Even amid a pandemic, many construction projects are deemed “essential,” and are proceeding as usual - is your crew still on the job?
For some projects, not having to work around groups of people and traffic is making construction projects flow more efficiently and safely. Yet, working under the constraints of the coronavirus, including physical distancing, is creating different challenges that may be testing your workforce.
Staying safe on the job now also means staying safe from COVID-19, and supervisors need to be considering this additional angle and its unintended consequences, especially on workers’ comp.
Most construction jobs are outside, and, in most cases, crews are able to work in accordance with social distancing guidelines, keeping more than six feet away from co-workers. Many jobs on construction sites already require protective gear such as gloves, long sleeves, and pants. Yet even with these precautions, managers should not assume that workers are automatically protected.
Here are five things your construction crew should be doing to reduce the risk of injury and exposure during these times:
Don’t underestimate the power of effective communication with your team in these uncertain times. Employees are sorting through many data points, looking for clear messaging from their employers. Let crews know what the company is doing to keep their exposure to coronavirus to a minimum, as well as what is expected of each employee. If procedures are changing, even temporarily, continue to educate employees about them. By communicating directly, you avoid rumors and misinformation within your crews that could lead to dangerous situations. By keeping them informed, you are actively taking steps to prevent workplace injuries and workers’ comp claims.
In some construction environments, the addition of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) may be deemed necessary. Companies should proactively provide PPE to their employees along with the education for wearing it properly. Employees should have access to replacement PPE should theirs become damaged or come in possible contact with COVID-19. PPE may include goggles, face masks, gloves, or other specialized equipment deemed necessary to perform their job safely.
For some workers, wearing PPE is new and potentially cumbersome. Employees may not be used to how the PPE fits or have reduced visibility as a result. The PPE, or the lack of it, could cause workplace injuries if the issues are not addressed ASAP. Project Superintendents should encourage construction workers to exercise patience and caution as they adjust to new safety equipment, and alert their supervisor if PPE causes any issues.
As always, workplace safety is paramount. Crews should understand the exact procedures for reporting even minor injuries and accidents on the job sites, along with any special precautions that should be taken. For example, how do social distancing guidelines impact helping an injured teammate? Should any additional precautions be taken? What should an employee do if they suspect exposure to coronavirus? Some of these process shifts may be small but are essential to keep your construction crew safe.
OSHA and other organizations provide reliable information as to how to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. Be sure your company is sharing necessary and credible information with your construction crews as events unfold. Just keeping these guidelines in mind can reduce any chance of exposure, either on the job or in their personal lives. Depending on the specific construction environment, companies should refer to OSHA guidelines for low, medium, and high-risk environments.
Normandy Insurance is up to speed regarding how workers’ compensation coverage is affected by the coronavirus. As things continue to evolve, we invite you to please reach out to our team if you have any questions!