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Proposed employment law changes could put construction workers’ lives at risk

A government proposal to amend several areas within retained EU Law, in particular employment law, could have a detrimental impact on construction safety.

New plans outline the Government’s intent to scrap the current record-keeping requirements for the Working Time Regulations, which requires employers to maintain an objective, reliable and accessible system that measures the duration of time worked each day for every worker. These records are required to ensure workers get their minimum daily rest period of 11 consecutive hours within each 24-hour period and a minimum uninterrupted period of 24 hours rest in every seven-day period.

In a high-risk industry like construction, where workers often use heavy and dangerous machinery and work from height, ensuring everyone has adequate rest between shifts should be the minimum expectation of employers.

Put simply, by removing the need for these records to be kept and maintained, employees’ health is being put at risk. And it is not only workers’ physical wellbeing that could be at risk but also their mental state of mind.

A CIOB report in 2020 revealed how long working hours made the biggest difference to construction workers’ wellbeing, followed by job uncertainty, tight deadlines, financial pressures, and working away from home. Almost half of those surveyed (48.3%) had taken time off work because of unmanageable stress and mental health issues, which had increased by 18% from the previous year. A concerning 26% of individuals reported they had experienced suicidal thoughts at least once during their career.

In summary, one death at work is too many and everything should be done to ensure construction workers can go home safely at the end of each working day.

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