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Keeping Construction Sites Safe During COVID-19

While many businesses have had to close down completely, essential businesses remain open to keep our communities going (and we are so grateful for it)!

In the construction industry, companies have been quickly pivoting to implement policies and procedures to keep construction sites safe. Employers are wading in deep waters with the challenge to keep workers safe during this unprecedented global pandemic.

To provide some support, we’ve identified 3 things that construction companies have been commonly getting wrong and how to correct them:

1. Not enforcing physical distancing in their workplace

Although posting signs around the workplace to remind everyone to practice physical distancing is great, there has to be an enforcement mechanism in place for this to actually be effective. That being said, some ways to enforce physical distancing include:

  • Staggering start times
  • Staggering breaks and lunches
  • Restricting the number of people on-site and the areas they are assigned to work
  • Controlling site movement and limiting places where workers gather (i.e. site trailers)
  • Limiting how many people can use elevators and hoists at one time
  • Holding meetings in an outside space with enough room to enable physical distancing
  • Sharing constant reminders for physical distancing and using corrective measures with workers who don’t follow these rules
  • Reducing unnecessary on-site contact between workers and other external service providers (i.e. removing coffee trucks from site)
2. Relying on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

In order for your COVID-19 response to be as effective as possible, management’s focus should be on eliminating or minimizing the risk of exposure to the virus in the first place. PPE is always your last line of defense. Some ways to do this include:

  • Focusing on maintaining a clean workplace with access to hand washing stations, hand sanitizer, and clean washroom facilities
  • Sanitizing commonly touched surfaces and hand tools
  • Avoid sharing hand tools where possible
  • Adjusting work schedules and timelines to consider less workers, more time for sanitization, and physical distancing measures
  • Sharing information with your team on the importance of physical distancing, what to do if you feel sick, and how to practice good hygiene on site
  • Setting up health screening checkpoints at each worksite and encouraging workers to self-monitor
3. Emphasizing production and operational needs over health  

Of course we all care about health. But when there is a job to be done, often our concerns turn into wondering how we can maintain operations with everything going on. The problem is, concerns over production will cascade down to your team. Workers are less likely to report their symptoms proactively if they are worried about delaying projects, disappointing managers, facing discrimination or job instability.

It is essential to have reassuring conversations with your workers regularly. As an employer, you can educate them on the steps your company is taking and how health is a priority. Provide resources and information and appoint a dedicated safety person or department to help handle COVID-19 related questions or concerns. Walk the talk by supporting employees who exercise their right to COVID-19 related leave due to illness, childcare, or otherwise.

BCCSA has been updating their COVID-19 Resource Page with exceptionally helpful tools and information, including:

  • What to do when physical distancing isn’t possible
  • How to set up a health screening station at your site
  • COVID-19 construction site inspection template
  • Prevention procedures
  • Exposure control plans
  • Signage to download and use in the workplace and more.

Click here for BCCSA’s COVID-19 Resource Page.