One thing that is consistent about the fast-moving coronavirus (COVID-19) reports is how inconsistent the news can be from day to day. But, there is some reliable information to date that can help you stay healthy and prepare your construction business for the potential problems stemming from what is now a global pandemic.
In Canada, the government has created the infrastructure to respond to the public health threats of the virus, and is prepared to act to minimize the health, economic, and social impacts of this rapidly evolving public health issue.
Here’s what you need to know:
The virus that causes COVID-19 is a respiratory illness in the same family of viruses such as the common cold. It can spread from person to person who are in close contact. People can also become infected with the virus by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then their mouth, nose or eyes. On March 11, the World Health Organization officially declared the coronavirus a global pandemic.
The symptoms can include fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. Some people, particularly those with chronic health conditions and those over 60, are at risk of more severe infections, leading to pneumonia and even death.
To reduce your chances of getting infected, the Canadian Government recommends:
- Avoiding close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
There is a test for the coronavirus. According to Dr. Gigi Osler, president of the Canadian Medical Association, “over the last few days, there has been a much more coordinated response than last week or two weeks ago.”
Protecting Your Workers and Business
Construction businesses are people businesses, so they are more susceptible to negative effects from factors related to their employees. Massive illnesses across the workforce could bring projects to a screeching halt.
As with any public health threat, knowledge is power and is your most potent defense.
As with any public health threat, knowledge is power and is your most potent defense. An informed workforce helps control speculation and anxiety. It also helps people confront unknowns with less panic. Help people understand what the virus is and what its symptoms are.
By regularly reminding people not to go into work when they are ill, you can help prevent the spread of viruses. Canadian Centre for Occupation Health and Safety features a page with links to relevant information on the virus that you can use when planning your employee communications. The Canadian Construction Association’s site recently added a page dedicated to the coronavirus with helpful links for employers. Numerous construction companies are now including information about the coronavirus and prevention practices in their safety briefings.
Dealing With What You Can’t Insure
There are reports of shortages of face masks, especially the N95, which is widely used by painters and people exposed to particulates and dust. MarketWatch reported that supply chain disruptions from the outbreak will increase construction company costs of doing business.
An informed workforce helps control speculation and anxiety.
So far, we are not aware of any reports of significant building material shortages because of the coronavirus. Still, it is a good time to review your contracts for clauses that help you address problems arising from uninsurable factors like a material and labour crunch.
As information on COVID-19 is so fluid, it’s best to pay close attention to using reputable sources when collecting data. Quizzify, a Harvard Medical School literacy quiz platform, now has a quiz available for anyone to test their knowledge on the coronavirus.