Construction Sites and COVID-19

Updated April 13, 2020


COVID-19 has changed the jobsite. Contractors need to work with owners to identify potential risks on each site during construction activities and develop a safety plan for their employees, visitors and inspectors. Contractors need to review and enhance their infection control plans to include awareness, training, and use of personal protective equipment.

NFSA surveyed several contractors in the past few days. Below are some of the practices and precautions being used and implemented across jobsites:

  • Review and adjust project schedules to allow for social distancing, including staggered work scheduling and extra shifts to physically separate employees working on site.
  • Develop a written policy with provisions to inform employees and for enforcement.
  • Complete a health survey prior to entering a work site.
  • Conduct job site safety briefings remotely and do not report to construction trailers.
  • Provide facilities and procedures for proper disposal and removal of used cleaning and PPE supplies.
  • Eliminate coffee and lunch trucks and use of centralized gathering or eating areas. Advise employees to bring their own food, drink, and utensils.
  • Encourage employees to change and wash clothing when they get home or to use on site facilities, if available.
  • Prepare additional contingency plans for potential reduction in work force, limited material supplies, or the need to suspend a job site for cleaning.
  • Plan for maintaining job sites safely and securely during any shut down periods, including from fires during construction and potential exposure hazards.
  • Work with owners and facility managers to ensure essential ITM work is continued, systems remain in service, and impairments continue to be addressed immediately.
  • Work with building and fire officials to schedule plan reviews, permitting, and field inspections.
  • Review and comply with OSHA requirements for employers to prevent employee exposure to the virus including PPE standards requiring gloves, goggles or safety glasses, face protection, and respiratory protection.

The CDC has not made specific recommendations for the construction industry regarding COVID exposures; however, the published best practices include:

  • Monitor and follow WHO/CDC/OSHA recommendations.
  • Monitor and follow federal, state, and local government recommendations.
  • Practice social distancing as recommended by the CDC to include maintaining a six-foot distance, no shaking hands, no gathering of more than ten people, covering mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing, and avoid touching your face.
  • Stay home if you are sick.
  • Provide a process to recognize and remove sick employees.
  • Provide facilities for and encourage frequent hand washing and sanitizing.
  • Allow and encourage employees to work from home where possible.
  • Provide additional resources and technology to assist remote employees.
  • Cancel in person meetings and shift meetings to online.
  • Only allow essential employees in the office and on job sites
  • Eliminate visitors.
  • Eliminate travel.
  • Make provisions for additional cleaning including restrooms, equipment, tools, and commonly touched areas.

 

Critical Infrastructure Workers. Additionally, the CDC has issued new interim guidance which could affect NFSA companies which have employees working as “critical infrastructure workers” under the CISA Memorandum on Identification of Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers During COVID-19 Response. The new interim guidance applies only to “critical infrastructure workers” under the CISA memo who have potentially been exposed to COVID-19 and remain asymptomatic. Employers should also continue to implement the recommendations in the CDC’s Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019 for guidance on other COVID-19 issues.

For the sake of this guidance, “exposure” means household or close contact (i.e. whether at work or any other location) within 6 feet of an individual who has been confirmed to have or is suspected of having COVID-19. This definition should extend to contact up to 48 hours before the potentially infected individual started showing symptoms.

For employers confronted only with these specific circumstances, the CDC advises that such employees may be allowed to continue working only as long as they remain asymptomatic and only if the employer implements the following five precautionary steps:

  1. Pre-Screen: Employers should measure the employee’s temperature and assess symptoms prior to them starting work. Ideally, temperature checks should happen before the individual enters the facility.
  2. Regular Monitoring: As long as the employee doesn’t have a temperature or symptoms, they should self-monitor under the supervision of their employer’s occupational health program.
  3. Wear a Mask: The employee should wear a face mask at all times while in the workplace for 14 days after last exposure. Employers can issue facemasks or can approve employees’ supplied cloth face coverings in the event of shortages.
  4. Social Distance: The employee should maintain 6 feet and practice social distancing as work duties permit in the workplace.
  5. Disinfect and Clean work spaces: Clean and disinfect all areas such as offices, bathrooms, common areas, shared electronic equipment routinely.

Again, this new guidance pertains only to employees working as “critical infrastructure workers” potentially exposed to COVID-19 and not presenting symptoms of the virus. Read more on the CDC’s interim guidance here.