Icy weather could spell problems and payment delays for the beleagured building sector

Freak weather conditions wreaked havoc on construction sites today, as industry experts warned the arctic blast could hold further dire consequences for the troubled sector.

Work on the Olympic park site ground to a complete halt, and Keltbray operated a skeleton staff at the Shard as workers struggled to make it to work the site in central London.

A spokesperson from the Olympic Delivery Authority confirmed: “Health and safety is our first priority and due to the adverse weather conditions making construction activity and the movement of construction vehicles on site potentially hazardous, all non-essential work on the Olympic park site has been temporarily stopped today.

“We will continue to monitor weather conditions and will reopen the site as soon as it is safe to do so.”

The snow, which swept through much of south-east England yesterday and today, is the latest bad news to hit the suffering construction sector.

Rudi Klein, chief executive of the Specialist Engineering Contractors group said the timing couldn't be worse for the industry, and warned the bad weather would used as “simply another excuse to delay payments”.

“Had the snow fallen like this, this time last year, it would have been a very different story,” he said. “But the weather will now used as another excuse not to pay subcontractors. We've got SMEs already suffering from payments taking as long as 120 days - work days lost because of the snow will be added to the list of excuses for not paying.

“It's the last thing this industry needs,” Klein added.

Meanwhile, lawyers warned employers to go through their contracts to check for shared risk weather clauses.

Richard Laudy, partner at Pinsent Masons, said the majority of contracts included shared risk clauses for bad weather.

Under the clause, the contractor will not incur a penalty for the extra time it takes him to complete the project if bad weather is the cause, but he will have to fund the extra time himself.

“In reality some people are better able to manage a risk than others,” said Laudy. “But for the SMEs already suffering from a lack of cash flow, this will be another thing for them to worry about.

“The financial climate is already tough, and now the physical climate is ganging up on the industry - things could get very difficult,” he added.