COVID-19 and Construction: Job Sites in the Social Distancing Age
Successful construction teams have always relied on close collaboration to overcome a vast range of challenges. As COVID-19 continues to affect every aspect of our world, construction jobsites are finding additional ways to work collaboratively while maintaining a safer social distance.
While states are directing people to stay at home to slow the spread of the disease, construction continues, deemed an essential industry along with grocery stores, hospitals, pharmacies, and critical supply chain providers. KA’s safety and field management teams are implementing new safety protocols to help keep construction teams safe and productive in the age of COVID-19.
Why are job sites remaining open during the pandemic?
AL GERHARDT, PRESIDENT AND COO, KACC: Construction has been designated as one of the essential industries to remain open according to the Minnesota Governor’s Executive Order of March 25, 2020. By allowing people to work and projects to progress, we maintain a stable workforce to meet the needs of our clients, including healthcare, education, senior housing and commercial clients that all factor into the COVID-19 response effort. And it enables us to be prepared to mobilize quickly in the event of an emergency.
How is social distancing- working so as to maintain a minimum six feet between workers at most times- being carried out given the needs of job sites?
BRIAN HOOK, DIRECTOR OF FIELD OPERATIONS, KACC: The conditions and challenges for social distancing vary greatly with every job site, at every step of the way. If you’re a tower crane operator sitting in a cab 130 feet up for eight hours, social distancing isn’t changing your work day that much. If you’re on the ground working as an electrician or carpenter or plumber or laborer, you are likely experiencing more extreme changes in your routines in order to practice social distancing. We’re making sure all our teams are well informed of symptoms of COVID-19 and infection prevention practices; and making adjustments to scheduling and logistics in order to allow workers to be more spread out.
How are meetings and gatherings being conducted in this new landscape?
JAY VANDERLEEST, DIRECTOR OF SAFETY, KACC: Some routines, like daily group stretch and flex, have been suspended, and other gatherings like daily huddles, meetings in the trailers, are being replaced with more teleconferencing methods. Group lunches and buffets have been replaced with more staggered lunch hours and box lunches. Material lifts are now limited to just the operator and one person assisting in the material delivery.
What’s the approach to hand washing and sanitizing of shared surfaces?
BRIAN HOOK: We’ve implemented a regular routine of disinfecting commonly used items in the general field offices such as doorknobs, computers, phones, tables and chairs. Teams have stopped sharing of tools or equipment with the exception of items like power tools that are being sanitized between uses; no sharing of Personal Protective Equipment, and used PPE is to be disposed of promptly and properly. All the portable toilets have hand sanitizer, and we’ve installed additional hand washing stations around the job sites.
How are these measures being enforced?
RICH JACOBSON, EVP, KACC: Just as with every aspect of our construction safety efforts, we rely upon the teamwork and commitment of the entire workforce to support this effort. We are screening everyone on the site each day, with instructions to report any COVID-19 symptoms immediately to their immediate supervisor. This is part of everyone’s job now, to slow the spread.
JAY VANDERLEEST: As always, every KA employee is empowered to Stop Work at any time if they believe there is something unsafe that needs to be corrected. Every subcontractor working on our job sites is told, “If you see something, say something.” Safety always has been a team effort. It still is.