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Robert Jenrick MP, Secretary of State at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) confirmed on BBC Radio 4 today that contractors should continue to work on site to ensure the maintenance of buildings for fire safety and sanitation reasons and for cladding remediation works to continue, provided the work is done in accordance with Public Health England guidance, i.e. 2 metre distancing, etc.
We await formal confirmation from MHCLG on an approved list or set of guiding principles on which contractors may attend site for what purposes, but the Minister gave a clear position that buildings need to be maintained. This would strongly suggest that other safety-critical work such as lift maintenance should continue. Mr Jenrick specifically included sanitation as a measure to continue, which would suggest that appropriate cleaning can continue too. Again, the caveat is that the Public Health England guidance must be adhered to. Below follows an abridged transcription of Mr Jenrick’s interview from this morning.
“The message is that if you can work from home, you must do so. You must try every way of working from home. If that is impossible, then you can go to work but when you are in the workplace, your employer should follow Public Health England’s guidance and if your employer believes it is not possible to do that then they should consider whether they continue to trade at this time, as they would with respect to any other Health and Safety advice or situation that arises in the workplace.”
When pressed on construction workers continuing to attend site, where some workers say it is preposterous to claim they can be two metres away, for example...
“Well it depends. There are situations where it is safe to continue to go to work and the medical advice says that. Public Heath England have published further guidance as to how you can operate sites in certain settings safely. There are precautions you would need to take, some of which will prove too difficult for some site operators to adhere to and that’s why you have seen a number of companies choosing to close down their sites in the last day or two and I fully support those decisions. Employers need to be sensible, to take account of Public Health England guidance and make decisions in the best interests of their workers and of wider society, as they would have to with any other Health and Safety situation.”
“There are settings in for example the construction industry where it is extremely important that we try to help people to continue to go to work. For example, ensuring that the maintenance of our critical infrastructure, our roads, our railways and public transport network. For example, ensuring that buildings are maintained properly for fire safety, for sanitation reasons. For example, ensuring that important programmes like the removal of dangerous ACM cladding on high-rise buildings continues, so there is essential work going on in the housing and construction industry that we want to encourage as long as it is safe to do so.”
The interview can be heard here on BBC Sounds - https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m000gmfc - at 0810 (2hrs 10 minutes into the programme) on 25 March 2020.
Important new guidance has today been released by the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government, regarding 'work carried out in people's homes'.
Work carried out in people’s homes
Work carried out in people’s homes, for example by tradespeople carrying out repairs and maintenance, can continue, provided that the tradesperson is well and has no symptoms. Again, it will be important to ensure that Public Health England guidelines, including maintaining a two metre distance from any household occupants, are followed to ensure everyone’s safety.
No work should be carried out in any household which is isolating or where an individual is being shielded, unless it is to remedy a direct risk to the safety of the household, such as emergency plumbing or repairs, and where the tradesperson is willing to do so. In such cases, Public Health England can provide advice to tradespeople and households.
No work should be carried out by a tradesperson who has coronavirus symptoms, however mild.