Like all areas of economic activity, the construction industry has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since governors started issuing stay-at-home orders in their respective states, countless projects have shut down. Many contractors wondered if they can still get much-needed assistance if they filed contractors’ insurance claims, and numerous workers lost their jobs.
Still, the construction industry is in a relatively better situation compared to other sectors. After all, construction on public infrastructure continued, as all states have deemed it as essential.
Now that many states have eased their lockdown protocols, many construction projects have been allowed to resume. However, since the pandemic is far from over without a vaccine or a cure, construction projects will need to implement measures that aim to reduce the risk posed by the coronavirus. Here are some recommended safety practices for construction sites during the COVID-19 pandemic
Strict Implementation of Social Distancing Rules
Social distancing is already part of the new normal, and it must be observed strictly at construction sites.
All workers must stay at least six feet away from the next person at all times. Harsh and sad as it may seem, there should also be no more handshaking, high-fives, fist bumps, or any gesture of camaraderie that calls for physical contact.
As long as social distancing protocols are followed to the letter at all times, wearing face masks can be optional. However, in special situations where workers need to operate in close quarters, it should be mandatory for them to wear face masks. If management can provide respirators, then the better it would be.
Staggering work schedules is also an excellent way of ensuring more space for social distancing. With fewer people on site at any given time, following social distancing rules will be much easier.
Ensure Access to Sanitation
Frequent handwashing is also part of the new normal, which is why all construction sites should supply soap and running water to make it possible. Construction sites that don’t have running water should see to it that all workers are provided alcohol-based hand sanitizers with at least 70% isopropanol or 60% ethanol.
As much as possible, workers should not be sharing tools. However, if sharing can’t be avoided, those tools must be sanitized before and after use.
Constant Monitoring of the Site and Workers
Construction workers are only human and are thus likely to forget following social distancing and sanitation rules occasionally.
If it’s at all possible, construction should appoint dedicated safety officers who will monitor the site and all the workers constantly. They can perform duties like temperature checks using no-contact thermometers, reminding workers about following all social distancing and sanitation rules, and documenting and reporting safety or health issues on the site.
Prepare Emergency Action Measures
Every construction site should be prepared if any worker shows symptoms of COVID-19 infection.
There should be protocols in place on how to handle the affected worker the right way. As much as possible, any steps that management takes should be in line with HR rules. The concerned worker has rights, and they must be followed closely as you send him home to self-quarantine or to a hospital to seek medical care.
For the best possible response plan, a construction company must draft one in consultation with human resources, safety officers, and company lawyers. Such a plan should also include protocols to be followed for the cleanup and disinfection of the area where an infected worker was assigned, and identifying those he or she had close contact with in the past few days.
Keep the Flow of Information Going
Information is crucial during a pandemic, especially since the experts still know so little about this newest strain of the coronavirus. Everyone involved in a construction project—from the workers to the stakeholders—must be given the latest COVID-19 updates on a regular basis. Keep the communication going to keep everyone aware of what’s happening so they can act accordingly.
There may be no vaccine or cure for COVID-19 just yet, but as long as we follow safety practices at construction sites at all times, we stand a better chance of steering clear of this world-altering disease.
Rachel Porter is the content specialist for Custom Contractors Insurance, LLC, an Arizona roofing and contractors insurance company. When not writing, she enjoys reading and mountain biking with her friends.