Useful Tips For Managing the Impact of COVID-19 in the Construction Industry
This is an article in the series adapting to the pandemic, where we intend to share useful tips for making it through these troublesome times.
The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the construction industry hard.
As soon as the World Health Organization declared a pandemic, governments started issuing stay-at-home orders, and shutdowns of construction sites (and most businesses, for that matter) immediately followed.
We still have no idea how much the COVID-19 pandemic is going to cost us in the end, but the economy is already reeling. The worldwide economy is likely going to suffer losses that will amount to tens of trillions in dollars if it hasn’t already.
Badly hit as it may be, the construction industry still caught something of a break. Amid concerns about contractors’ insurance and other related issues, some construction projects have not been ordered to stop. Most states are declaring as essential any construction work on public infrastructure, and that certainly means structural engineers will remain busy. Work on projects related to COVID-19 relief efforts also needs to proceed despite the pandemic.
However, construction sites allowed to continue must implement measures that will, in some ways, help them manage the impact of the pandemic on the industry.
Implement Strict Social Distancing
In all likelihood, social distancing will become the new normal not only at construction sites but in every aspect of life as well.
To reduce the risk of infection at construction sites, stringent implementation of social distancing norms is in order. All workers across all aspects of the build must stay at least six feet away from one another. That also means no handshaking, high fives, or any form of physical contact.
Staggered work schedules will be effective at supporting these social distancing measures. Project managers can assign, for example, members of the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) teams to the night shift, while the rest of the labor force can work during the day.
With staggered work schedules, there will be fewer people on-site, which is conducive to compliance with social distancing rules.
Enforce Sanitation Protocols
Strategically-placed wash areas and sanitation stations are par for the course for construction sites in the time of coronavirus. These spots must have a steady supply of soap, rubbing alcohol, hand sanitizers, and sanitary wipes. If possible, get everyone to wash or sanitize their hands multiple times during the day.
Since Covid-19 can also spread via touch, implore workers not to share tools. However, if they have no choice but to share, they must sanitize tools and equipment before and after use.
Wearing of Masks
As long as there is strict observance of social distancing protocols, you can make wearing face masks optional, especially since there is currently a massive shortage of masks and other personal protective equipment (PPEs).
Then again, if specific tasks require workers to work closely together, the concerned personnel should wear a face mask the entire time.
Assign Compliance Officers
Sometimes, people forget to observe every single Covid-19 related protocol. It will help with compliance if some members of the workforce are assigned to monitor site-wide the observance of all rules in place. Apart from helping remind everyone to keep their distance, etc., compliance officers should also be in charge of documenting safety or health-related issues on-site.
Craft a Response Plan
What if a worker shows symptoms of Covid-19 infection while on-site? For such situations, all construction sites must have a prepared response.
Sending that worker home to self-quarantine and seek medical attention must be at the top of the action plan. Once the worker is off-site, disinfect the area where the presumed sick individual worked. Trace the co-workers he had close contact with, and advise them to self-quarantine as well.
Keep in mind that when doing this, everything must be in line with rules established by human resources to prevent accusations of abuse or discrimination.
Communication Is Crucial
Months into the pandemic, experts still don’t know much about Covid-19 beyond what they have already provided to the public.
Everyone needs accurate and up-to-date information about Covid-19, and that’s why clear communication across all levels of the entire construction project is paramount. Workers, suppliers, and stakeholders must be kept in the loop about any new information about the coronavirus and warned about possible fake news, which abounds just about everywhere.
These are just some of the things you can do to manage Covid-19 in the construction industry. We’re all hoping that one day, the coronavirus just goes away. However, while it’s still here and without a vaccine or cure in sight, let’s keep our heads and stick to the measures mentioned above.