Ayrshire construction workers have told of the 'sheer dread' felt at having to attend building sites that are still open.

Fearing for the wellbeing of their colleagues, family and the wider public they spoke of the lack of safety measures for those still expected to go to work in the construction industry.

Work sites in Ayrshire were advised again to close yesterday by the Scottish Government because of COVID-19, but several remain open as UK Government advice continues to differ.

One worker, who is based on a Morrison Construction site in Ayrshire, said: "We’re all freaking out and nobody’s listening.

"Some jobs you can’t do by yourself on a building site.

"Boils down to money, that’s what it's all about. They’re scared they’ll get stuck with bill. 

"They're putting money before men."

He said he's been given a choice between health and livelihood, which he said is impossible to make.

A sub-contractor, who has been working on a new tax office building in Glasgow being developed by BAM, said: "They shovel health and safety stuff down your throat on a daily basis, but a global pandemic hits and they put you out in it.

"I looked into the yard at the construction site at 3am, and there was a crowd.

"I thought, this can't be happening."

The man's wife is a key-worker caring for the vulnerable and elderly.

She said: "In my job we’ve been given PPE, masks, gloves, all the safety measures have been put in place.

"But obviously building sites are totally different, they aren’t clean.

"He shouldn’t be there."

The worker was told to stand down yesterday and was sent home but now he is unsure if he will qualify for the 80 per cent furlough salary or will have to sign up for Universal Credit.

When the site team was called into a meeting, he spoke up and said: "You're putting a shilling before the men.

"You’re not giving us a choice, if I don’t come here my kids will go hungry."

He said: "We need them to close. I just know that. And the guys and their families looked after."

BAM announced yesterday that sites across the UK would 'pause' for a review of working practices to reduce the risks of COVID-19.

A statement read: "BAM is determined to maintain the highest levels of safety for our employees and their families, our supply chain, our clients, along with the wider public.

"Where work can be delivered according to these guidelines, it is anticipated that sites will re-start from Monday, March 30. This date will be kept under constant review."

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: BAM's tax office construction site in Glasgow.BAM's tax office construction site in Glasgow.

Yesterday, there was a total of 57 cases of the virus in Ayrshire and Arran, an increase of 16 since Tuesday.

The updated coronavirus death toll of 22 across Scotland was also confirmed, an increase of six deaths in 24 hours.

Nicola Sturgeon told a press conference yesterday that construction workers on sites of non-essential buildings ‘should not be working’.

She said: “My advice is that they should follow the advice given by the Scottish Government for Scotland.”

The First Minister said the Scottish Government is looking to develop guidance to see if it is possible for construction work to continue safely but, until that is issued, companies should cease operations.

At Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday, Boris Johnson repeated the UK Government stance that everyone who can work from home should, and that constructions sites can operate as long as they do so in accordance with health and safe-working advice.

Ms Sturgeon noted the differing approaches but reiterated that her position that ‘it should not be for individual employees to decide to turn up to work’.

Morrison Construction, which has ongoing operations in Ayrshire, has not closed its sites.

A spokesperson for East Ayrshire Council said: "The Barony Campus remains open at the current time, however, this is a matter for Morrison Construction and cannot be influenced by East Ayrshire Council. 

"The advice issued by both the Scottish and UK Governments regarding closure of construction sites is advisory. It is therefore for each contractor to satisfy themselves that they are taking every precaution necessary to protect their staff on-site in order to assist with the efforts to contain the Covid-19 outbreak; whilst doing so in accordance with any relevant guidance that has been issued.

"Scottish and UK Governments have also stated that construction works can continue on ‘essential’ sites however as yet no guidance has been provided to clarify what is meant by ‘essential’; this is anticipated shortly and may have a bearing on Morrison Constructions decision to keep their site open.

"The situation continues to be monitored closely."

The site of a new ASN school in Stevenston had several vans and workers at it on Tuesday.

Morrison Construction has yet to respond to comment, but a spokesperson for the client, North Ayrshire Council, said: “We are awaiting definitive government guidance on the construction industry and will liaise accordingly with contractors.”

Ashleigh Building, which operates several sites across Ayrshire from its headquarters in Prestwick, announced the closure of all building-works yesterday.

A statement from their board of directors said: “The advice provided by the Prime Minister on the evening of Monday, March 23, 2020, swiftly followed by an aligned statement by the Scottish First Minister, leaves us with no option but to immediately suspend all works on site until further notice and advice is provided.

“As a responsible contractor, we deem the health and wellbeing of all our staff, operatives and supply chain partners as a priority, and will take absolutely no risk in jeopardising that position.”

Ashleigh Building is currently responsible for the social housing development at Brathwic Terrace on Arran, the demolition of the former Bellsbank Primary School building in East Ayrshire having handed over the keys to the new school, and the Flatt Road housing project in Largs.

Morrison Construction are responsible for the Barony Campus super-school in Cumnock as well as the ASN school in Stevenston and the new Ayr Grammar School.

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: Coronavirus numbers March 26.Coronavirus numbers March 26.