by Elizabeth Calvanese
“How can we make our employees feel safe at work?”
The presence of COVID-19 has undoubtedly shifted the standard safety protocols previously in place and in turn has led GC’s, CM’s and employers to ask this common question. There are many new necessary steps for construction workers to take during this pandemic. As we know, elimination is on the top of the pyramid of hierarchy of controls, followed by substitution.
Eliminating the Hazard – If we cannot physically remove the hazard then we must replace the hazard. These are exceedingly difficult hazards to avoid when keeping job sites fully staffed. Most employers find that engineering controls work best.
Different ways of making sure these controls are met include limiting exposure – having different trades working in different locations or different rotations for scheduling – and also maintaining a safe distance, as we know six feet as a minimum. Temperature screenings prior to work are now used for detecting symptoms and give workers assurance of a safe worksite in which their family and friends will feel safer around these individuals.
Implementing and Creating Safety Plans – Having a formal safety plan in the workplace following COVID-19 protocols are now necessary. This safety plan must include several components to decrease the risk of exposure of workers. Addressing different issues such as:
- What is COVID-19?
- What areas of the job site will be a hotspot?
- This includes, commonly touched surfaces, tools, or door knobs of the site trailer.
- What is physical distance and what does it look like?
- How often should my employees be masked up?
- Adequate cleaning stations on the site
- How will I effectively communicate with all parties involved?
Distancing Procedures – Maintaining physical distance from other workers must be addressed even if workers are not working closely together. Have a procedure in place as employees often pass each other in stairwells and get into proximity with one another during breaks.
Face Coverings – It is extremely important that all workers now wear face coverings on site to decrease the spread. Employers can now make this a mandatory PPE, just as hard hats and gloves are required on the job site.
Cleanliness – Providing workers with adequate handwashing facilities will be another topic to have in your safety plan including the location on site.
Communication – As we know, communication is an asset in the safety world. Developing a policy in your safety plan to address the protocol for workers who are symptomatic or have had exposure to COVID-19 is essential. If there are any changes on site including new hazards, the safety plan must be updated. All workers must be aware of this new safety plan which can be displayed outside the job trailer or via email.
Safety is already our brand and it is with great certainty that we will get through these unprecedented times in construction, together. Implementing and maintaining new protocols in conjunction with standard safety regulations will lead us all in the direction of continued success. For any specific needs please feel free to contact Goggin Safety Services.
Elizabeth Calvenese is president of Goggin Safety Services.