With infrastructure work continuing during the global pandemic construction site safety is a genuine concern. The constant threat of this highly contagious virus has affected industries across the globe and especially so with the construction industry, as an industry that requires on-site work. Unfortunately, construction site closure is a reality when workers test positive for the virus. As a result, construction companies have had to create and enforce strict COVID-19 site safety plans to ensure site safety and health standards.
Understanding the risk
The most well know fact about COVID-19 is that it is highly contagious, with our understanding of the virus and how it spreads constantly evolving. It is advisable to regularly check the CDC website for the latest information and current list of symptoms. Up to date information will be helpful with risk assessment as controlling the transmission of the virus within a construction site is important and involves adopting essential safety measures.
The spread of COVID-19 is thought to happen between people who are in close contact through respiratory droplets that are produced when an infected person talks, coughs or sneezes. This means that when working on-site it is imperative that control measures are put in place that protect workers and keep them safe and healthy and help construction sites avoid costly closures.
Implementing safety measures
Keeping the working environments safe is a priority of industries across the globe, especially those that have on-site work. It is important that all possible measures are adhered to and that workers are made to understand the importance of following and applying safety guidelines correctly and consistently.
The following consideration points will make it easier to understand how measures can be implemented practically.
Can this job be done while a worker is wearing a protective face mask?
Can physical distancing be maintained while a particular task is being completed?
Can a task be put on hold till there is a safer time for it to be done?
Is there a different, safer way for the normal routine work to be conducted?
With these in mind it is possible to administer protective measures that will help keep the construction site work environment safe and healthy.
The more information you share with your workers the better equipped everyone will be to follow the same stipulated guidelines reducing the chances of anyone being unaware of company safety policies.
Your company should have clear instructions in place, so that both workers and visitors know what is expected of them and the safety controls already in place. To ensure everyone is aware you should have an internal communication system that is updated regularly, and which sends out reminders. It should be sent in all the languages spoken by the workers and if possible, include graphics to make it interesting and quicker to absorb the information. Post information in common areas such as the lunch room, elevators, office etc. Further, provide information to workers on how they can stay safe at home and during leisure hours. There should also be frequent training and reminders on health and safety guidelines.
Controlling the risk of transmission in the workplace
Each workplace will have their own safety measures in place but there are the standard health and safety measures that simply have to be adhered to without fail. These measures are common to all and have been so far the most successful means of slowing the spread of the virus.
- The regular sanitization of the work and common areas
- An effective system to screen for COVID-19 so that symptomatic workers can be asked to stay home and reduce the transmission of the disease
- Maintaining physical distancing with two metres rule in place
- The use of correct face coverings such as source controlling face masks and other personal protective equipment such as face shields and gloves
- Scheduling work to avoid overcrowding, especially at the start of the day, during lunchtime and at common areas such as elevators
- Providing workers with easy access to sufficient soap and water and sanitisers throughout the work day
Workplace sanitation and hygiene
This is one of the most important areas of focus for any workplace with on-stie work. As it is believed that the disease can transmit through the touch of a contaminated surface. Regular sanitation helps keep contamination at bay. Hygiene can be maintained by having proper disposal locations in place where workers can dispose of used tissues and such safely. Increased handwashing stations will ensure that everyone can keep hands clean without any hassle which again will help reduce the spread of the virus. Workers should be provided with the necessary protective gear and sanitisers as well.
Ventilation and air flow
When it comes to construction there are certain jobs that will require a group of people to work together. In cases such as these, on top of having the required protection gear, the work area should also be well ventilated with good air flow. This can be achieved by keeping doors and windows open whenever possible, limit the time a worker stays indoors or in an enclosed space and alternate with regular outdoor jobs, use portable ventilation fans and conduct meetings and schedule breaks out doors as far as possible.
Using these tips and suggestions to create COVID-19 site safety plans, it will be possible to reduce the transmission of the virus to a great degree in your workplace to allow continued construction work to take place.