Why Rights on Site are vital for the construction industry
- 31 Aug 2022
The construction sector has long been associated with poor workers’ rights and unsafe working conditions. Despite legislative changes and falling instances of workplace injury, the sector is still rife with injustices related to accidents and injury in the workplace, the blacklisting of union members and unfair treatment, according to research carried out by the National Accident Helpline. In response to this and other mitigating factors posed by COVID-19, the Rights on Site movement is gathering traction - but what is the campaign really about and what are its main aims?
How was the construction sector affected by COVID?
Like most industrial sectors, the British construction industry experienced hugely damaging delays and disruption due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and its associated national lockdowns. The main issues faced by construction companies in the 2020-2021 period include government-imposed restrictions and the new remote working culture, which made essential supply chain processes such as sourcing materials near-impossible. Generally speaking, those contractors with more diversified and versatile business models managed to emerge from the other side of the pandemic relatively unscathed; as such, the pandemic has fostered a more collaborative, adaptable and solution-based approach to construction that is likely to remain for many years to come. The major (and potentially dangerous) risk posed by the post-pandemic construction sector’s return is the fact that, in a rush to make up for lost time and cash flow (despite projected growth of 6.3% in 2022), some employers may be cutting corners when it comes to honouring workers’ rights on site.
What is the Rights on Site campaign?
According to Johnathan White, the NAH’s Legal and Compliance Director, The Rights on Site campaign was created to tackle injustice in the sector and “help right many wrongs that construction industry workers currently face”. The main aims of the campaign are to improve workers’ rights by changing the “embedded culture” of bullying and unfair treatment in the sector, in which accidents and injuries are underplayed and workers continue to fear being blacklisted due to legal union membership; the ultimate goal of the Rights on Site movement is to give construction workers more of a voice and offer protection from injustices in the workplace, including improper health and safety measures and an industry-wide reluctance to make personal injury claims following serious injuries or accidents. Considering that the construction industry has some of the highest instances of fatal and non-fatal injuries in the workplace, it seems as though the Rights on Site campaign could go a long way in improving safety, productivity, and worker morale in the sector, not to mention reducing the risk of employee injury or death.