Big names shut sites despite health secretary advice
Some of the biggest names in construction have started to close sites in response to the coronavirus outbreak, despite advice from the health secretary that they could remain open if social distancing measures are adhered to.
Yesterday (24 March), health secretary Matt Hancock said that those who cannot do their jobs from home should got to work to “keep the country running”, with construction allowed to continue so long as people remained two metres apart.
But several major contractors have already announced that they are halting at least some of their operations, in response to concerns about worker welfare, as well as following requests from clients.
Among those companies to announce disruption to their operations were:
- Barratt: Housebuilder Barratt is in the process of temporarily closing its 400 offices and sites across the country.
- BAM Construct: BAM Construct sites across the UK paused from close of business on 25 March to enable further detailed reviews of the working practices necessary to reduce the risks of covid-19. BAM said it needed more time to discuss the safest working conditions, as set out by Public Health England and the new Site Operating Procedures developed by Build UK and the Construction Leadership Council, with clients, employees and its supply chain. Work is expected to resume on 30 March but the date is being kept under "constant review". FM activity at BAM Construct across the UK has been assessed against the current guidelines and will continue, with the majority of BAM's FM work at public sector buildings "critical" to the national effort to combat coronavirus.
- Hinkley Point C: EDF Energy is reducing its workforce at Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant by more than half to about 2,000, with the remaining skilled workers focusing on critical areas and working in shifts with extra transport and staggered breaks to minimise contact. There are normally 4,500 workers on site.
- ISG: Fitout contractor ISG announced yesterday that it would close sites that could not pass a risk test.
- Mace: Mace suspended operations for at least 48 hours as of 5pm yesterday while it investigates whether or not it can comply with the Construction Leadership Council’s new standard operating procedures to limit the spread of coronavirus. The move applies to all sites with the exception of safety critical work.
- Multiplex: Multiplex has closed down all sites, many of which are in London, until further notice.
- Sir Robert McAlpine: The contractor has closed its sites and offices to workers, with the exception of essential safety and security employees. The only sites that remain operational are those where it is “absolutely safe to do so” and where critical work such as hospital building continues, or where safe shutdown plans are being put into operation. “Given the most recent developments we do not believe we should be asking our people to travel on public transport,” Sir Robert McAlpine said.
- Taylor Wimpey: The housebuilder took the decision to close all of its construction sites across the UK on 23 March. It said: “Although the latest Government guidance has not ordered the closure of construction sites, we are taking action because we believe it is the right thing to do. It is necessary for a small amount of work to continue to ensure we leave our sites safe and secure.”