Construction workers struggle to maintain two metre distance at Johnnie Walker whisky visitor centre site

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Pictures have emerged of construction workers struggling to adhere to the UK Government’s strict social distancing advice at the Johnnie Walker whisky visitor centre building site in Edinburgh.

The images show men at the Princes Street site coming into close contact with each other on Tuesday, despite Government advice to maintain a distance of two metres (6ft)

BAM Construction, which is in charge of construction for the project led by drinks giant Diageo, said in "some instances" on Tuesday the two metre rule "was not followed" and that they will be conducting further safety talks on social distancing tomorrow.

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Construction workers at the Johnnie Walker visitor centre building site struggled to keep the 2m distance at times on Tuesday.Construction workers at the Johnnie Walker visitor centre building site struggled to keep the 2m distance at times on Tuesday.
Construction workers at the Johnnie Walker visitor centre building site struggled to keep the 2m distance at times on Tuesday. | Other 3rd Party

Diageo said they have asked the contractor to implement the latest construction site operating procedures and will look into the matter further and work with contractors as appropriate.

But one construction worker on site told the Evening News: “Myself and my fellow employees think that all building sites should be shut down as too many bodies on site will cause the spread of coronavirus instead of stopping it.”

Confusion over advice

Capacity at the Johnnie Walker site was dropped from about 160 to 40 people on Tuesday.

Further safety talks will be given on WednesdayFurther safety talks will be given on Wednesday
Further safety talks will be given on Wednesday | Other 3rd Party

But across the UK there has been widespread confusion as to whether people on building sites should be working at all, with some in the industry claiming there is disparity in the advice being given to the construction industry from the UK and Scottish governments.

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On Monday night, Prime Minister Boris Johnson outlined new strict measures to fight the spread of coronavirus, including a ban on public gatherings of two or more people. He said people should leave home only for essential items like food and medicine and fulfilling care needs, to exercise once a day and travel to and from work where "absolutely necessary.”

On Tuesday, health secretary Matt Hancock took the Downing Street press briefing where he said people can go to work if they can not do their job at home.

But unions and workers in the construction industry have called for protection, saying their work is not essential and puts people's health at risk.

Workers at the site.Workers at the site.
Workers at the site. | Other 3rd Party

At the press briefing, Mr Hancock said construction workers could and should keep going to work as long as they are able to remain two metres apart at all times.

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First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said at Holyrood today that, specifically on construction sites, they would expect them to be closed unless the building that is being worked on is essential, such as a hospital.

A spokesman for BAM Construction said: “BAM is organising a further toolbox talk on social distancing tomorrow because as you can see from the pictures in some instances during the day the 2m rule was not being followed.

“The toolbox talks will be carried out in smaller groups, but with the entire workforce on site.

“While we cannot manage everybody 1 to 1 we will re-inforce the importance of social distancing and have informed Diageo.”

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A Diageo spokesperson said: “We are aware of the latest statements on the construction industry and we are seeking urgent detailed clarification and official guidance on construction.

“We have on-site protocols on social distancing and sanitation, and we have asked our contractor to implement the latest Construction Leadership Council site operating procedures, which were released today. We are looking into this further as a matter of urgency and will work with our contractors as appropriate.”

It is understood some of those pictured are sub-contractors but BAM is responsible for construction on site.

Featuring two rooftop bars, a flagship retail store, a variety of interactive tours, exclusive tasting experiences and much more, Johnnie Walker Princes Street aims to offer the ultimate whisky experience for guests from home and abroad.

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The Johnnie Walker Princes Street attraction is the focal point of Diageo’s £150 million investment in Scotch whisky tourism. Such plans include transforming Glenkinchie, Cardhu, Caol Ila and Clynelish distilleries and restoring those in Brora in the Highlands and Port Ellen on Islay.