Two recent reports assess the occupational risks of the Coronavirus in construction as compared to other industries. Cody Charland, in a blog post for Safran Law Offices, Raleigh, N.C., reports that the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services found that “construction workers were listed in the third quartile for physical proximity to others (Avg. 62.3), yet first quartile for exposure to diseases (Avg. 8.3).” Another study by the World Economic Forum ranked construction above the average risk for contact with others, physical proximity, and exposure.
Though outdoor construction work offers natural advantages in preventing the spread of coronavirus, precautions still should be taken. Points of transmission which could cause present and future outbreaks remain, including shared tools, as well as common spaces such as outdoor toilets, job site trailers, and work vehicles.
According to Jordan Hollingsworth, Field Operations Manager, in a blog post for Safety Management Group, “Construction projects must develop and implement a Site-Specific Health and Safety Plan consistent with best practices. Every construction project involves unique characteristics and circumstances, so what is appropriate and feasible for each project may be different.”
While the CDC offers construction-specific guidelines, Hollingsworth shared some additional insight. Tailgate safety meetings, for example, should follow CDC guidelines limiting the number of people to 10 or should be executed via video briefings.
Charland also suggests monitoring site logistics. Deliveries should be planned with contact and cleaning protocols, choke points should be identified and barriers installed to limit physical access, and community food areas, like coffeepots and water dispensers, should be eliminated.
“Shared tools should be eliminated wherever possible and all tools should be cleaned regularly. Any
shared equipment (including tools and vehicles) should be disinfected before and after each use, with disinfectant wipes readily available,” says Charland, who also recommends aerial lifts be used by just one person at a time, unless additional PPE is worn.
The CDC reminds construction workers that cloth face coverings are NOT appropriate substitutes where masks or respirators are recommended or required. Cleaning and disinfecting should be done at the beginning and end of every shift and after anyone uses your vehicle, tools, or workstation. Employers should provide soap, clean running water, and materials for drying hands, or alcohol-based hand sanitizers at multiple stations, and install temporary or mobile handwashing stations with single-use paper towels, or provide a large (5+ gallon) bucket with a lid and tap for handwashing. Regularly clean and disinfect the tap and provide fresh clean water daily.
Finally, an article from EHS Today notes, “Few of the guidance documents tell you how to select or use disinfecting chemicals and methods.” The article by Neal Langerman with Advanced Chemical Safety attempts to fill that gap.
How Construction Compares to Other Industries with Coronavirus from Safran Law Offices
Best Construction Safety Practices for COVID-19 from Safety Management Group
What Construction Workers Need to Know about COVID-19 from CDC
Sanitizing and Disinfecting Your Business During the Pandemic from EHS Today