When restrictions start to ease up and people begin going back to work, you'll want to take steps to make your construction sites and other workspaces as safe as possible. Your staff will likely have questions and concerns about returning to work, and for a good reason. Set their minds at ease by implementing rules and procedures that will help protect them.
Deciding when to reopen for the public will be a tough decision for any business. Unfortunately, it's likely that when you resume operations, there will still be a chance of contracting COVID-19. Given the potential for danger, you'll need to adapt to the situation by implementing sanitary practices at work sites.
Understand that though you'll be reopening, you'll not be going back to business-as-usual. Your company should make appropriate adjustments, and those in leadership positions should communicate those adjustments to the rest of your staff. Ensure everyone is informed about the changes to lower the risk that you or your workers may be exposed to COVID-19 at work.
As construction work begins again, you'll need to create a safe environment for all your crew members. Some of the primary construction safety tips after COVID-19 starts to decrease include:
It's likely that when the country opens up for construction work, workers will still be vulnerable to contract the coronavirus. Workers who have chronic medical conditions like lung disease, diabetes and heart disease are more likely to experience serious complications from the coronavirus. To comply with ADA regulations, your management should not directly ask employees about personal health conditions. Even if you're asking with the best intentions, it can put your company at legal risk.
You can, however, take steps to improve communication between managers and crew members with a forum for workplace safety. By establishing open communication with crew members and encouraging them to put their health first, you can take steps to protect those who may have a higher risk.
Encourage employees to consider their health and begin a dialogue about potential safety adjustments. In this dialogue, a worker can choose to disclose medical information on their own and ask for accommodations. If you are able and at-risk crew members are willing, you can temporarily adjust their duties so they're not in a high-risk environment.
You can also implement recommended sanitation measures to keep vulnerable workers safe. The key is to reassure workers you are willing to make accommodations and take time to have respectful, honest conversations.
Social distancing is likely going to be a part of everyone's life for a while, and it will need to be a part of your job site. Job site rules may need to change to make sure social distancing is possible. To facilitate proper social distancing, implement these tips on the job site:
Staff and crew members should be trained to recognize the symptoms of COVID-19. With many people returning to construction job sites, you'll want to be able to spot warning signs that could indicate someone has the coronavirus. It's crucial to foster a "see something, say something" mindset among employees so you can react quickly to any possible dangers.
If you see any symptoms in an employee, enforce a plan to keep them away from others. If they test positive for the coronavirus, the employee should stay away from your work site as long as they feel symptoms to prevent the spread of the virus and give them time to recover. The primary symptoms of COVID-19 include:
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend people wear masks when they're in public, and the same should be true for your work sites. A mask helps prevent the wearer from coming into contact with the virus, but most importantly, it reduces the chances of a virus carrier spreading the virus.
Since N-95 masks are in short supply, it's not recommended workers use these masks unless their type of work requires them to do so. For most jobs, workers should wear cloth masks that they routinely wash. Provide information about making and cleaning cloth masks to staff members. You can also require workers to wear heavy-duty work gloves at work for added protection. Like masks, these gloves should be washed after every use.
Hygiene is always important, but it's even more crucial in times of a pandemic. Ensure your team has the ability to stay clean by providing handwashing stations they can use at the work site. Additionally, staff in an office environment should be trained to always disinfect commonly used objects like doorknobs, coffee machines and lunch tables throughout the day. Make cleaning and disinfectant supplies available throughout your office space to make it easy for employees to practice proper hygiene.
The hygiene practices you’ve developed over the last year will serve you well in the future. They’re just as effective against the flu and other contagious viruses as they are against COVID-19 and can help prevent their spread as well. Don’t abandon your tools and techniques as soon as you’re vaccinated. There are plenty of bugs out there that are happy to make a home in your respiratory system if you give them the chance, and it doesn’t take much for them to spread quickly through a crew that spends eight hours a day in close proximity.
At the beginning of the pandemic, the biggest challenge was figuring out how to keep your crew safe from the swiftly spreading virus. Now, over a year later, there are multiple vaccines available around the globe and most cities and states are providing them for free. The biggest challenge right now isn’t availability — it’s vaccine hesitancy fed by conspiracy theories that are scaring people away. In an effort to get people back in the office — or in this case, back on the worksite — consider incentivizing vaccination efforts among your crew.
This can look like anything from extra paid time off to a monetary bonus or anything in between. The goal here is to get as many people fully vaccinated as possible. Sometimes a little incentive can go a long way.
As of May 2021, fully vaccinated individuals no longer need to wear masks or socially distance themselves in most situations. Those that are unvaccinated should still wear masks and practice social distancing. On a crowded job site, unvaccinated individuals aren’t just a liability — they could require additional precautions for longer periods, making it harder to get things back to normal.
Now that you're aware of some of the main construction safety tips, you should plan to implement them at your worksite. Even if you can't bring your crew back to work yet, start communicating these changes to employees in advance so they can prepare themselves for the new worksite rules. You can also look to the future by purchasing necessary hygienic supplies and preparing your workspaces for social distancing before employees come back to work.
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