To stop the spread of COVID-19, several businesses around the world have shuttered their doors. But what happens when your job is considered essential? The construction industry is one of the most vital components of modern society. In fact, without construction workers fixing key infrastructure, going out could actually be a lot more dangerous than it currently is.
During this pandemic, it's imperative that construction companies do everything they can to protect their crew members. And that means more than just donning neck gaiters and face masks. Here are our top tips to keep construction workers safe.
1. Prescreen Team Members Before Their Shifts
One of the most common COVID-19 symptoms is a high fever. Consequently, numerous essential businesses have started the practice of checking their employees' temperatures before their shifts begin. Do this before any of your construction workers even step foot into the facility or job site. And if you find anyone who's running a fever, send them home.
It's also prudent to screen anyone who visits the job site. This not only includes inspectors and contractors but visitors as well. Also, try to keep these visits to a minimum — this goes a long way towards reducing the chance of exposure to the coronavirus.
2. Construction Workers Should Wear Face Mask Protection Whenever Possible
Face masks and neck gaiters were already essential pieces of equipment for construction workers before COVID-19. They're durable and they help protect crew members from dust and demolition debris. They also offer some sun protection and help wick away moisture from sweat so that workers can stay cool even in the hottest of conditions.
Unsurprisingly, it's probably not much of an adjustment to require your construction workers to wear masks these days. But it's more important than ever before that they do so. Since construction workers often spend their time in close proximity to each other. Research has shown that this makes them more likely to contract COVID-19.
Proper face mask protection blocks the number of germs that an individual transmits and comes into contact with. And since COVID-19 can be spread whether a person is sick or infected but asymptomatic, it's just common sense to require your construction workers to wear face masks these days.
3. Practice Social Distancing
Many construction projects require team members to stay huddled close together to get the job done. But this drastically increases the rate at which an illness like COVID-19 can spread. So you should have your construction crew practice social distancing of six feet apart whenever it's possible — and even if it hurts productivity.
Set limits on how many people can work in a specific area at any given time. Remind your team to be cognizant of how close they are to one another during the day. These measures may be difficult to implement at first, but they can greatly reduce germ contact.
4. Make Time to Disinfect
If you're managing a construction job site during this pandemic, provide extra time to clean and disinfect both shared spaces and the equipment being used. Use 70% isopropyl alcohol or non-bleach disinfecting wipes if you can. Of course, be mindful of where you apply these solutions; some equipment can be damaged by solvent-based cleaning materials. If you can't utilize these options, then at the very least, use soap and water.
It's unlikely that cleaning once in a while will eradicate any trace of COVID-19 from a seat, truck, switch, or piece of equipment. But by practicing this regularly, wearing face mask protection, and employing social distancing guidelines, you can definitely cut down the number of germs that are spread around your environment. Take things a step further by training your construction workers to disinfect shared tools whenever they switch to another task.
5. Plan Ahead for Sick Team Members
If you don't have one already, create a response plan for workers who get sick. Even though construction workers spend a lot of time outdoors and on the roads, COVID-19 can still spread quickly in these work environments and unnecessarily put the rest of your team at risk.
Construction workers may still try to show up to work, even if they feel sick. That's because many construction companies don't offer enough paid sick time to support employees for the minimum two weeks off that they'd need to stay home and self-isolate. With that said, we live in a different era from just a few months ago.
Consider setting up policies that offer paid time off for employees potentially exposed to the coronavirus. Obviously, this decision would come at a cost, but the impact is actually minimal when you consider the other options: risking lives and possibly having to shut down the entire job site due to widespread infection.
Safety comes first in this field, not profit or productivity. Make sure your employees know it's okay to take time off. And if a worker gets sick, have them take time off, increase your sanitization protocols, and encourage anyone else who feels at risk to take some time off as well.
Stay Patient — This Pandemic WILL End
While some states have begun to loosen their COVID-19 restrictions, the pandemic is unfortunately not over yet. We know this can be tough to stomach. But patience is a key component to navigating these times. If we don't practice patience, things could backfire, and a resurgence could mean even tighter restrictions in the future.
So stay patient. Take time to sanitize. Practice social distancing. And wear proper face protection. With time, this pandemic will pass.
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