Construction sites in Ireland are to remain open despite calls from the Unite trade union for work to stop on all sites.
There have been growing calls in Ireland for the government to introduce a nationwide lockdown with the closure of all non-essential workplaces.
An emergency online meeting of Unite’s National Construction Branch heard that adequate social distancing measures cannot be maintained on sites during the current COVID-19 emergency.
“It has become increasingly clear to our members, who work on sites throughout the country, that adequate social distancing cannot be maintained either on site or, in many cases, when travelling to and from sites," Unite’s Regional Officer for Construction Tom Fitzgerald said.
“The result is that approximately 150,000 construction workers are not only themselves susceptible to the spread of COVID-19, but are also at risk of bringing the virus back home to their families and communities – further increasing the strain on our health services."
However, at the moment construction activity is continuing on various projects and the sector is also exempt in the UK from the lockdown there.
The Construction Industry Federation (CIF) and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions have issued a joint statement highlighting the essential projects that workers are delivering.
Tom Parlon, Director General of the CIF, said ‘social distancing’ and compliance with HSE guidance on Covid-19 is now critical to the continuation of the construction industry.
"We urge contractors and workers to work together to enforce social distancing regardless of any impacts on productivity or deadlines."
The CIF is also asking companies to remind workers that social distancing is critical off-site and on the way to the site.
"Remind workers that they should not travel in groups and while visiting local businesses (shops etc) they must maintain the 1-2 metre distance guideline. Construction workers are to be commended for continuing to operate safely as they deliver essential projects for the health care sector and in housing and infrastructure," Mr Parlon said.
General Secretary of the Congress union Patricia King said they will continue to watch the situation closely.
"Essentially workers should adhere to social distancing guidelines, carry out regular hand washing and use gloves and masks if possible to help contain the spread of the virus in the workplace," she said.
"The HSE has issued guidelines on the Coronavirus and we recommend that this guidance is adhered to by workers in the construction industry."