Managing Covid Risk on the Construction Site

Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

Complying with site rules on construction sites required oversight and attention long before COVID-19, but the added risk of exposure upended precaution expectations and heightened safety compliance requirements. While national mandates for safety may be disallowed, OSHA—the federal agency governing workplace safety—has issued strong recommendations and guidelines for businesses attempting to keep workers safe during the unprecedented conditions of the COVID pandemic.

Restoration and remediation companies have recognized the risks and responded in kind to manage exposure when responding to property damage and disaster. Entering a potentially unstable and unsafe structure in close proximity with other workers requires additional levels of precaution when it comes to COVID-19 exposure and risking an entire work crew requires layers of protection and prevention.

In an industry where exposure to unsafe and toxic substances is common, restoration and construction crews may have been positioned better than other industries to respond and return to business as usual amid the pandemic. Managing the worksite requires delicate management protocols to work with the strong opinions from the crew, which can require as much attention as the actual safety of the team. With safety equipment and protective gear often already in place, the next step is team compliance.

Spreading out assignments and keeping people socially distanced when possible is key in ensuring minimal exposure to COVID-positive crew members. Masks and proper hand coverings are nothing new on most sites, but enforcing their use can mean the difference between a crew that continues to work and an outbreak that fells multiple members at once, shutting down job sites.

While COVID-19 has disrupted the whole of the economy and affected the number of healthy, able-bodied workers, the restoration industry as a whole is considered recession resistant. When workers are available, the work is always there. Restoration projects are rarely voluntary and typically required in response to property damage. While some skilled workers have jumped from job to job, workers in the restoration field knows that their job security is comparatively high in restoration.

Ensure your crew practices proper hygiene consistently and that education efforts are taken seriously. While you can do your best to protect crew members on site, their exposure after hours is out of your control, and maintaining the highest level of protection onsite is your best line of defense.

Amid the stress and heaviness of the new guidance in keeping worksites safe, COVID-19 has afforded some companies new opportunities including increased construction and reconstruction work from property owners who were previously hesitant to use resources on maintenance and repairs. There are grant opportunities for businesses that want to invest in safety equipment and better improve their processes and staff.

For businesses that have restructured to accommodate social distancing or work-from-home scenarios involving downsizing space, renovations are in demand. Unused space is often leased to other groups and building in safety measures has become a standard for businesses.

Those working on construction and restoration projects can promote safe, healthy worksites by doing the following:

  • Keeping employees home for least 5 days if they’ve been exposed to COVID-19
  • Screening calls so workers don’t have to go inside to take them
  • Encouraging social distancing and planning projects accordingly
  • Requiring masks when people are near each other, especially indoors. Demonstrate and reinforce the correct way to wear the mask.
  • Offering mandatory safety training
  • Avoiding greetings that include personal contact, such as handshakes
  • Keeping any shared products clean and sanitized
  • Offering amnesty for anyone who reports violations

Restoration and remediation work does not go away amid the pandemic state as property owners are still affected by common needs for repair, natural disaster, and catastrophic weather events.

BluSky Restoration Contractors, a restoration firm headquartered in the Denver area, focuses on restoring and rebuilding commercial, industrial, governmental and residential properties throughout the United States.

“Like many companies in our industry, we’ve worked hard to keep our workers safe as we interact with a myriad of subcontractors, crew members, suppliers, and property owners,” said a company representative. “In the midst of these precautions, we’ve found some exciting ways to adapt our tools and processes to better serve our clients. Our safety protocols are in place to perpetuate good health and quality job outcomes.”

While the pandemic state continues to shift and change, understanding and implementing proper safety precautions to avoid the spread of disease is important in today’s landscape