COVID-19 has had a major impact on the country, and businesses are feeling the hit as quarantines, and social distancing measures continue to affect the U.S. economy. Many companies have instructed those who can to work remotely, moved to limited operations, or even closed their doors to mitigate the spread of this virus. As construction professionals, however, the work we do has been deemed essential during the current crisis, keeping the construction workforce viable to support emergency construction requirements, but also leaving them at potential risk.
According to the Associated General Contractors of America, the federal government has compiled a list of “critical infrastructure industries” whose workers are “essential” and should continue normal work schedules. While “construction” isn’t explicitly mentioned, many of the sectors included, require construction as an absolutely critical part of their operations.
In order to continue supporting these critical infrastructure industries, contractors must be vigilant and take the utmost care to make sure their teams are at their best.
Here are some safety tips to keep the construction workforce healthy:
First and foremost, the best way to cut down the risk of COVID-19 transmission is for businesses to educate their employees on the virus, how it spreads, and best sanitation practices.
What is COVID-19?
The culprit at the core of the current pandemic is part of a larger group of viruses, named coronavirus. Other similar outbreaks from the past like SARS and MERS also fall into this category. The virus, named COVID-19, probably emerged from an animal source, but is now spreading from person to person exhibiting flu-like symptoms.
How Does it Spread?
The virus spreads through water droplets released when infected individuals cough or sneeze and is contracted when those droplets come into contact with the eyes, mouth, or nose. This can be a result of close human-to-human contact or from touching a surface that had been exposed to the virus. Once it makes it into the bloodstream, symptoms can range from being asymptomatic to body aches, difficulty breathing, and pneumonia.
Best Sanitation Practices
In order to protect employees as much as possible, regular hygienic practices must take place. Employees should be encouraged to wash their hands with soap and water as often as possible. Second, hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol content should be made available as an additional mitigation method. Third, everyone must cover their noses and mouths with their arm when sneezing or coughing. Rule #1: DON’T TOUCH YOUR FACE!
Follow CDC Recommendations for Employers
According to the Centers for Disease Control, employers should follow the following guidelines:
Emphasize Staying Home When Sick
Any and all employees who may think they are getting sick should be mandated to stay at home. The risk to other coworkers is far too great for them to be returning to the job site.
Perform Routine Sanitizing.
The construction site should be thoroughly and regularly sanitized to help ensure surfaces that may have been exposed to the virus have been disinfected. We do not want to risk employees getting exposed to COVID-19 because they used commonly shared tools or touched contaminated door handles or other surfaces on the job. Being proactive about regular cleaning practices has the potential to make a major difference.
Update Absenteeism Policy and Communicate the Requirements.
This pandemic is naturally going to require a part of the construction workforce to stay home. They should not be penalized as they would under normal circumstances, as the coronavirus is an unforeseen circumstance that warrants special attention.
Update Work from Home Policy and Communicate the Requirements.
Non-essential personnel should be requested to work from home. This includes much of the administrative staff, which can easily generate construction documents using programs like Gadzoom instead of working off of on-site computers.
Inevitably, COVID-19 is going to impact the labor situation across the construction industry. While we cannot stop all employees from getting sick, we can take measures to reduce the spread of the virus and keep more of our workforce safe.
Teaching employees to handle functions that are generally out of the scope of their day-to-day duties can immensely cut down on the hit construction companies take when they lose team members. It should be a priority to cross-train all employees to be able to cover the responsibilities of others in the event that they must be sent home.
In addition to preparing the workforce for new duties, businesses should make planning considerations that prioritize their most important clients and find alternative avenues to continue operating core functions. This means thinking outside the box by finding backup suppliers, scheduling around potential chokepoints, and preparing to shut down certain activities in the best interest of keeping the company moving during these difficult times.
Get Documents & AHAs Online Using Gadzoom
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