Construction Safety in the Age of COVID-19

As COVID-19 has impacted virtually every aspect of work and our daily lives, approaches to worksite safety in the construction industry have continued to adapt. Industry leaders are developing and deploying new strategies and technology tools to help address COVID-19 and maximize safety across worksites of all kinds.

Building Skills has focused for months on keeping our participants and stakeholder network informed regarding these developments. We are committed to safety and believe it is always worth reminding workers and employers of the importance of maintaining all traditional safety practices as well as staying on top of the latest protocols and tech advancements related to addressing COVID-19.

For comprehensive information on guidelines and best practices regarding COVID-19 and construction worksites, see OSHA’s guide to construction work here and New York State’s guidelines here.

To take a closer look at some key advancements across the industry on this front, here are several examples of how construction worksites have adapted to our new environment:

Safe Social Distancing 

When possible, all workers should remain at least six feet apart from each other at all times. To help monitor this, some companies are implementing technology to alert workers when they aren’t maintaining a safe social distance. The technology is wearable and able to maintain a log of interactions as well as the duration. Artificial intelligence and computer vision are also helping managers virtually observe social distance on worksites. Certain programs are able to detect crowd congestion of groups of more than ten people, notifying the supervisor of the crowding location for immediate dismissal.

Contactless Meetings

Before COVID-19, frequent onsite meetings and orientations were commonplace in the construction industry. Now, for some projects, companies are turning to contactless, virtual orientations prior to beginning work. This allows for workers to learn about the project and safety guidelines without breaking social distancing rules. Companies are still able to train a large number of people at once instead of hosting several in-person, smaller sessions. 

Active Symptom Monitoring

If you feel sick, you should remain home and self-quarantine. Your supervisor should be informed about any symptoms such as fever or chills, coughing, and shortness of breath. Certain companies are implementing new technology to make sure workers that do show up on site are healthy and not at-risk. For examples, virtual platforms allow employees to self-certify daily through health screenings. Such apps strengthen monitoring services by allowing supervisors to keep track of employees who report feeling COVID-19 symptoms early on. 

Personal Protective Equipment 2.0

Although personal protective equipment (PPE) is already a necessity in the construction field, certain modifications have been made amid COVID-19. Workers are mandated to wear coated gloves when on the job site. When working in areas of higher exposure risk, workers must wear masks, gaiters, and/or face shield with googles or spoggles. While cloth face coverings reduce the transmission of large respiratory droplets from talking, sneezing, or coughing, they are not considered PPE and should not be considered substitutes for surgical masks or respirators (such as N95 masks). PPE should be decontaminated after each use and sanitized before the next use.

Increased Sanitization Measures

The CDC has released thorough sanitization guidelines for construction employers to follow sitewide. To assist in this larger effort, you should eliminate shared tools whenever possible and sanitized after each use. If equipment must be shared, it should be cleaned with readily available disinfectant wipes or with mild soap and/or bleach sanitizer. Frequently touched surfaces, such as doorknobs and portable job site toilets should be disinfected regularly. Workers must continue washing their hands throughout the day to reduce disease transmission as well.