Many jobsites are starting to look different than they did before COVID-19. New safety processes are moving in place to ensure worker safety and help minimize the spread of the virus. Regulatory government agencies like the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), construction advocacy groups and construction businesses have recently issued new workplace guidelines around reducing the chances for exposure, and how to act in the event of an infection.
The following are some examples of the latest protocols being recommended and adopted to keep construction workers and the public safe.
1. OSHA Issues Temporary Guidelines for Recording COVID-19 Cases
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued new temporary guidance to contractors on when cases of COVID-19 qualify as a work-related illness and should be officially recorded as such. The organization requires companies to record and report data around workplace injuries, and under the new guidance, COVID-19 could be considered a recordable illness.
2. Association of General Contractors Organizes National Safety Stand-Down
The Association of General Contractors (AGC) has been one of the organizations advocating for construction work to be considered essential and allowed to continue despite the shutdown. Part of their efforts involves educating construction companies on best safety practices. It has also organized highly publicized demonstrations of how seriously firms are taking the recommended safety guidelines.
“There’s no margin for error here.”– Brian Turnmail
“You need to appreciate that your ability to continue operating construction projects is dependent upon ensuring that you are protecting your workers and, through that, protecting the public from the spread of the coronavirus,” AGC spokesman Brian Turmail told ENR. “There’s no margin for error here.”
AGC launched a news and resource website for construction firms and workers, which lays out best practices and highlights extra safety measures C&E firms are taking. The association also staged a national safety stand-down, with 500 contractors and 31,000 workers around the country participating. They aimed to demonstrate the importance of enhanced workplace safety measures like social distancing. As part of the stand-down, images were circulated showing workers on the jobsite keeping the recommended six feet distance.
Turmail said the images are meant to show the public that while some jobsites are still operating, companies are doing everything they can to make sure work is being done safely.
“We’ve all heard about and seen pictures of job sites where workers are bunched together and moving unprotected,” Turmail told ENR.
3. Increasing Remote Work, Including Video Building Inspections
One of the expected long-term effects of the pandemic is an increase in the number of people working from home. In construction, many office jobs can be done remotely, but most actual on-site work can’t. Building inspection is an area of construction experimenting with remote work using video.
Construction Dive reported on a recent webinar hosted by the International Code Council (ICC) that highlighted building inspectors using inexpensive video conferencing options like Facetime and Skype rather than requiring an on-site walkthrough.
The ICC reported other ways inspectors are following social distancing guidelines. For example, ICC reported 65% of inspectors have moved at least some of their staff to working remotely. For departments still performing in-person inspections, they’re predominantly being done when the buildings are unoccupied and always following social distancing measures. Some have moved to only conducting exterior inspections.
4. Construction Firms Enact Coronavirus Preparedness Plans, New Workplace Guidelines
Many construction firms are creating their own resources, such as posters and slide shows, to teach workers best practices for keeping safe from coronavirus. Some of these plans of action include everything from limiting the number of workers allowed on a jobsite, instituting social distancing measures for both indoor and outdoor workers, and instructing how to disinfect tools and equipment after every use.
5. The Rise of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Construction workers have long been weaning safety gear, like hard hats and reflective vests, but the pandemic has added new layers of protection to the mix. On many jobsites where construction work is still happening, workers can be seen wearing gloves, goggles, face shields, and medical-grade N95 masks.
Some of the top guidelines include required six-foot social distancing separation between workers, providing all personnel with PPE gear, and reducing the number of workers on a job at a time
Such measures are even being enforced by local officials. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti recently announced new guidelines construction sites are required to follow. Some of the guidelines include required six-foot social distancing separation between workers, providing all personnel with PPE gear, and reducing the number of workers on a job at a time. The guidance also requires every site have a point person designated to ensure the safety measures are being followed.
However long social distancing and shelter-in-place orders last, it’s likely some of the new safety measures will remain even after things return to normal.
Be sure to register for the upcoming “Best Practices for Keeping Field Teams Safe During COVID-19” webinar Wednesday, May 6 at 11AM PT. Where you will learn more about:
- The benefits of investing in paid sick time.
- New OSHA guidelines.
- How to oversee compliance and accountability while remote.
- Ways that Procore customers are successfully staying productive.