The risk associated with working in construction has always been significantly higher compared to other industries. Workers are constantly exposed to potential hazards like falling from heights, trench collapse, scaffold collapse, electric shock, and other injuries. And now with the COVID-19 pandemic, these health and safety concerns have escalated and driven to overdrive.
Today, there are nearly 6.5 million workers at approximately 252,000 construction sites across the United States. How can the construction industry ensure that their employees are protected from the virus?
Here are five key steps business owners can take to improve health and safety on and off-site during the pandemic.
Strictly Observe OSHA Guidelines
As the coronavirus pandemic evolves, and medical experts learn more about the virus and its transmission, health and safety protocols are also expected to change.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have launched their own repository of coronavirus guidelines (osha.gov/coronavirus) which business owners and managers can refer to. This resource is regularly updated as the crisis develops. Have it bookmarked on your computer and monitor for any changes or newly added protocols.
Compliance to State and Local Regulations
Stay on top of the latest regulations including mandated closures, essential business status, phased reopenings, and other legal requirements.
Crisis response varies according to state, county and municipal levels. Business owners need to pay extra attention to compliance considerations for their job sites. Failure to comply can result in fines, getting shut down, and other unnecessary employee welfare risks.
Get a hold of government resources and keep an eye for important updates. For Santa Clara, California based projects, you may refer to this resource.
Coordinate with Your Staffing Partner
OSHA’s Temporary Workers Initiative, states that construction business owners and their staffing partners hold joint responsibility for their staff’s health and safety especially for temporary employees.
Coordinate with your staffing partner and clarify compliance responsibilities assigned to each party. Don’t forget to address any aspect of shared liability related to the evolving coronavirus concerns.
Develop New Safety Best Practices
Update your safety best practices incorporating all coronavirus related concerns especially in on-site injury reporting protocol and recordkeeping. Encourage workers to identify safety and health concerns such as unsafe conditions, emerging jobsite hazards, near misses, and actual incidents.
Encouraging proactiveness in reporting hazards and following up promptly on these incident reports can speed up the process in addressing such issues. Remember, prevention is always better than cure.
Develop Your Own COVID-19 Policy
Developing your own policy addressing COVID-19 risks can help maintain safe and compliant job sites during the pandemic. This provides your staff with information on how to handle safety challenges and ensures strict adherence to regulations.
Vulcan Construction, being one of the most recognized general contractors in Santa Clara, CA, have taken the necessary steps to improve health and safety protocols on the job site and at our offices. Our latest efforts included the use of QR scanning technology for easier contact tracing and health declaration for our employees, clients and visitors.
Here are some new policies you may implement to your business to reduce risk of employee exposure to coronavirus:
- Encourage workers to stay home if they feel sick and should properly wear a mask while on the job.
- Implement social distancing. Avoid physical contact and maintain at least 6 feet distance wherever possible.
- Limit reliance on work trailers as much as possible. Remind workers to maintain social distancing while inside them.
- Encourage respiratory etiquette. If you feel a sneeze coming along, or cough, make sure you cover your mouth or blow it on your elbow away from coworkers.
- Promote personal hygiene. Sanitizing stations should be made accessible around the office. Provide alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol if working on site.
- In case of sharing tools or equipment, workers should be guided accordingly on how to disinfect the equipment before and after use. For sensitive equipment, reach out to manufacturers for their recommended cleaning products and procedure.
- Keep in-person meetings as short as possible. Limit the number of attendees and observe social distancing.
- Portable jobsite toilets should be cleaned and disinfected regularly. Hand-sanitizer dispensers should always be refilled. Frequently touched surfaces such as toilet seats, door pulls, etc. should always be disinfected. Best to use approved cleaning products by the Environmental Protection Agency.
The coronavirus is a serious threat to everyone’s well-being not just in the workplace. Construction business owners, managers and the staff should stay committed and vigilant to address safety concerns. The only way we can get through this is if we work together as a team.