New construction protocols during COVID-19
Updated: Nov 9, 2020
The world has changed. The COVID-19 pandemic has slowed or halted all construction to slow the spread of the virus. Now, as you start to re-open job sites, how do you keep workers safe and make your customers feel confident allowing you to be on site? In this blog, we’ll cover some easy things you can do immediately to build confidence. We will also provide links to free resources for job site signage and protocol documents. Use these resources to get your safety protocols in order and start building again….safely!
What are Safety Protocols, and Why Do They Matter?
The term “protocols” has been used a lot recently. What is it? A simple definition is “a system of rules that explain the correct conduct and procedures to be followed in formal situations”. When this pandemic hit our industry, many larger firms created a task force to come up with a list of rules and procedures to keep workers safe. This is important to reduce risk of spreading the virus on job sites. Let’s face it, nobody wants to get shut down due to another outbreak so it’s in everyone's best interest to not only have these protocols but to strictly enforce them.
How to implement new construction protocols & policies.
#1 Create a General Plan
The first step is to create an overall plan for your company. This plan will be for all job sites and all employees will need to be trained on this plan. If you would like to download a sample plan, for reference, go to www.buildcenter.com and look for COVID-19 Protocol Resources. You should consider the following items for your plan:
Self-evaluation of health every day BEFORE going to work by every employee. Some companies are issuing thermometers to every employee to use and check every morning. Make it clear they will not be allowed to work if they have any COVID-19 symptoms.
Establishing a designated site screener who will ask health screening questions and determine if that worker or visitor is allowed to enter the job site. Keep an attendance log with personal information so that contact tracing can occur if exposure to someone confirmed with COVID-19 occurs. Check out our free app designed for this task.
Required PPE everyday, all day. In construction, we are used to PPE but we may not be used to having to wear a mask all day, every day. This is the new normal for many and we just have to adapt and do it. If we don’t, we’ll pay the consequences. At our own company, we have had workers and even entire subcontractors get tossed off jobs simply because they are not wearing a mask. One large contractor had their job site shut down by local authorities for not enforcing PPE protocols.
Sanitize common areas on job sites throughout the day. This may take additional personnel to keep up with it. This will show your workers and your clients you are taking their health seriously which will build confidence for everyone.
Space workers apart. Don’t overcrowded a job site with workers. Plan work out such that workers can be in separate areas. If that is not possible, then make sure they have the PPE to work safely near others. Don’t allow workers to congregate during lunch or safety talks. Spread out at least 6 ft apart.
Check with local requirements and evolving CDC and OSHA recommendations. With this being an unprecedented time, information is changing almost daily. Try to stay current with any new rules and regulations. Check the local county health departments web site for the most recent health orders.
Create Standard Jobsite Signage. Many counties are mandating that protocols be posted at all job sites. In addition, there are many other signs that are needed for full compliance in some counties so check with each county you work in. Sign up for free sign resources available at www.buildcenter.com
#2 Create a Job Site Specific Plans
Some job sites are large and require you to plan out every detail. For example, you may need a central screening entry point for all workers and visitors. You may have to map out locations for PPE disposal trash cans and signage.
Some clients have required us to generate these job specific plans and submit them for approval before resuming work. It’s our job to show that we are going to do all the right things to maximize safety and minimize the risks. By doing this, we build confidence with our customers and the workers.
#3 Communicate Plan with workers and train on them
Workers and staff are used to safety training. This is different….you have to train enough times to change their habits. For example, people on average touch their face 16 times an hour. Your training needs to address this habit and over time change it for the safety of everyone. You should train on all the new rules and regulations and protocols.
Make sure your training not only addresses what you must do but also why. It will seem to some that this is silly and not needed. If you explain how critical it is for safety and confidence and that entire jobs can be shut down if these protocols are not followed, they may come around sooner.
#4 Communicate with customers and subcontractors
Customers and subcontractors need to know your plans. They don’t need every detail but they need to know that you have a plan to keep them safe and that you will be enforcing it. Use an email blast to quickly update them on all the measures you are taking to be safe. This will go a long way at gaining confidence.
If you have a website, add some information about what you are doing to show that your company is being proactive.
#5 Enforce the plan and continue to train workers
You may have to be tough to send a message. It may require you to send a subcontractor packing if they refuse to follow your instructions. You may have to send an employee home if they are not doing the screening as required. Be nice but firm. Let them know they can come back the next day if they can get their act together. Once you do, the message will be heard loud and clear. At our firm, a team of us are doing unannounced random job checks to make sure PPE is being worn and procedures followed. After a week of that, we saw a dramatic increase in everyone following the new rules.
The rest of 2020 will be a challenge for the construction industry. Not only are we trying to recover and restart work but we are faced with many new rules and regulations. Take advantage of others that are sharing what they are doing so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. After a few weeks, it get’s easier. Start with our sample protocols and signage and our free health screening app. All are available at www.buildcenter.com.