Construction union seeks face masks to be made mandatory on building sites

Connect union says masks should become as common as hard hats or a hi-vis vests on sites

Workers should be provided with suitable facemasks and other essential personal protective equipment (PPE), the union said.

Workers should be provided with suitable facemasks and other essential personal protective equipment (PPE), the union said.

 

Industry Correspondent

Face masks should be made mandatory for workers on building sites, one of the main construction trade unions has said.

The Connect trade union said on Thursday that face masks were essential safety equipment and should be provided by employers.

Connect assistant general secretary Brian Nolan, said: “In light of recent workplace clusters of Covid-19 infection we are of the opinion that face masks should now be made mandatory for all construction sites. Construction sites are areas where considerable amounts of workers congregate and where social distancing is often very difficult to maintain. Workers should be provided with suitable facemasks and other essential personal protective equipment (PPE) as they arrive to a construction site each day.”

“This is clearly an essential move if we are to prioritise the safety of workers and their families, it will also prevent any avoidable closures of construction sites and the resulting damage to the industry and wider economy. In order to achieve this essential safety measure the Government should immediately include the construction sector and mechanical and electrical contracting sectors in the list of areas of live where face coverings are mandatory.”

Mr Nolan said clients and contractors had a duty of care to the industry and the country and should cover the cost of the provision of such safety equipment.

“We are also calling upon the Construction Industry Federation to support this move and any other initiative that protects workers and their families. If employers really value the well-being of their workers, they will not deny them this basic piece of personal protective equipment which must become as common place as hard hats or a hi-vis vests on sites. No life should be put at risk by going to work”.

Separately, Connect said a ballot on potential industrial action aimed at protecting existing terms and conditions of members is to continue until the end of August.

The union announced at the end of June that it would ballot more than 20,000 members in the electrical contracting, mechanical engineering and construction sectors for a mandate for industrial action.

It said this would take place in the event of any employer cutting the pay or conditions of its members in these sectors on foot of a High Court ruling in June which struck down as unconstitutional the system of sectoral employment orders which set out minimum terms to apply in particular areas.The Government is appealing the ruling.

Mr Nolan said the union had “taken a proactive approach to protecting our members and their families in recent weeks by distributing thousands of Connect -branded reusable face masks along with ballot papers”.