As the Covid-19 lockdown in the UK starts to lessen, if you are a construction worker you may find that you have been sent back to work earlier than you originally expected. This is because you are not one of the groups of workers that can literally work from home. However, this will mean that you are in one of the groups of workers that is put most at risk construction work accidents. Although the first wave of the Corona Virus may be lessening, it is going to be a difficult task to try and reintegrate into the work environment. That is why it is essential that your employer does their best to make the construction site as safe as possible.
Before you go back to work, it is important that you know your worker rights. That way if you are unfairly dismissed, are forced to work too close to other workers or, worse still, suffer construction work accidents, you know exactly what to do. Read on to learn about Covid-19 and your rights as a construction worker.
The Fear of Returning to Work
If your work has been deemed “essential”, aka. you are construction worker, you are probably packing up your work bag and getting ready for a day on your employer’s building site. Life cannot return to normal but you are going to try and make the best of a bad situation. However, the main question is, should you really be going back to work when the first wave of Covid-19 has not yet subsided?
According to the HSE,
“If you see something in a workplace that you think is breaking health and safety law and is likely to cause serious harm, you can report it”.
Whilst you may feel like this is whistle blowing, it is important to maintain social distancing and cleanliness on the worksite. Your employer owes you a duty of care. This means that they need to be kept updated on the latest government advice and protection equipment against Covid-19.
Already, many construction workers fear for their lives due to inadequate care from their employer and from the UK’s government. They have been sent back to work in order to try and restart their daily lives. However, most construction workers know that this comes with a cost to their safety
No one can prevent:
- Crammed commuting conditions (e.g. The Tube)
- Overpopulated business worksites
- A lack of hygiene products in the work place (aka. hand sanitizer and soap)
- Communal projects (aka. machine use in close proximity)
Some sites have thousands of people going in and out on a daily basis in order to conduct business. This cannot be stopped if site managers want to maintain a steady flow of customers. One architect, interviewed by the BBC even warned:
“Even though they have added hand sanitizer stations everywhere, people still have to use fingerprint scanners to gain access to the site when they go in or out which seemingly defeats the object of social distancing. Everyone is very worried.”
If you are worried about the conditions of your work environment, then you have a duty to your colleagues to speak up. In some case, you may even want to change your contract before serious construction work accidents happens.
Changes to your work environment
It is entirely up to your construction site’s employer whether or not they want to stay open or shut. It is a difficult time for all those involved in construction, namely due to the amount of delays that are happening with projects. The Government has requested that all of workplaces have a strict standard of hygiene to lessen the spread of the disease. However, it is important to remember that this must be balanced with time sensitive projects. A delay in a construction project could mean that you employer loses a contract or are forced to pay penalties for the delay. It could mean that they find it difficult to find business in the future. So, as you can see, your employer is currently stuck between a rock and a hard place.
However, your employer still has a duty towards you and any other people who work on your construction site. They should be employing the following regulations:
You deserve to feel safe when you are entering a work place. Every day, you should not have to suffer emotional damages as you worry about whether or not you will spread Covid-19 or, worse, bring it home to infect those that you care about. When you speak to your construction site manager about being in the workplace, you need to justify why your work site should be closed in the first place. This may not be as easy as you think.
A Worker’s Rights
No matter what your area of wok, you have the right to speak up should you feel threatened by your work environment. By speaking up, you can prevent construction work accidents from taking place. You have the right to receive information/training about preventative hazard measures. You can also have the right to review the records of work-related injuries that have happened on your construction site. So, if you notice that quite a few workers have fallen ill from Covid-19, it may be in your best interests.
It’s important that you speak to your manager to find out what preventative measures are being put in place. If you feel they are not up to scratch, you may want to ask for your union to get involved. They can act on your behalf and enforce more safety regulations to ensure that the virus does not spread around your construction site and work teams.
Covid-19: The Problems
Of course, the main problem for any employee is the human sacrifice needed to keep a construction site open. With people actively being in a worksite, this gives room for the virus to spread, therefore making it more likely that you, or your colleagues, may suffer from a workplace accident. Many building contractors seem to struggling to justify the closure of their construction sites due to:
It is up to the “principle contractor” to give their opinion on how the project will be able to carry on safely. They need to consider contractual liabilities that involve health and safety risks. You may also need to seek advice from the client and the client’s health and safety advisor.
The Work Place Contract
In some cases, if you feel like your life is currently at risk by working on your site, you can talk to your employers about a “Force Majeure.”
Under this clause, there is room to renegotiate the completion date of the project. The delay was due to circumstances out of the company’s control (in this case the UK lock down). Following government advice, the project was temporarily closed in order to protect the employees. If you still feel like this protection needs to be maintained, you can suggest that smaller teams enter the worksite in order to stagger shifts. It is important that the amount of work available is built up so that none of the team are put at risk.
Keep in mind that if you want to use this policy, it will provide time for the workforce to stay away from the construction site. However, it will not provide financial relief for you to continue the wages of your work force. These will need to be covered by the company.
Work Accidents & Risks
Naturally, with a smaller work force on your construction site, there is a higher chance that an accident may occur. This may include:
- Worker injury
- Employee illness (Covid-19)
- Machine faults/breakdowns
- Machine-Related Injuries
Although you may be working with a smaller team, it is important that you still keep up safe practices. You may need to speak to your employer if you find that they are forcing you to do more than what is expected of you, or what is safe to do so. Should you have an accident due to the negligence of your employer, you may find that they breached their code of practice. Therefore, you could have an employer liability claim on your hands.
Is this really the best time to be claiming compensation from construction work accidents?
Honestly, the worst thing that you can do is wait to collect compensation. If you have suffered from an injury on a construction site, then asking for compensation can help ease some of the burdens that come along with it. It is your legal right to be compensated if the injury was no fault of your own. Construction work accidents deserve to be compensated. It can also help you by:
- Giving you the financial tools to pay for private healthcare and therapies. This should assist you in your recovery.
- Providing lost income that you may have been forced to give up due to your injuries.
- Helping you have time to recover and understand if it affected you psychologically or caused you any distress
- Providing your loved ones with support and compensation
Worried about social distancing during your case? You can relax knowing that the claims process can be handled remotely by a trained accident at work solicitor. They can send all of your documents electronically and talk to you either through a video call or over the phone. That way you and your loved ones can remain protected whilst maintaining social distancing regulations.
Gowing Law Solicitors can help you get compensation for your accident at a construction site
Construction work accidents are not your fault. Gowing Law’s trained solicitors can help you get justice. You deserve compensation for your injuries. This is why our helpful team of experienced solicitors will get you the outcome you deserve. We offer free advice and consultations to get you started. If you choose to work with us, we work on a no win, no fee basis. That means you will always come out on top, even if you are not successful in your case.
Ready to claim your compensation? Fill out our personal information form on our accidents at work page, call 0800 041 8350 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. You can also use our direct messaging system on our contact page.
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