This article was updated on March 28, 2020.
News with COVID-19 is changing every day and this article was updated to reflect this.
The world is changing and it’s changing fast. Concerns over the COVID-19 virus and flattening the curve are all over the news, social feeds and are top of mind for individuals around the world. It’s rare that something happens that affects the entire planet so quickly.
The construction industry is always somewhat in a category of its own. Construction workers and snow contractors work weekends, holidays, birthdays, overtime, overnight, and in any kind of weather. While the world seems to shut down, construction is still there building roads, improving infrastructure and supporting the community in whatever way they can.
As businesses close construction seems to go on. Some projects and companies are choosing to close sites for quarantine measures but it simply is not possible for all projects to stop. Many construction project are essential to keeping public transport, electricity, utilities, and even hospitals and other health services up and running.
For these projects, however, it remains essential that as many precautions are taken as possible to keep workers safe and healthy on the job.
Flights, public spaces, libraries and businesses are all closing down and slowing operations as the drive to flatten the curve grows across the planet. Image borrowed from The Guardian.
The reality is that COVID-19 is spreading quickly. In an effort to help empower construction workers and site supervisors to protect their employees for the projects that can’t stop, here are 8 ways that you can protect your workers and keep construction sites safe during COVID-19.
1. Encourage Employees to Stay Home or Work From Home When Possible
While this applies mainly to office workers, the ability to limit exposure where possible is the best move. While construction workers on-site aren’t able to work from home, modern technology allows for many office workers to do just that.
Embrace the modern technology available and make the safety of your employees on and off-site a priority.
2. Limit Sub Trades and Non-Essential Personnel On-Site and Limit Customer Interactions
Site supervisors and project managers should look over project plans and limit the number of workers on-site where possible.
Social distancing is a term that means reducing the amount of physical interaction between people to help slow the spread of the disease. It’s not about stopping it – the reality is that COVID-19 won’t be going away any time soon. Instead, it’s about reducing how many people get infected all at once to reduce the pressure on health care systems.
While construction is expected to continue in many communities and regions, it’s important to keep social distancing in mind when reviewing who key or essential persons are for a project at this time.
Businesses that have storefronts or interact with customers on a daily basis should consider closing down and limiting customer interactions. Leaning on e-commerce solutions for things like renting construction equipment will help to keep things moving while embracing social distancing.
3. Maintain Clear and Frequent Communication With Employees
The COVID-19 situation is changing constantly. A single day can bring plenty of changes with it. Many people are left with questions and a certain level of uncertainty about what is happening now and what will happen next.
Communication is vital at this time – it should be clear and straightforward about what is happening, what the next steps are and what the expectations are of employees. Communication about what the company is doing and what is being done to keep employees safe will help to ease some of this uncertainty.
Plus, in a time of so much unknown, it’s a courtesy to employees to do as much as you can to provide some direction.
4. Encourage Employees To Stay Home If They’re Sick
One of the most important messages around COVID-19 is that symptoms can be mild. Anyone who is experiencing symptoms at all should stay home if they’re sick. Anyone who is sick at all should stay home.
Companies that are able to consider paid sick leave and communicate to employees that job security will not be an issue at this time. This should not only include construction workers on-site but all administrative and office staff as well.
5. Get Creative with Virtual Meetings to Reduce Group Gatherings
Morning meetings and standups can be a great way to ensure that everyone is clear about their role for the day and what is happening on site. Reducing group gatherings and meetings, however, is a key part of social distancing.
Get creative in your communication in order to keep employees both safe and informed. Company emails, video group meetings, one-on-one touch bases with site supers, or a phone call to kick off the day are a few ways to reduce meetings without compromising communication.
6. Be Realistic About On-Site Sanitation
Running water and sanitation on-site has been the topic of conversation for years. It’s exacerbated by the encouragement of handwashing and sanitation to limit the spread of COVID-19. It’s important for companies to provide contractors and operators with the means to keep themselves safe.
A few ways to do this are:
- Provide hand sanitizer to every employee on site
- Keep Lysol wipes in each piece of equipment and encourage wipe downs in the morning and at night
- Increase portapotty and washroom cleanings
- Increase site trailer and lunchroom cleaning schedules
If it is not possible to comply with the regulations put in place by governments regarding sanitation and COVID-19, it falls to employers to be realistic about the wellness of their employees and what the correct measures are to take.
7. Keep Operators Isolated
Limiting the swapping of machines and changing of operators can help reduce exposure to those on-site. Assign individuals to a single duty while on site. This social distancing at the workplace will help to reduce exposure while construction sites remain operational.
It’s important to encourage communication over radios or plan timed check-ins to ensure that safety is not being compromised during these times.
8. Follow the News
The time may come for halting all projects. Many projects may already be roadblocked by the inability to get materials, have inspections completed or getting permits. It’s important to follow the news and put the safety and health of employees first.
It falls to each of us to do our part during the COVID-19 situation. Construction sites during COVID-19 need to take precautions to keep employees safe while still following the recommendations of governments to keep projects going – or not.
These are just a few suggestions for how you can keep construction sites and employees safe and healthy during this time.
Are your projects continuing on through COVID-19? Rent equipment online at DOZR.com and we’ll take care of payment, transportation and logistics.