The major UK contractors organisation Build UK has requested recognition for employees of suppliers and associated trades to the construction industry, in order to clarity on secure permission to travel and maintain access to active construction sites during the COVID-19 outbreak.
It seems that some confusion persists as to who is allowed to travel for work, in spite of the government’s clarification document on this. [https://vertikal.net/en/news/story/35071/uk-issues-guidance-on-going-to-work](See UK issues guidance on going to work)
While many contractors have closed or scaled-down construction sites, a good many remain open, especially those involving essential projects such as hospitals or medical facilities, as well as maintenance of infrastructure, defence, utilities or other installations. As a result, powered access suppliers and operators continue to deliver machines while those working on-site operate them.
Build UK has requested that the UK government to recognise them as exempt from advice against ‘non-essential’ travel and has produced a template letter for companies to issue to their employees in case they are challenged while travelling or prevented from gaining entry to sites.
IPAF director of operations Giles Councell said: “As a member of Build UK, IPAF welcomes this move to clarify key worker status from the Government. We hope members will be reassured by the work being done to recognise the importance of their employees in keeping essential projects moving and maintaining vital infrastructure. In these times of uncertainty, I am sure people will welcome the clarity that organisations such as IPAF and Build UK can bring, and those who need to keep going to work during this difficult time are assured they are doing the right thing.”
“IPAF recommends that all powered access workers follow the latest UK Government guidance to minimise risk to themselves or others, to restrict the spread of this virus. Check the IPAF and Build UK websites for regular updates regarding the outbreak.”
Chief executive Peter Douglas added: “Wherever temporary work at height is required in the UK, one of the safest means of accomplishing this is to deploy specialist powered access equipment, used by a trained and familiarised operator, under proper supervision at all times. IPAF does not accept that safety standards should be undermined, or corners be cut in any way owing to the ongoing public health situation, therefore we welcome this move to secure proper recognition for the specialist services that continue to be provided by the powered access sector wherever they are needed. Please stay safe during these challenging times.”
For information regarding IPAF updates on the coronavirus outbreak and how it might affect the powered access sector, visit www.ipaf.org and check www.builduk.org/coronavirus for the latest guidance from Build UK and to download a letter of authority to allow essential travel to and from open sites visit builduk.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Travel-to-Work-Letter.docx
It is surprising that confusion still exists on this issue, given that the UK government has been crystal clear on the issue, stating that you can continue to travel to work if you absolutely cannot do your job from home – and if the workplace or your work environment meets or follows all Public Health England guidance. All manner of non-essential businesses continue to work within these guidelines, even retailers – mostly taking orders by phone or online and delivering them. The non-essential closures relate to retail premises and venues such as pubs, restaurants and shops other than those selling food or medicines etc…
See UK issues guidance on going to work which also includes a link to the full government statement.
Perhaps the ‘confusion‘ comes from some overzealous officials who feel that any rule needs embellishing or interpreting in their unique manner, or they simply have not read or understood the government statement, in spite of the exceptionally clear English in which it is written. We have seen it all before, usually in the name of ‘Health & Safety’ and more recently ‘Data Protection’ – to the point that the UK’s Health & Safety Executive operates a ‘Myth-busting’ site to debunk local embellishments and interpretations.
Hopefully, this move from BuildUK, with IPAF and CPA support will help eliminate such obstructions for those crane operators, riggers and aerial lift staff that continue to work, providing what is a vital service, during this difficult and troubling times.