Worker Safety: Practicing Social Distancing on Construction Sites

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to be an issue across the world. And even though Australia is starting to flatten the curve, cases are still above 20,000. During the six months since stay-at-home orders were implemented throughout the country, different industries suffered major setbacks. One of them was construction. Now that lockdown restrictions are starting to ease up, it is time for contractors and builders to catch up on their work.

However, just because you are allowed to continue operations, that does not mean you and your staff can work like you used to pre-COVID. Social distancing is needed to ensure an outbreak does not happen in your workplace. The virus can spread from person to person through droplets expelled by coughing, sneezing, or simply talking. A person may also contract COVID-19 when touching a surface contaminated with droplets and then proceeding to touch their mouth, nose, or eyes.

The effects of COVID-19 can range from no symptoms to severe respiratory system damage. As such, you should do what you can to minimise transmission, even at the cost of productivity. Here are ways to practice social distancing in your construction site.

Keep social gatherings to a minimum

Mass gatherings like meetings, company parties, and training can cause the virus to spread rapidly if an asymptomatic person attends it. It is best to postpone such activities. If you need to gather for important announcements and training sessions, do it through video conferencing applications. There are a variety of free apps like the ever-popular Zoom and Skype.

If you and your workers need to be physically present, make sure there is enough space for each of you. Safe Work Australia recommends being at least 1.5 metres apart from each other. At least 4 square metres of space should be allocated for each person. Make sure to stagger training schedules as well to limit the number of people in the same area.

Limit the number of workers on-site

Speaking of staggering schedules, you should do the same for regular days as well. The number of employees on-site should depend on how large your workplace is. It should allow them to go about their work at least 1.5 metres apart. If possible, have your administrative staff work from home. Only essential workers should be on site. If some employees need to be closer together to achieve necessary tasks, look for ways to reduce the time they need to be in proximity to each other.

The same rules apply for break rooms. Employee meals should be staggered to ensure there is enough space in between each worker. Your site may have to work in a limited capacity. Your deadline will be pushed further down, so you should manage expectations with your clients.

Provide the Necessary PPE

worker with PPE

You also need workers to wear additional personal protective equipment on top of what they already have. Masks, such as the ones Badger Australia provides, are essential to minimise the droplets that workers expel and inhale. If possible, have workers wear face shields as well to protect their whole face. Here are some guidelines that you and your workers should follow when using a mask.

  • Your mask should be able to cover your nose and your whole mouth, down to your chin. It should be tight enough that it does not leave any gaps on its sides.
  • Avoid touching the mask. Only do so to adjust it to its correct position. Wash your hands with soap and water or sanitiser before and after touching it.
  • When removing the mask, make sure to touch it only by the straps on your ears or behind your head. Keep it away from your face while it is unwashed.
  • Clean the mask after use with soap and warm water. Wash your hands afterwards, too.
  • Never take off the mask when talking with people outside your household.
  • Do not use an unwashed mask. It should always be clean and dry before use.

The health effects of COVID-19 can range from a simple cough or flu-like symptoms to conditions that need hospitalisation. Its transmission from person to person is also quick and simple, as one only needs to inhale infected droplets to get infected themselves. As such, you should do all you can to protect workers from it by implementing proper social distancing measures and by having them wear additional personal protective equipment. These suggestions help keep your workers at a safe distance from each other and ensure that they are safe from contracting the virus during their stint at your site.

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