Industry guidance says that mortar should not be used below 2oC but construction workers should get out there whatever the weather.
In one of its final campaigns before it is subsumed into Unite, the construction workers union Ucatt is calling for health and safety guidelines regulations for extreme weather.
It says that 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?” – the union asks. “This lack of care for the construction worker is virtually institutionalised in the construction industry,” it says.
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.”
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.
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!”
The UK has 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.