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Many UK building sites have shut down because of health and safety legislation rather than government advice.

Though plenty remain in operation, some building sites have stopped working as contractors discover that health and safety breaches are not covered by their insurance policies.

Jon Miller of the law firm Fenwick Elliot said that many construction firms, first and foremost, were aware of the need to comply with the Health and Safety at Work Act, and it was this rather than the government’s social distancing that has influenced their decisions. The act mandates a duty for all employers to make sure that workers’ health and safety are protected.

Miller said:

“What has happened in the last 48 hours with many sites closing and other people saying that they have been forced to go to work is I think people are finally taking note of the Health and Safety at Work Act.”

Miller said that risk assessments that take the coronavirus into account need to be carried out on all sites. PPE (personal protective equipment), including masks and gloves, can help protect workers from the spread of viruses, but in some working areas it is impossible to keep the recommended social distance of two meters from other workers.

Contractors that keep sites open could be subject to litigation from workers who have been exposed to the virus.

Many of Britain’s biggest construction companies and housebuilders have closed their sites, but some remain open and continue to employ construction workers. Sites can remain operational provided that all workers can safely keep two metres apart at all times.


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