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Construction firms promise tougher coronavirus measures

Two of Finland's biggest construction firms have begun requiring workers to wear masks whenever feasible.

Soukan metroaseman työmaa.
Many infections have been found at construction sites in Espoo since the beginning of the year. Work at the Kivenlahti metro site had to be suspended for two days due to infections. Pictured is the metro construction site in nearby Soukka. Image: Henrietta Hassinen / Yle

Construction companies have tightened their practices on the use of face masks at building sites. The country's largest construction firm, YIT, tightened its coronavirus measures this past week.

"Masks must always be used both indoors and outdoors," said Hanna Malmivaara, YIT's Senior Vice President, Communications.

However, she added that there are exceptions for safety reasons. For instance, goggles may fog up when wearing a mask. In these cases, workers are to be provided with visors attached to their hardhats.

According to the new rules, any employee who does not wear a mask will be told to do so immediately. Anyone who refuses will be removed from the site.

The company has carried out testing all employees at sites where there are suspected infections.

Another major builder, SRV, says it is also stepping up measures to prevent the spread of the virus.

Safety Security Manager Aleksi Auer says that SRV has set up a working group to coordinate anti-corona efforts. The group meets three times a week. Risk assessments are performed weekly.

"Once the instructions are in place, we move to concrete measures at construction sites to prevent the spread of corona," Auer told Yle.

Measures include staggering break times and stepped-up cleaning of rest facilities. More social facilities have been installed to allow more distancing.

"We have also introduced a mask requirement at our construction sites," Auer said.

He adds that the same rules apply to subcontractors.

Auer notes that construction workers are accustomed to using a variety of protective devices at the same time.

"We recognise that it is challenging to use eye protection, especially with a mask, but it can be done," he said.

Construction industry follows THL recommendations

According to the Confederation of Finnish Construction Industries (RT), its recommendations follow those of the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL).

"A mask must always be worn when working with anyone else nearby," said Paavo Mattila, head of RT's coronavirus working group.

He said that rules have been tightened in that masks must also kept on during breaks and when visiting petrol stations, for example.

"The THL doesn't seem to recommend masks when outdoors, but we do," Mattila said.

Most Estonian builders have stayed in Finland

There are an estimated 30,000 foreigners working in construction in Finland. The largest group are from Estonia.

"Most of them have stayed in Finland. According to our information, cross-border traffic is very low," Mattila said.

According to YIT's Malmivaara, the company has strongly recommended to its Estonian and other foreign employees that they remain in Finland during the period of restrictions.

Anyone who arrives from abroad must undergo a two-week quarantine. This period may be shortened by obtaining two negative coronavirus tests.

The Regional State Administrative Agency (Avi) of Southern Finland has stipulated that everyone arriving in the country must be tested at a border crossing point, unless they have reliable documentation of a fresh negative test.

The tabloid Ilta-Sanomat reported on Tuesday that passengers arriving in the ports of Helsinki are still not subject to forced testing. However, at the Estonian end, a coronavirus test or a certificate of past infection is required before each passenger is allowed on board on a ship.

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