Ten health, safety and wellness measures for construction sites in North America
Many construction sites around the globe currently remain open. Contractors have begun to institute a new health, safety and wellness culture to keep people safe and to follow the guidance provided by the government and health authorities as it relates to social distancing.
The construction industry is adapting quickly to remain productive and safe in these locations. Therefore, an open, transparent and collaborative attitude to dealing with the issues the industry is facing during this unprecedented time is critical. In fact, their response could herald an industry-wide resetting of best practice for construction sites moving forward.
Here are the top ten mitigation measures we have seen being enacted on construction sites to remain productive while preventing the spread of COVID-19 and maintaining safety, health and quality.
1. Additional sanitising stations (hand wash, hot water) and washrooms
Health authorities, governments and owners are mandating the installation of additional sanitising stations on construction sites in order to encourage the washing of hands more often with soap and water. These are being placed outside of hoists, breakrooms and trailers and across work areas. Foot push/pull devices are also being installed to doors for hands-free access/egress.
2. Enhanced deep cleaning for frequently touched objects and surfaces
Contractors are increasing the frequency of cleaning as well as enhancing the deep cleaning of frequently touched objects and surfaces such as hoists, break/lunch tables and chairs, microwaves, turnstiles and handrails.
All owners of small tools are also required to clean these on a regular basis and sub-trades are encouraged not to share the use of these tools on site where possible. There are now a number of non-chemical sanitising processes available along with more traditional chlorine and bleach products.
3. Limiting the size of gatherings
Gatherings on construction sites are being limited to 20 people at most, with a 6ft distance being maintained during gatherings. This includes stand downs, toolbox talks, daily health and safety briefings, and regular stretch and flex programmes. Current social distancing practices are being implemented during lunches/breaks as well, with many sites opting to confine workers to the site itself.
Where travel in a hoist is necessary, construction workers are being encouraged to maintain a distance and to face away from each other. Mandatory personal protective equipment (PPE) is also required, including gloves, masks and eye protection.
4. Implementation of remote working policies
Many office-based contractor staff, consultants, and client representatives are working remotely, which has meant utilising technology to conduct meetings, shop drawing reviews, and other coordination aspects.
5. Staggered shifts
New policies are being put in place that require trades to arrive on-site at different times. And, office locations that are largely vacant, because of recent remote working policies, present options to perform late shift or overnight work at different times with fewer restrictions. This can spread out the number of workers on-site at any given time while not affecting productivity.
6. Additional lunch/break areas
Many sites have reconfigured their lunch and break areas so that construction workers are not in close proximity. Lunch times have also been staggered and restrictions have been placed on the number of workers within an assigned lunch or break area. To minimise workers leaving and returning to the site frequently, some clients are rethinking site facilities, providing catering on-site and/or ordering food to be delivered.
7. Medical checks upon entering the construction site
In certain jurisdictions, anyone entering a construction site must have their temperature checked. In addition, the various labour ministries are increasing their presence on many construction sites to monitor the health, safety and wellness of workers. Contractors are increasing the frequency upon which their own health and safety representative is on-site, to make sure appropriate policies are being followed.
8. Declaration of illness
Sign in sheets, present on all construction sites, are being modified to self-declare that a worker isn’t suffering from any injuries or illness (including COVID-19) that prevents them from undertaking their work or putting their fellow workers at risk.
9. Implementation of remote site inspections
Many payment certifiers, loan monitors and public-private partnership (PPP) advisors including our business, have enacted a remote site inspection policy. This follows guidance received from the authorities and from contractors that non-essential people should avoid visiting sites. A rigorous remote site inspection policy has been enacted, leveraging technology platforms, which allows all parties to review the progress during the preceding period virtually.
10. Right to refuse work
The health, safety and wellness of all workers are of paramount importance. Workers across many jurisdictions have the right to refuse work if they believe it presents an undue hazard. In these jurisdictions, there is an understanding that no penalties will occur if they decide to enact this right.
Please visit our COVID-19 response page for all of our resources relating to the impact of COVID-19 on the construction sector.