The Coronavirus epidemic has quickly changed the way things are done across the nation. While remote work, delivery and curbside options are short-term solutions for some, other industries still rely upon on-site workers to operate. For these companies, keeping workers safe on the jobsite has become an increasingly important subject.
Jobsite safety has always been a top priority for construction companies. This typically focused on physical safety due to the hazardous conditions faced by construction workers. As companies adapt to operate through the current situation, safety concerns now also include preventing COVID-19 transmission.
In regard to the risk of Coronavirus transmission at work, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) says:
“For most people in the United States, including most types of workers, the risk of infection with COVID-19 is currently low.” (View source)
However, extreme caution is advised across the nation with federal, state and city-wide orders to observe social distance or shelter-in-place. And while some construction sites may be temporarily closed, others are struggling to stay open while keeping their workers safe. Most are also working hard to interpret new legislation and orders to determine exactly what they are supposed to do until the threat passes.
Keeping jobsites safe from COVID-19
Having a COIVD-19 response plan ensures that your company knows
how to respond to the crisis. It can reduce the time it takes to make decisions
when a situation occurs, which in turn reduces overall risk and exposure. Above
all, make sure that your plan is communicated to your staff and that
supervisors understand their role and responsibilities.
Here are some things you will want to include in your response planning:
Limiting risk on the jobsite starts with understanding and recognizing the symptoms of COVID-19. These include a fever, cough and shortness of breath. Additional symptoms may include a sore throat, body aches and chills. Symptoms seem to appear between within 2 and 14 days of exposure, but not everyone will have each symptom.
You should acquaint yourself with the complete list of symptoms from official sources and communicate them to your entire workforce. You should also make sure that everyone knows to stay home if they or any family member exhibits any COVID-19 symptom. Additionally, anyone in a supervisory position should be proactive in recognizing those with symptoms and sending them home.
Maintaining social distance
Social distancing is urged under all circumstances, including on the worksite. The current guidance is to remain 6 feet apart from others to reduce the risk of transmission. Make sure that everyone on the job knows that they must maintain this distance at all time. If distance isn’t possible for any given task, it should be avoided until the recommendation has been lifted. You can help encourage social distance by staggering shifts when possible.
Providing protective equipment and hygiene facilities
When possible and applicable, encourage the use of personal protective equipment (PPE). This may include gloves, goggles, face shields, face masks, and respiratory protection, when appropriate. You should also make hygiene facilities available so that workers can follow all hygiene guidelines. OSHA has created a detailed guide with info regarding PPE, hygiene and COVID-19 safety in the workplace. Your state’s health department will also have information, advice and resources.
Clearing and disinfection job sites/equipment
It’s important to clean and disinfect tools, equipment and common areas on a regular basis. Everyone should be responsible for their own space, and tool-sharing should be avoided if at all possible. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a list of approved cleaners for COVID-19. When appropriate for the material, hard surfaces can be disinfected with a bleach solution that consists of 5 tablespoons of bleach per gallon of water.
The Center for Disease Control has detailed instructions and additional disinfection guidance.
OSHA injury and illness reporting
OSHA has reporting requirements that must be adhered to, including reporting injuries and illnesses on the worksite. Generally, if the incident results in death, days off work, loss of consciousness or medical treatment, it must be reported. Additionally, if an incident involves a significant illness as diagnosed by a licensed health care professional, it must be reported if it doesn’t result in any of these qualifying situations. This is typically done on Form 300, 300A or 301.
This means that under many circumstances, COVID-19 must be reported if observed within your workforce. Although there are situations that would allow you to skip reporting, like the inability to show it was transmitted on the job, reporting the incident is best. Keep in mind, this is a global pandemic which will only be stopped through aggressive tracking, reporting and preventive measures.
Learn more about OSHA recording keeping and reporting criteria for occupational injuries and illness.
COVID-19 has created a worldwide crisis that touches nearly every industry, including construction. Although many industries have temporarily closed to fight the situation, this isn’t always possible, especially for essential businesses. If you have a worksite that plans on remaining open, it’s important to take all possible precautions to protect your workforce and stop the spread. To do this effectively, educate yourself, create a response plan and continually check with official sources for updates and guidance.
Please visit our COVID-19 resource page regularly for updated info as the situation evolves.