The following are excerpts taken from an article by Allison Friedman, founder of Rate It Green.
For ongoing and future work, how do we keep people working on job sites and protect both jobs and safety? We have to be able to accept a certain level of change, and we’re going to have to have some patience as we try to deal with the uncertainty.
Below are some suggestions on communication, procedures, and equipment that may prove helpful as we work though how to keep service employees and builders safer on the job site.
- Check in with staff constantly – The CDC recommends appointing a coordinator for COVID-19 issues and their workplace impact.
- Ask your employees how they are feeling – they may not volunteer to tell you if they are trying to tough it out or avoid missing work.
- Train on PPE and on procedures and communications, continuously repeat key policies at meetings and in regular communications, and share a written copy of policies and procedures.
- Enforcement – It’s not enough to tell people what they need to do. Employers also need to check and correct.
- Debrief employees after a visit or work day. What went well, what could have gone better? Are clients following the procedures? If not, you may need to take action.
- Call and plan in advance of every visit.
- Establish if the work is urgent. It is an OSHA recommendation to postpone elective work, though this is of course part of a larger and also practical conversation of what work can and should proceed.
- Ask the clients to maintain a safe distance of six feet or more, and the further, the better.
- Request that shared spaces have good airflow, such as by turning on an air conditioner or opening windows, weather permitting.
Safe Work Practices
- Keep people apart on site as much as possible – minimize contact. If possible, avoid multiple passengers in a vehicle. If not, have safer ways to travel together been determined?
- Maximize employee distance apart – at least six feet, but the more, the better. All necessary meetings should be held outside and should observe social distancing.
- Consider the following: Limit the number of total people; limit the number of trades on site; limit the number of people on a floor or in specific rooms/spaces; limit multi-person activities when possible; stack shifts and adjust work times if possible.
- Have all meetings electronically that do not have to be in person.
- Discourage site visits/visitors (not currently allowed on many sites).
- Avoid sharing equipment and tools to the extent possible.
Proper PPE and Equipment
PPE should be appropriate to the task – Employees on the job site should wear masks, except when the mask inhibits a required task or adds a sight-related safety concern in some way.
- The proper PPE must be provided appropriate to the hazard to the worker, and must be worn when and as required.
- PPE must be fitted and refitted properly as appropriate (respirators, for example, when appropriate).
- PPE should be properly maintained.
- PPE must also be properly stored and disposed of.
Above all, social distancing is paramount. As Bryan Orr of HVACR School said during a HealthyIndoors Webinar on April 2, “Remember, the greatest risk of infection is when you are in proximity to other people, not in the equipment itself.” We must all work to keep people at a maximum distance, at the office and on the job site.
Every employer has the obligation to do all he or she reasonably can (and more) to protect workers, and all workers have the obligation to protect each other, in terms of health, and keeping a project going safely and productively.