The decision follows discussions between major contractors and their trade association, Build UK , at which “a collective decision for sites to shut” was discussed.
“Following that call, a number of members went back to their boards and have now confirmed that they are closing their sites,” Build UK said today.
Sir Robert McAlpine joins a growing list of contractors taking the decision to pull off site, along with ISG, Multiplex, Careys, Speller Metcalfe and Mace, as well as housing developers Bovis Homes, Barratt Developments, Taylor Wimpey and Persimmon
In a statement on his company’s website, Sir Robert McAlpine chief executive Paul Hamer said: “Since the start of the UK coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak we have worked closely with our clients and project partners to do all we can to keep our people safe and our sites running.
“We introduced numerous measures to safeguard our people, including asking as many colleagues as possible to work from home to stop the spread of COVID-19 and reduce unnecessary travel. I am proud to say that, despite the added challenges this has brought, our project teams across the country have risen to the task and have done a fantastic job in incredibly difficult circumstances.
“However, given the most recent developments we do not believe we should be asking our people to travel on public transport. We cannot operate canteens on our sites; we are not classified as key workers; and upholding the social distancing rule is unfeasible on some of our projects. Because of this then we are unable to operate all sites safely and effectively whilst remaining in accordance with COVID-19 guidelines.
“We are a values-driven organisation and take our responsibilities as a UK business and community member extremely seriously. We therefore wish to do all we can to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and will be complying fully with the latest government instructions.
“As of Wednesday 25th March 2020, most of our sites will be closed to all but essential safety and security employees. The only sites that remain operational are those where it is absolutely safe to do so and where critical work, such as building hospitals continues, or where we are putting safe shutdown plans into operation.
“While this will have a detrimental impact on progress and impact heavily on our people, we recognise that this action is in the best interests of wider society. It is quite simply the right thing to do.
“Whilst some work has paused our pre-contract work to develop new projects remains on track and continues to be delivered. We are sorry for the disruption this will cause to the delivery of our projects. If there was an alternative solution to this problem, we would be taking it and we will keep the situation under constant review.
“Where our people can work from home, depending on childcare and isolation arrangements, they are. We have been incredibly encouraged by the can-do attitude of our people and supply chain and the sterling efforts they continue to make to help keep our business performing during this difficult time.”
“Our priority, once it is permitted, is to ensure we are fully operational as quickly as possible and that the damage resulting from the current status is minimised.”
In its latest daily statement on the rapidly changing situation, Build UK said: “We know the industry is looking for clarity on whether construction sites should continue to operate. Whilst the government is increasing its calls for everyone to stay at home and avoid all non‐essential travel, it is also stating that construction sites can continue to operate. This has left the construction sector caught between the government’s advice and the overwhelming need to protect its workforce.
“On a call with the majority of our contractor members yesterday, Build UK discussed a collective decision for sites to shut. Following that call, a number of members went back to their boards and have now confirmed that they are closing their sites.
“Build UK is not a regulatory or enforcement body and neither is the Construction Leadership Council (CLC). We have done our utmost to support members in implementing the Government’s advice on social distancing where they have chosen to keep their sites open. Alongside the CLC, we have also called strongly for government support for the whole workforce that will be affected by the closure of construction sites.
“We firmly believe that the industry needs to pull together at this time; we can do nothing about the situation we find ourselves in, but we can do something about how we respond and that will continue to be our focus over the coming days.
“The message from government continues to be that construction sites can continue to operate but must implement the Site Operating Procedures, developed by Build UK and published by the Construction Leadership Council (CLC).
The CLC has confirmed that all construction sites should assess their situation and those sites that cannot implement the Site Operating Procedures published by the CLC should not remain open."