The future of the construction industry after the COVID-19 pandemic is going to look very different. With the severity of this health crisis, construction companies must focus on implementing strong health and safety practices in order to keep job sites open and to prevent the spread of the virus. Some of these changes include physical distancing, on-site sanitation, adjusting job site production schedules, reporting illness, and the posting of all COVID-19 related policies to demonstrate how the site will operate.
Let’s look at a few of these changes in detail.
Physical distancing is one of the most important actions that can be taken to control the spread of COVID-19, but it can be difficult to know exactly how to implement this in the workplace. Construction companies should try to look for opportunities to limit any unnecessary contact on-site and encourage workers to keep two meters between them at all times. Construction companies can also look at enforcing the following changes on site to improve physical distancing:
- Staggering of start times, breaks and lunches
- Restricting the number of people on-site and in assigned work areas
- Holding meetings outside or in a large space
- Limiting unnecessary on-site contact between workers and all outside service providers
The obligation for construction companies to maintain clean worksites has become a main focus during the outbreak of COVID-19 and is necessary to limit the spread of the virus from person to person. As many of us are aware, properly cleaning your hands or using alcohol-based hand sanitizer is one of the most basic ways you can avoid the spread of germs.
This means that construction companies will need to ensure that all workers have access to these resources in order to comply with sanitation requirements (i.e. soap and water, washroom facilities, and handwashing posters). Jobsite supervisors should also ensure that commonly touched surfaces be sanitized thoroughly following each use and where possible avoid the sharing of tools and equipment.
Adjusting Jobsite Production Schedules
Since physical distancing practices must be enforced, we are likely going to see a decline in the amount of staffing on job sites. In order to comply with these new rules, construction companies will need to make changes to their current production schedules to ensure that physical distancing can be enforced for all workers and trades. This will likely be a significant change as many trades are used to working alongside one another on-site. The most important aspect of this change is planning ahead so that all workers on site can maintain a two-meter distance.
The most common symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, coughing, runny nose and difficulty breathing which can also be associated with many other illnesses (e.g. cold and flu). Any workers who appear to have any of these symptoms should:
- Complete the online self-assessment at Ontario.ca
- Call Telehealth at 1-866-797-0000
- Contact primary care provider/family physician
It is very important for all workers to pay attention to their body and be aware of these symptoms in order to avoid the unconscious spread of the virus. If a company has been informed that a site worker has tested positive for COVID-19 due to exposure at the workplace they are required to contact the Ministry of Labour within four days, inform their health and safety rep and contact their trade union (if applicable) regarding this issue.
Posting COVID-19 Policies
With all of these changes being implemented, it is very important to ensure that your workers are aware of how the job-site will operate moving forward. This is why all construction companies will need to communicate all the new COVID-19 related policies to their employees, contractors and trades. This will likely include posters and signage to outline:
- Where sanitation sites are located
- Hand washing best practices
- How to report illnesses
- How to ensure physical distancing
- How work will be scheduled
When it comes to getting your workers and trades back on the tools, safety will always be a top priority. However, the many changes that are being implemented due to COVID-19 can make that task of construction health and safety a bit overwhelming. It is important for employers to stay up to date with the latest industry information and technology and plan ahead to ensure that your day to day responsibilities stay organized. We know that everyone is itching to get back to work, so keeping up with job site health and safety will ensure that companies can get their workers safely back on-site for good.
Are you looking to get back to “new normal” on your construction job site? We’ve created a free set of tools to help. Download Rebar’s “Back to New Normal” kit today and get your team safely back on the tools.