Island MP ‘clears up’ confusion in building industry

An Island building company boss and chairman of a body that promotes health and safety within the industry has welcomed confirmation on what construction work can and cannot be undertaken during the COVID-19 outbreak.

John Nicholson, chairman of the IW Working Well Together group which, supported by the Health and Safety Executive, promotes good practice within the construction industry, said a misunderstanding within the trade had frustrated local building work – including that which is important to the fight against coronavirus.

John, who runs roofing company John Nicholson Ltd, asked MP Bob Seely for clarity and this week welcomed confirmation from Bob on the Government’s position.

Bob said: “The advice is clear on this. Hardware shops and equipment, plant and tool hire are permitted to remain open at this time.

“The construction industry can also continue as long as it does so in line with social distancing guidance provided by Public Health England. We need essential works – and this includes sites such as St. Mary’s Hospital – to be able to continue.

“If anyone is in any doubt about what they should and should not be doing they must refer to the official advice published by the Government.”

A recent statement issued by Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), Lord Callanan, reads: “Construction workers who cannot work from home, who show no symptoms of Covid-19, and who live in households where no person is self-isolating, should still go to work.

“However, the Government is clear that construction activity should only continue where it can take place in line with the social distancing guidance provided by Public Health England.”

John Nicholson said: “There is great misunderstanding in the construction industry on what should and should not be done, but the latest Government guidelines are quite clear – work can be carried out wherever controlled safety measures and procedures can be implemented in line with public health guidelines.

“There are many sites where this could be done but the situation is further hampered by a decision by some merchants and suppliers to close down or restrict supplies to what they interpret as essential works. This is not what the Government said or intends, and will cause unnecessary damage to the economy, business and infrastructure.

“Our company carries out continual risk assessment on all its projects and has continued to work where it has been safe to do so and where we can get the required materials. We could do more if materials were more available.

“Our workforce was as confused and frightened as anyone else when the coronavirus first struck the country, but after assurances and support over the new safe working procedures they feel secure continuing to work, showing that it can be done.”

Bob said: “I hope that the building industry will be reassured by the guidelines around what they are able to do while practising safe working. We must remember that construction work – carried out safely – plays a vital role in keeping our services and infrastructure open and available for people on the frontline of the battle against coronavirus.”