel

Construction first for Morgan Sindall on East Coast Main Line
6 days ago

Electrical boss barred over £1m mystery expenses

Seven-year ban from running a business for Surrey electrician
6 days ago

Contractor services