Serious concerns about the safety of workers on construction sites have been highlighted by a local MSP amid suggestions Covid-19 measures are not strong enough to stop the spread of the virus.
Alex Rowley, Labour MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife, has written to the Scottish Government seeking assurances about the situation in the construction sector after hearing directly from a number of concerned workers in the industry.
Drawing attention to the fact that this lockdown was brought on by a new strain of the virus which is more transmissible, Mr Rowley says the construction sector has been treated differently this time round – allowing workers to be put in a position where they are frightened to go to work but also frightened not to for fear of losing their jobs.
“One worker told me the other day that he works on a site for over 100 workers and there are two small toilets,” he explained.
“Another on a large site talked about workers not socially distancing and not being able to do so – as well as no social distancing in the canteen and poor provision of toilets.
“I have had another worker contact me and tell me his wife has been shielding because of illness and he is terrified he will pick the virus up at work and take it home to his wife.
“These kinds of comments and more are reflective of a statement issued by Unite the Union who say they have been inundated by construction members in a state of fear for themselves and their families, fearful of catching the virus and equally fearful of losing their job and being plunged into poverty if they refuse to work.
“The Government need to address these worries as a matter of urgency and make sure that no worker is having to go to work in fear due to inadequate health and safety provisions, especially in the middle of a pandemic.”
The issue has been raised in a week which also saw Office for National Statistics figures reveal that more than 2,000 workers in the construction industry have sadly died from Covid-19 between March 9, 2020, and December 28, 2020.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said further restrictions have not been ruled out but urged businesses to consider voluntarily closing and claiming through financial support schemes to support staff in order to help reduce the spread of coronavirus.
She added: “To ensure that life with some degree of normality can continue we always try to strike a balance between keeping people at home and allowing certain things continue.
“In the last lockdown of course, non-essential construction and manufacturing didn’t operate for a period, they’ve both done an awful lot to make their operations safer, but we have to keep all of that under review.
“At the end of the day what matters here is that we reduce interactions sufficiently to stop this virus spreading.
“And given that it is spreading faster, that might be more difficult to do.”