Though construction activity has been deemed essential in many provinces, the industry has also come under fire for failing to protect its workers on site. The reality is that many of us are scrambling to adapt to these unprecedented circumstances. Of course, construction sites present their own unique challenges when it comes to social distancing and cleanliness.
To ensure the health and safety of construction workers during this pandemic, provincial governments, public health officials, and industry associations are rushing to pull together protocols and best practices. There is a lot of good information out there, but it can be overwhelming.
We have pulled together the top tips for protecting construction employees from COVID-19, based on common pointers we are seeing in federal, provincial, and association guidelines. Where guidelines differed, we have opted to share the most stringent recommendations.
Please note that while we have relied heavily on reputable resources, your first step should always be to consult the directives issued by your provincial public health authority.
Regardless of the industry, employers have an obligation to protect their workers from hazards in the workplace. There is no question that COVID-19 safety should be the absolute top priority for every employee on site. Remember: any measures taken on site to prevent the spread of COVID-19 should be done in compliance with local health and safety requirements and associated regulations.
To find the best COVID-19 tips specifically for construction, we looked to our industry associations. One of the resources we consulted was the Canadian Construction Association’s “COVID-19 Standardized Protocols for All Canadian Construction Sites”. Released on March 27th, it contains best practices and recommendations built around three key pillars:
The objectives of these guidelines include:
Working within this framework, with prevention, detection, and rapid response serving as the pillars for any construction site COVID-19 plan, we sourced recommendations from key groups and associations – including, of course, the Canadian Construction Association (CCA) guidelines. Based on those recommendations, we have pulled together the following tips:
As the saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” – and given that there is no cure or vaccine for COVID-19, prevention is everything.
Many of the prevention measures being recommended for construction sites are of the variety that apply to all individuals and situations. They’re the common tips being shared widely by governments, public health officials, media, and employers in every industry.
They include well-known hygiene and cleanliness practices, like frequent hand washing, avoiding touching your face, and cleaning frequently touched objects and surfaces. They also cover social distancing measures and recommendations against non-essential travel. While the importance of these measures cannot be overstated, we wanted to focus on the recommendations you may not already know.
When it comes to the tips that are most specific and relevant to construction sites, here is what we have found:
The ICBA has a few other unique suggestions to help your employees with their social distancing efforts. For instance:
Do your research on infection prevention and control. The province of Ontario suggests that construction employers contact local public health units if they need more information on workplace prevention and control related to COVID-19 infections. The situation is changing rapidly and new information is communicated often, so stay on top of COVID-19 news by regularly checking public health resources.
Having measures in place to detect and isolate possible cases of COVID-19 is key in any work environment.
So what do you do if you have a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 on your construction site? Again, the recommendations here are largely universal: workers exhibiting any symptoms of a respiratory illness must stay home and alert their supervisor or human resources department.
What is unique to construction sites is the recommendation that contractors develop an “integrated continuity plan” in the case of a partial or complete shutdown of construction sites or any severe limitation of site operations due to COVID-19.
If dealing with a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 on site, your best bet is always to refer to the Government of Canada Public Health site. It contains the latest information and recommended protocols related to COVID-19.
Employers within the construction industry are uniquely challenged with the expectation that they continue to provide what has been deemed an “essential service” – all while prioritizing the health and safety of their employees and contractors during a crisis that has virtually shut down many other businesses.
While construction sites have always been subject to strict project schedules and objectives, now is the time to put your people first. Pre-COVID-19 schedules, like many other plans conjured before this pandemic, must be adapted to present circumstances.
We think the ICBA put it best: “Actively reduce the manpower on site to the greatest extent possible and work on only those tasks on the critical path.” Aligning your decisions with that statement is a great first step. Then follow that up with the above recommendations to ensure your site stays safe and compliant.
Looking for more COVID-19 tips for construction sites? Read about our COVID-19 Response and Action Plan and our COVID-19 Committed Supplier designation to see how we’re addressing the coronavirus at Modu-Loc.
We’re here to answer any questions you may have.