As construction resumes throughout the country, new protocols for the safety of workers are being implemented on job sites and in offices in what, arguably, is the greatest unified safety operation ever.
COVID-19 guidance for construction is coming from national agencies such as OSHA, the CDC, the USACE, and NIOSH, as well as state and local agencies, and can be confusing to navigate. As a leader for the construction industry, the AGC has also been at the forefront of the development of new protocols to combat the spread of coronavirus on job sites and to keep construction workers safe.
Reevaluating Safety as Job Sites Reopen
Contractors are well-accustomed to navigating an ever-changing landscape of regulations to protect their workers from inherently dangerous jobs, and our industry is well-suited to the task at hand. With a little forethought and planning, a few minor changes to the job site can have major positive impacts down the road.
Re-Thinking the Essential
From sanitation to how we get to work, companies are having to examine every aspect of a construction worker’s day in order to mitigate the risk of the coronavirus responsible for COVID-19. Carpooling to work should be discouraged or eliminated for all employees, and contractors should do assessment questionnaires and take the temperature of all employees prior to entering the job site. Breaks and lunches also need to be managed differently by encouraging outdoor areas that provide proper separation, banning food trucks, and eliminating community food, such as birthday cakes, doughnuts, etc.
Contractors should also ensure that proper rules of sanitation are followed on every job site, to ensure the safety of all workers and visitors. Office trailers, including stair rails, door handles, clipboards, computer keyboards, and other essential, community-use items should be continually cleaned and sanitized. Additionally, contractors should err on the side of caution by supplying additional portable restrooms and handwashing stations, and ensure their frequent servicing and decontamination.
Engineering and Scheduling Tweaks
As much as possible, contractors need to review construction activities for improvements to typical means and methods to reduce the required number of workers a task requires or to create additional social distancing during those activities. For instance, new robotics technology offers automation in road construction, grading, tunneling, pipe laying, framing, and masonry, to name a few processes experiencing rapid improvements. Architects and engineers can also look during design at different types of construction; concrete tilt-up versus a CMU structure, or pre-fab as compared to light gauge metal framing. These early comparisons can reduce the working proximity of employees or even the number of on-site employees required to perform each task.
In an effort to keep the project moving forward amid social distancing protocols, rethinking project schedules by determining “essential” activities can offer multiple benefits. By highlighting “essential employees”, additional social distancing can be achieved while bypassing activities that are not currently on the critical path. Tracking available float can help to spread out crews over a broader period, thereby reducing exposure. Working in a collaborative environment with all project stakeholders, including construction teams, can provide the ability to formulate successful strategies to construct and manage the project while protecting those in the field.
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We’re all in this together — construction professionals helping construction professionals to protect our most valuable resource: our employees. We all want to do our part and help so that our industry, our nation, and our way of life can get back to normal as quickly as possible.