SIPTU representatives in the construction sector are demanding that the Government guarantees that all construction sites which remain open during the current lockdown have all proper protections in place to prevent the transmission of Covid-19 among construction workers and their families.
Following the announcement that all but essential construction is to cease from Friday, January 8, SIPTU representatives have expressed concerns that the closure of bigger sites, where the safety protocols are the most advanced, could mean that smaller sites with less resources may leave workers at higher risk to catching and spreading the virus.
SIPTU Sector Organiser, John Regan said: “The latest round of restrictions come as a surprise to both the employers and the unions who have worked hard to agree safety protocols to protect workers on the vast majority of sites in the sector. Our priority is always to ensure that work can only continue when it is done safely.
“SIPTU members have spearheaded many new measures introduced on construction sites throughout the pandemic such as better sanitary and break facilities, implementing safe procedures on social distancing, installing new grid systems and Covid-19 testing. The results are there for all to see with just three temporary shutdowns of sites over the course of the entire crisis.”
He added: “The challenge now is to ensure these standards can be maintained across many smaller sites that will remain in operation and that adequate enforcement measures to ensure that any sites with poor or non-compliant Covid-19 protocols must be identified quickly so workers are not put at any unnecessary risk. In addition, where publicly funded projects are under the remit of city or county councils these local authorities should ensure that inspections are carried out to confirm they are operating safely and within Covid-19 guidelines.”
SIPTU Transport, Energy, Aviation and Construction Division Organiser, Karan O’Loughlin, said: “We believe enforcement measures, including inspections need to be undertaken by the Health and Safety Authority on every site remaining open.”
She added: “We cannot afford to be complacent. We are at a very critical juncture in this pandemic. Employers have an absolute duty of care to their workers to ensure their safety, health and welfare is paramount. Every sector that continues to operate under lockdown needs to have the same level of reassurance that the necessary protections are not only in place, but are actively, strictly and tightly monitored.”