The Spanish sector returns to the construction site lacking masks and with the renovation workers at home

A new order published in the BOE (Spanish legacy maker) on Sunday specified that it would not be possible to carry out intervention work in buildings where there were people not involved in  the construction.

Nearly 1.7 million workers linked to the construction industry have resumed their activity since Monday, in Spain, after the expiration of the paid leave that the government launched on March 30th to reinforce the confinement of the population due to the coronavirus crisis. After a two-week standstill, with the exception of essential services, the work resumed very gradually, since Easter Monday was a holiday in many communities and in many other provinces it had been agreed as a non-working day in the construction calendar. The return to activity has been marked by the lack of masks and the prohibition ‘in extremis’ of the renovations.

“We have been asking for supplies for weeks and we were assured last week. This Monday, however, we were still calling the Ministry of Industry to request them. The businessmen are willing to pay for the masks, but not all of them have had access” explained Cepyme -Spanish Confederation of Small and Medium Enterprises Cepyme- to the Spanish newspaper ‘El Mundo’.

Although the Spanish government said that since Monday 10 million masks are distributed in public transport, many still do not have this precious commodity these days. “I am not aware that anyone has distributed masks, so we have had to reinforce the recommendation of maintaining a safety distance of two meters,” acknowledges Juan Lazcano, president of National Construction Confederation (CNC).

“People are acting with caution, as we had recommended, and no significant incidents are coming in terms of prevention, although it is true that there is a shortage of Particular Protection Equipment (PPE), told Pedro Hojas, secretary of the Federation of Industry, Construction and Agriculture (FICA) of UGT, to the Spanish newspaper ‘El País’, on Monday. From the union they warn that it is necessary to guarantee a continuous supply of PPE. “We have to change them when they are used and we need companies to have the capacity to renew those materials”, explained Hojas.

The renovation sub-sector, paralyzed

A new order published in the BOE on Sunday 12th April ‘in extremis’ left out the renovation sub-sector in the return to work. The order specifies that it will not be possible to carry out intervention work in buildings where there are people who do not belong to the construction industry, in order to “avoid contact between workers and inhabitants and thus reduce the risk of contagion by coronavirus”.

The new regulation indicates that “the concentration of people in buildings” where works are carried out in which “workers must share certain common spaces with residents or other users” implies an “increased risk of contagion by Covid-19”. Therefore, the Government, in order to “ensure the containment of the pandemic”, proceeds to suspend “the execution of certain works”.

However, the prohibition will not affect those urgent repairs of installations and breakdowns or surveillance tasks of the building itself. “This restriction will not apply to those works in which such interference does not occur and the works to be carried out can be sectorized or separated within the property they affect” the order states.

Apart from this specific area, on Monday 78.5% of national construction was restarted, which means the reoccupation of 1,389,000 workers; 916,740 directly and 472,260 indirectly; according to data provided to this newspaper by the Spanish Association of Construction and Infrastructure Concession Companies (Seopan).

For this return to work, the social agents of the construction sector the employers –National Construction Confederation (CNC), and the unions, CCOO of Construction and Services, and the Federation of Industry, Construction and Agriculture of the UGT (UGT-FICA)– have published an Action Guide, whose objective is to establish a series of recommendations for the application of preventive measures in construction works due to the Covid-19.