5 Ways Construction Sites Can Work Safely Amid COVID-19
As COVID-19 continues to affect every state in the United States, construction crews are continuing to work on houses, roads, and buildings across the country. Construction firms, generally deemed as essential businesses, are having to change way they operate to protect themselves and the public.
Like with any workplace hazard, employers should assess the hazards which workers may be exposed to, evaluate the risk of exposure, and select/implement controls to prevent exposure. Below are five steps any construction site can take to ensure safety during this pandemic:
1) Mark Workstations
Make sure everyone on the construction site knows where their workstation is, and where they need to stand to maintain a healthy distance from one another. Using durable floor tape, you can outline each workstation and place a floor sign at each station six feet apart, as recommended by the CDC. Clearly mark paths to the entrances and exits of the worksite, using floor signs to remind everyone to keep a distance from others while not at their workstation.
2) Create a Tool System
Design a tool organization system that improves efficiency while encouraging everyone to sanitize their tools. Use customized tool foam or shadow boarding tape to ensure every tool is accounted for at all times. Workers should also try and keep tool-sharing to an absolute minimum, especially at sites where sharing tools is common practice. Post signs at workstations and label tool chests to remind everyone to clean + disinfect tools before and after use, and before any shift changes.
3) Install Barriers Wherever Necessary
For crews working in homes or occupied structures, or in tighter quarters, social distancing can be difficult to practice. OSHA recommends to consider using plastic sheet barriers when workers need to occupy specific areas of an indoor worksite where they are in close contact (less than 6 feet) with someone suspected of having or known to have COVID-19, whether it’s a visitor, resident, or subcontractor.
4) Provide Handwashing Alternatives
Hand washing is critical to stopping the spread of COVID-19 For worksites without running water, it is the employer’s duty to provide crews with alcohol-based hand sanitizers or disinfectant wipes. You may consider placing hand sanitizer stations around the site, and make sanitization wipes available in several locations. As part of providing workers with information on the signs and symptoms of the coronavirus, and how the disease is spread, make sure workers know appropriate handwashing procedures and they can find sanitization stations by clearly marking where each one is located.
5) Create a Standard Baseline of Clean
It’s essential that not only your site is clean when workers clock in, but that everyone understands housekeeping standards and what their role is in keeping the place clean. One way to achieve this is by tackling the space with 5S. 5S, a Lean methodology, is used to clean up and organize workstations, sustaining cleanliness far into the future. With a few COVID-19 adaptations, you can prepare stations in just five steps:
- Sort: Remove all unnecessary materials, items, and tools.
- Set in Order: Assign tools to workers and place what each worker needs at their respective workstation.
- Shine: Sanitize the area wiping down machinery, equipment, and every tool.
- Standardize: Set up standards for crews to keep worksites and workstations clean during every shift.
- Sustain: Implement habits to maintain the baseline of clean, like scheduling dedicated times just for wiping down equipment.
Beyond the hazard controls already implemented to protect workers on the job, construction sites probably won’t need to make as many drastic changes as other industries, like retail stores or assembly production lines. However, there are a number of engineering controls, administrative controls, safe work practices, and PPE, employers can take appropriate measures to limit the spread of COVID-19 on the jobsite.
For the most up to date information, we encourage employers to reach out to local and state officials. Other resources we recommend:
OSHA Webpage for Construction Work during COVID-19
COVID-19 Resources from the Associated General Contractors of America
CDC Interim Guidance for Business and Employers Responding to COVID-19
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- OSHA Guidance: Protecting Oil and Gas Workers During COVID-19
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- Reopening Workplaces Safely with a Return-to-Work Team
- COVID-19 Updates from OSHA
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- OSHA Issues Stronger Workplace Guidance on COVID-19