The press conference of the Belgian authorities on the progressive exit plan in Belgium held on Friday 24 April brought more clarity for businesses. On the same day, the social partners in the construction sector concluded a memorandum of understanding, to which BESIX fully subscribes.
As a result, construction will gradually be able to resume or continue its activities with fewer restrictions, subject to compliance with a number of conditions, from Monday 4 May on. Our teams are currently analyzing the phasing and the precise conditions under which work can gradually be resumed or intensified. In particular, actions are being taken to adapt on-site facilities and offices to the health regulations that are now in force.
1° As of May 4, the same basic sanitary rules continue to apply!
- Stay at home if you are ill.
- Wash your hands very regularly with soap for at least 30 seconds, or with hydroalcoholic gel.
- Avoid close contact with people, such as shaking hands or hugging.
- Keep a safety distance of 1.5m at all times.
2° Wearing a mask (*)
- On site, certain activities are impossible to carry out while respecting the safety distance of 1.5m between people. Following the memorandum of understanding between the partners in the sector, it will now be possible to derogate from this rule, provided that the people carrying out the task in question are compulsorily protected by a mask covering their mouth and nose.
- Among the federal measures announced last week is the obligation to wear a mask in certain cases, such as on public transport. Convinced by this approach, BESIX will adopt the same policy and extend the wearing of masks to all its activities, whether operational or administrative: as soon as you are in a collective place, in an area where there are several people, in common spaces, we will all have to wear a mask. Only when a situation is completely safe can the mask be removed (e.g. isolated work, individual office).
- - BESIX has ordered masks that will soon be available for sites and offices. Of course, wearing a mask does not replace the basic hygiene measures mentioned above.
3° Persons at risk
BESIX will closely follow all the measures defined by the relevant Belgian authorities in the framework of the progressive exit plan. There is no difference in treatment according to the age of the individuals, so BESIX does not make any difference either.
If, for medical reasons, you are considered to be a person at risk, or if you consider yourself to be a person at risk, consult your doctor.
4° Workers coming from abroad and Plexiglass partition in vans
Two topics are still under discussion and have not yet found specific solutions:
- On some sites, part of the subcontractors' workforce comes from foreign countries. These workers returned to their country just before the confinement period. Some of them are ready to return to Belgium, but the conditions under which they could return are not yet detailed. We have not yet taken any decision on the matter.
- If it’s impossible to guarantee the safety distance of 1.5m inside vehicles used for collective transport from, to and on a construction site, one solution would be to fix Plexiglass partition. However, this type of work may have an impact on the conformity of vehicles. This point is still under study and no decision has yet been taken.
In conclusion, the progressive exit plan and the agreement between the social partners are clearly encouraging news. However, there is still a long road ahead of us with many challenges, such as the supply of materials, which are either out of order or in short supply, the deeply disrupted supply chain, or the shortage of labor.
This general context forces us to remain vigilant, particularly in cost management. We will gradually return to a normal working situation as the economic engine picks up again.
The management of BESIX would like to thank you all wholeheartedly for your understanding and dedication to our group.
Stay safe and take care of yourself.
CEO BESIX Group
(*) Face masks used in these circumstances are not considered as PPE per se, but as an additional collective barrier to slow the spread of COVID-19.