Compliance monitoring and testing programme must be in place before sites re-open
Unions must be central to new safety regime
April 28th: Unite, which represents construction workers throughout Ireland, today (Tuesday) warned that construction companies cannot be left to regulate themselves in respect of measures to halt the spread of Covid-19. Commenting on the clamour of calls for construction sites to re-open after the May Bank Holiday, Unite Regional Officer Tom Fitzgerald said that a new safety regime is vital to protect the health of workers, their families and communities.
“The C-19 Standard Operating Procedures published by the CIF earlier this month only constitute guidelines. Without strict compliance, monitoring and enforcement, our members rightly fear that employers will treat these procedures as an optional extra, putting profit above the health of workers.
“Given the experience before sites closed – when hygiene and social distancing measures were virtually non- existent – many members and their families are concerned about sites re-opening and are asking what has changed?
“A number of measures need to be put in place before workers return: there needs to be enforced social distancing, all necessary PPE available on an ongoing basis and all necessary sanitary facilities provided.
“There also crucially needs to be testing for all workers in the construction sector.
“Construction workers with compromised immune systems, vulnerable family members or without access to childcare must be able to maintain access to state supports, such as the Wage Subsidy Scheme (with existing top ups) and the Covid 19 Pandemic Payment.
“The CIF’s proposed Compliance Officers must be elected by workers, and unions must have a central role in ensuring that their members’ concerns are acted on. The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) needs to be empowered and resourced to be able to access all construction sites without notice to ensure that health and safety standards are been adhered to, and must have the power to close sites with immediate effect.
“All these measures should be put on a statutory footing, and there must be severe penalties for any employer found to be in breach.
“The threat posed by Covid-19 to our society and economy is much too serious to allow companies to regulate themselves”, Mr Fitzgerald concluded.