UCATT calls for sites to be shut down in freezing weather

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UCATT is calling on the construction industry to introduce long-overdue extreme weather health and safety guidelines for construction workers. The industry is blighted by the inhumanity of the industry towards the workers. Workers must struggle through zero temperatures, risk their health on icy ground or scaffold, or endure torrential downpours for up to 12 hours at a time. The majority of the British population wouldn’t let a dog suffer such conditions – so why a building worker?

UCATT has written to the chief executive of the National House Building Council (NHBC), Mike Quinton, calling on the NHBC to introduce clear rules for construction workers operating in extreme weather – to accompany those it publishes for building materials. The NHBC makes it clear mortar should not be used below 2 degrees C, whilst construction workers should put their gloves on, get out there and suffer.

Construction workers have long endured the inhumanity of being told to work in extreme weather. Contractors have always fostered a macho environment that accuses those who complain about severe weather to be labelled weak. This lack of care for the construction worker is virtually institutionalised in the construction industry.

So while constructors take the utmost care with their materials – the workers can suffer. Non-compliance with this profit-driven attitude leads to loss of pay and victimisation for any construction worker who refuses to work in extreme weather.

UCATT Acting General Secretary, Brian Rye, said: “The construction industry has long put profit before people. It’s a complete indictment of an industry that has temperature guidelines to safeguard materials but none whatsoever for the workers. This must now change. We have written to the NHBC to ask them to inject some humanity into the industry and provide clear temperature and extreme weather guidelines for constructors to apply to workers. In an age when we no longer send young children up chimneys to clean them, we should equally not be forcing construction workers to work in inhuman conditions.”

Mr Rye added: “Meteorologists are predicting a very severe winter for the UK – so we call on the NHBC to show some leadership and make a long-overdue change in the housing building industry. If it’s too cold for mortar – it’s too cold for mortals!”

There is no legal minimum or maximum temperature for working outside.

Unions are currently negotiating to have rules or guidance on working in extreme weather included in the Construction Industry Joint Council (CIJC) agreement the largest agreement covering construction workers.

Notes to editors: More detailed on mortar and cement rules from NHBC website page below…

In cold weather

• Brickwork and blockwork should not be built or rendered when the air temperature is below 2°C and falling
• Walls should be protected from the frost until the mortar has set sufficiently to resist frost damage
• Covers should be provided to form a still air space to insulate the wall
• Walling damaged by frost will not regain strength and should be taken down and rebuilt when conditions improve