The construction industry is one of the few that have not been severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. While other industries have slowed or have been brought to a complete standstill, construction projects are still ongoing in many different parts of the country, albeit with a few restrictions.
However, COVID-19 is still a very real risk among construction workers. To keep the workforce safe and prevent significant delays in the project, here are the essential safety measures that project managers and construction workers must keep in mind.
Wear a mask at all times
Wearing a mask is one of the best ways to avoid catching the virus, which can spread via mouse and nose secretions (saliva, mucus, droplets, etc.). The risk of getting sick from COVID-19 is significantly lowered, almost eliminated, when everyone within a group of people is wearing appropriate face coverings. That said, you should include face masks as part of the PPE along with safety boots for construction, high-vis wear, and work gloves.
Appropriate face coverings include surgical masks, N95 face respirators, and reusable cloth masks with washable, breathable fabric. It is advised, however, to wear reusable masks instead of those intended for healthcare personnel. Moreover, cloth masks should not be used as substitutes when respirators are required for a certain task. The mask must cover the nose and mouth entirely and must fit snugly against the face, leaving no room for gaps around the mask.
Advise all crew to wear masks at all times, especially when coming in close contact with each other. They should also wear masks whenever they go out in public to avoid catching the virus and bringing them to the construction site.
Moreover, provide the crew with information on how to put on and take off the masks properly, as well as how to wash them after use.
Limit the number of people in one place
The flow of work in the construction site may change to maintain safety during the pandemic. Ensure that workers can stay at least six feet apart from each other when working in a certain area, whenever possible. This can be done by limiting the number of workers present in one area, especially in small spaces such as elevators, vehicles, and narrow construction areas.
It’s also a good idea to provide visual guides that will remind workers to stay six feet apart from each other. Send a team to tape off work areas measured six feet apart, especially in those that are high-traffic.
Provide sanitizing and handwashing stations
Another critical safety measure against COVID-19 is proper hand hygiene. Set up adequate sanitizing and handwashing stations around the construction site. Supply these stations with hand sanitizer with at least 70% alcohol, soap, clean water, and paper towels. Avoid the use of hand dryers for now.
Disinfect frequently touched surfaces
This includes shared tools, vehicles, machines, doorknobs, tables, ladders, and other equipment. Ensure that these surfaces are cleaned and disinfected before and after each shift, as well as periodically throughout the day. Whenever possible, limit the sharing of tools and equipment between different people to avoid the potential spread of the virus.
Screen workers regularly
Take each worker’s temperature three times a day and log the data using infrared digital thermometers (thermometers that come in contact with the skin or mouth can be unsafe to use). Doing this can help detect illness in workers and have them stay home until they are cleared for COVID-19.
Encourage workers to notify the management if they feel sick or live with someone that is sick. Offer paid sick leave so they are not forced to hide symptoms for the sake of their paycheck. Having workers stay at home may affect productivity on the construction site, but it is a necessary step in preventing illness and even death.
Construction is one of the many industries that have no other choice but to continue working despite the pandemic. To keep workers and their families safe from the virus, these safety measures must be implemented religiously until the virus is eradicated.