January 2021 brought with it an immediate closure of almost 60 per cent of the construction sector as the country and world battled the new variants of COVID-19.
While this was understandable, we would expect the scientists advising government would make their decisions, and the emerging advice, based on science, statistics and cold facts.
Clearly that has not been the case.
At the time of writing, the stats of transmission and cases arising from the construction sector indicated that out of a total of 158,361 cases of COVID-19 in Ireland from January 2021, only 145 related to the construction sector.
A tiny amount in the scheme of things, but decisions made at government level to close a large section of the industry has had a devastating impact.
While we have to welcome the return of the private residential sector since April 12, the mandate of the CIF will always be to work to a full and safe opening of the entire industry.
A word to those returning to work. There is an onus on those who are back at work and those newly returning, to ensure their operations are in full compliance with the CIF C19 Standard Operating Procedures (V7).
This is available free from the CIF website. Recent figures on compliance issued by the Health and Safety Authority indicate, for the construction sector, that 90 per cent of sites had COVID-19 measures in place.
This is good but what about the other 10 per cent?
The information and guidance is freely available and we ask that all sites adhere to it.
Around a third of the industry, representing in the region of 20,000 workers and many small to medium-sized enterprises, depended on the Government’s ‘considerations’ when it came to restarting the remainder of the industry this month.
Any widespread increase in the numbers of cases arising from the current return, will jeopardise the full and continued re-opening of our industry.
So we call on all companies to redouble their efforts to contain the virus and work safely.
A word on antigen testing
We should use all the tools available to ensure safe sites – particularly in a pandemic as we are now negotiating.
Antigen testing, a simple, inexpensive, 15-minute test as to whether a person is infectious or not is one of those tools that can be utilised to assist in this process.
The Ferguson Report on antigen testing is worth a read – if only you read the recommendations – as it outlines the benefits this simple risk management tool can bring.
I would encourage all our members to investigate how a simple testing regime can be used as an additional tool for site safety.
CIF is seeking support from government for employers to use these tools.
As was mentioned at a recent CIF Safety Committee meeting, our principle objective is to have the entire industry working and doing so safely.
Our next priority is to ensure it stays open – safely.
We have demonstrated that this can be done and the statistics validate these actions.
Keep it up.