As many employers in the construction sector try to stay afloat during the global coronavirus crisis, employees are concerned about their jobs but also about the risks they face at work. On construction sites, buildings and public works it is difficult to respect social distances. For example, how can a team of workers keep a meter distance in narrow elevators and trucks? This is one of the questions that American workers ask in the last hours on social networks, worried about their health and the safety of their family members, who despite being at home in quarantine risk being infected when the worker go back home.
The wives of the New York builders are pleading with their husbands not to go to work. But no work, no income, means trouble beyond. As is happening in southern Italy and Tunisia where the first social tensions begin to occur because of lockdown. If in the US, Boston, New York, Washington and Pennsylvania have decided to suspend any construction site, there are growing concerns for foreign workers in Qatar, where the spread of covid-19 is taking place among the workers, already forced to live in squalid conditions. “As an HVAC installer, most of the work we are doing right now is not essential. And even if I don’t get paid, I would choose to stay at home, but I can’t.” A Pakistani man employed in Doha tells.
The risks for those who work in this sector are heterogeneous all over the world if you think that most workers still travel on public transport to go to work. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends washing your hands often, but in some construction sites there is no running water to do this. On large yards, workers also all share a portable toilet. They all work together on the sites to help each other to make some efforts in building an apartment or office skyscraper.
“Our corporate offices and regional offices with salaried workers closed down so they can remain safe, yet we are required to show up and work in a giant, germ-filled Petri dish of a building. I have three months of vacation saved up but can’t use it because the project is on a strict timeline. This is a giant disaster waiting to happen. It is not if but when. So, how do us construction guys stay safe? I am scared as hell going to work every day, but I do not get an option unless I just quit, and I cannot do that”. A Florida worker in Orlando said on the media. It’s clear that the companies are facing with courageous choices, in most cases it is a question of choosing between losing thousand dollars projects or protecting their workers. Governments should encourage the defence of the right to health of workers in each sector, including the self-employed.