WORKERS at a fuel cell plant in Swindon fear they are at risk of catching coronavirus and should not be working at the site during the pandemic.

Employees at Johnson Matthey in Lydiard Fields argue that they are working too close together and not doing essential work. The company disputed this and said it is taking precautions.

One worker who wished to be anonymous said: “They’ve told us about keeping two metres apart but in parts of the business, you can’t do that, you’re just a few feet from each other.

“The products we deal with are so delicate that production line staff can’t use hand sanitisers and alcohol gels - though office staff can.

“Morale is really low at the moment. We’ve had safety emails and thank-yous but not much actual support - they say that if they shut down temporarily, they can’t promise a future for us here.

“A lot of the communication is along the lines of ‘The choice is yours, leave if you want, no-one’s forcing you to stay but we can’t guarantee anything''.

“Many years ago, the company provided equipment for the health industry which is why they try to argue that it’s essential to stay open - but that’s not what we’re making now, we’re just trying to hit our targets, it’s greedy.

“I don’t want any business to close and this is a reputable company that does a lot of good work but, at a time like this, it has to be open for the right reasons and we’re not really doing our bit to help.

“We have a lot of protective equipment like gloves and masks that we think should be donated to hospitals but we’re using them instead because the site is still open, which is sad.”

A spokeswoman for Johnson Matthey said: “Our top priority remains the health and safety of our employees and we are doing everything we can to support people whether they are on the frontline or are working from home.

“In the UK, and across the globe, we are following government and WHO advice and are basing our COVID-19 planning and actions on that guidance.

“Based on that, we continue to ask that everyone who can work from home should do, and that anyone whose role requires them to be on site continues to do so, providing they are not unwell, self-isolating, or have been advised otherwise by their site leader.

“Our Swindon site is currently operational and we have already put in place social distancing measures including updated shifts, measures to create physical distance to help protect people and heightened cleaning regimes to create a safe environment.

“We have introduced additional steps, such as a one way system through the entry turnstiles and we are currently sourcing equipment to begin temperature testing.

“We are an essential part of the supply chain to customers whose end products are currently supporting critical services across the globe. For example, one of Swindon’s key customers supplies back-up power generators to hospitals.

“We are very grateful to our employees who are helping to ensure these important needs can be met and we are committed to providing a safe environment for those who do come to work on our sites.

“We will take all steps necessary to do this in line with government and WHO guidance.”