COVID-19 has caused havoc in the construction industry
Builders need to change the way they operate and manage construction projects to secure their long-term success.
With coronavirus cases on the rise again in the UK, America, Europe and many other countries, certain restrictions have been reintroduced across nations. The construction industry will continue to operate, but now more than ever standards of health and safety need to be enforced to reduce the rate and risk of infection.
The question that contractors are facing is how to balance keeping their workforce healthy while continuing to operate to maintain economic security. As more research is conducted into covid-19, authorities have published advice calling for work to resume as long as all recommended precautions can be enforced.
Read on to learn more builders’ guidelines for work in the time of COVID-19.
Get everyone in your construction team involved
Employee education and communication are essential tools for fighting this viral pandemic. Your construction teams should be kept updated about the latest COVID-19 facts, including how the germs can be spread.
The rationale behind protocols and how they could help prevent covid-19 infection should be clearly explained and repeated regularly to keep facts fresh in employees’ minds. Posters with the same details should be posted in portable toilets and common areas for the same reason.
Specific time slots within working hours should be allocated for these information sessions. If workers are concerned that the time spent learning about the virus will be docked from their wages they might not take in or understand the information they’re presented with.
Keeping your construction crews in the loop will have the added benefit of maintaining a sense of community and camaraderie. Each worker will feel they’re part of a team and be more likely to voice concerns and let their supervisors know about potential problems.
If there’s a feeling that everyone is in this together, someone who feels ill won’t be worried about losing their job and will inform their co-workers immediately – lessening the chance of an outbreak among staff.
Don't forget to include all your subcontractors, they are vital to the success of your construction project and keeping it covid-19 safe.
Follow covid-19 guidelines
While the advised measures from the United Kingdom’s government don’t quite stretch to modular walk-through anti-virus stations, they’re impressively thorough and comprehensive. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy issued specific regulations for construction and other outdoor work, and the Construction Leadership Council (CLC) has published its own suggestions. They’re presented here, along with various additional measures that many operators in the United Kingdom have decided to adopt.
● The guidelines stipulate that anyone who feels ill, has a temperature or is coughing should either stay home or go home as soon as these symptoms develop.
● Face coverings should be worn over the nose and mouth on public transport and in enclosed spaces. At the same time, touching the face, eyes, nose and mouth should be avoided wherever possible.
● When eating, workers should wash their hands after removing their face coverings but before touching their food. Food and drink shouldn’t be shared with anyone during this time.
● Similarly, implementing a “no handshake” policy is a good idea. Soap, running water and disposable hand towels should be provided at several strategic locations on building sites.
● Anyone arriving on a site ought to be given hand sanitiser. Used tissues should be thrown into a rubbish bin that’s been designated for that specific purpose.
● While temperature screenings are not mandatory, several companies are enforcing them.
● Appropriate social distancing (at least 1 metre and preferably 2 metres between each person) must be maintained.
As an added precaution, some construction companies have begun disinfecting high-touch, shared areas on a daily basis. Such areas include scaffolding, breakrooms, shared tools, crew vehicles’ steering wheels, gear sticks and door handles and bathroom facilities.
Shifts should be staggered between different tradespeople and even different groups of the same type of workers to prevent large gatherings on your construction project.
Meeting size should be restricted, and weather permitting, held in the open air whenever possible. Individuals who are especially at risk of infection, such as those with diabetes or other chronic diseases, should work from home if they can.
Video calls should replace site inspections and face-to-face appointments unless in-person meetings are absolutely essential. This includes home visits and discussions with clients; email, telephone calls and video communications or even text messages are strongly recommended.
Plan Ahead for Project Changes
It’s important to remember that the fallout from COVID-19 will be huge and to expect and plan for this on your construction project wherever possible.
Projects will take longer to complete as staff education, sanitising procedures, absences due to self-isolation and team staggering all eat into building schedules. Additionally, masks, hand sanitiser, posters and other educational equipment all cost extra funds that could drain resources.
That’s before the impact of smaller meetings and reduced face-to-face contact have even been considered.
Every decision will be delayed slightly because discussions won’t be able to flow as freely with as many people, which could ramp up costs and timeframes considerably.
Additionally, some instances cannot be planned for – such as subcontractors not being properly educated on the virus and thus transmitting the disease to an otherwise COVID-free building site.
Adjust Project Parameters
Every construction project is unique, and the required health and safety measures will differ from job to job. The requirements for fitting doors and windows won’t be the same as those needed for a full-scale house build or roadworks.
The best course of action employers and workers can take would be to evaluate their specific construction projects and then enforce and maintain all possible precautions. Reviewing the situation regularly as your construction project develops, additional restrictions are imposed or new information about COVID-19 is learned, is also an excellent idea.
The pandemic will cause financial losses and it will take time for the global economy to recover. But overwhelming as it might feel, everyone is in the same situation. The only real option is to work together to weather the storm.
There’s never been a more appropriate time to stick to the good old British motto: Keep calm and carry on!
Author Bio: With a background in project management and a love for writing, Mara Sampson is an editor for Build World, the UK’s top builder’s merchant and build material supplier.
Other useful articles:
Force Majeure In Construction Contracts: Tips And Traps
Prepare your construction project for covid-19 lockdown
What will you do if you are quarantined?
Who is responsible for safety on your construction project?
Do you want to learn how to manage construction projects successfully
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Copyright 2016 - The attached articles cannot be reproduced for commercial purposes without the consent of the author.
The opinions expressed in the attached articles are those of the writer. It should be noted that projects are varied and different laws and restrictions apply which depend on the location of the contractor and the project. It's important that the reader uses the supplied information taking cognisance of their particular circumstances. The writer assumes no responsibility or liability for any loss of any kind arising from the reader using the information or advice contained herein.
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