The Covid-19 pandemic has had a massive impact on every industry, not least the construction industry. Construction companies are caught in this awkward middle ground where they’re not able to shut down completely and so have to rethink their strategies of on-site safety.
We at Construction Guide appreciate the difficult position we’re all currently in, but we also understand that many construction companies have to keep going. To help with this we’ve compiled a list of the top safety strategies for managing your on-site team during the pandemic. However, we also look at some strategies for how to continue once things open up again.
How has construction been affected by Covid-19?
Although employee health and safety should be the top priority during the pandemic, it’s had a number of other effects on the construction industry. Some of the major issues we’re facing at the moment include:
While many firms are shutting down operations to ensure staff safety, not everyone has this option. The best advice at this time is to be proactive in your strategies but also flexible in your application, as we have to react to ever-changing situations as they unfold.
Below are our top tips on how to continue construction work during the pandemic while maintaining the appropriate level of on-site safety. While not all of these will work for every company, it’s worth using them as inspiration and adapting your work strategies to fit the circumstances.
As always, employee safety should be your top priority. This is even more important in a pandemic situation because an outbreak at work will result in more and more employees having to take time off while they self-isolate. If your intention is to keep going during the crisis, make sure you ramp up health and safety to compensate.
Be sure to establish new hygiene procedures, including regular hand-washing and sanitizing. Ensure your staff have face coverings if your local regulations state they need them, and make sure everyone is completely aware of your new procedures. It’s important that everyone is accountable for their behavior at this time.
Most importantly, though, be sure to look after everyone’s mental health too. This is an anxious time for everyone, particularly those still in work, or shortly returning to it. Communication is vital, so be sure your employees feel they can talk to you.
It’s vital to have a core team within your company who can be on hand to deal with any developing situations related to the pandemic. This includes being aware of any legal changes and safety regulations, and communicating these to staff as they arise.
You realistically don’t need to hire a completely new team for this. For example, if you have some employees on payroll who might not be able to work remotely, give them the task of researching construction developments.
Risk assessments are always important in the construction industry, but are more important than ever now. Investigate the potential impacts of the pandemic on your business and develop response strategies so you can manage the issues if they happen. This should include looking into your supply chain and putting measures in place to deal with any hold-ups should they happen.
While not all companies have access to regular testing, there are other ways to monitor your employees. These include daily wellbeing conversations to ask people about their current health, and then tracing their contact on-site. If anyone does develop symptoms, send them home immediately and inform everyone they might have worked with.
As we mentioned, there is currently a lot of anxiety because of the pandemic. You should ensure you communicate with all the stakeholders in the project to reassure them you’re doing everything possible. Inform them of any new developments or issues and establish regular update meetings.
Similarly, you should ensure your staff are kept up-to-date with everything that’s happening. Establish communication channels that go both ways so that staff can come to you if they have any concerns. As always, log any concerns and deal with them accordingly.
Providing your staff with an outlet for any concerns is an ideal way to maintain productivity. Many people are concerned simply because things are uncertain, and communicating these fears is an effective way to remove them completely.
Restricting movement on-site is one of the few ways you can manage spread of the virus. For example, restrict employees to a single area or site whenever possible, even if this means splitting teams in half. The less people mix, the less chance there is of spreading the virus. Assign someone a position and insist they stick to it.
Although people will be feeling anxious, this isn’t necessarily an excuse for lost productivity. You must still make sure things are moving ahead as planned, and that employees are sticking to the new regulations. Be sure staff are aware of any new areas they’re being monitored on and put procedures in place to deal with anyone not following the new rules.
If you’ve decided to monitor your construction project remotely, then ensure you have the best software possible to do so. We recommend a construction management tool that features real-time reporting and a communication tool so that everyone can remain connected while working remotely.
Although there’s no real end in sight for the pandemic, many companies are eager to get back to work. However, it’s never too early to begin developing strategies for effectively managing your sites once this is over. Here are our top suggestions for where you can start.
It’s very likely that social distancing rules will remain in place for a long time, and so it’s worth thinking how you’ll work around this in the future. Perhaps splitting teams in two would work, allowing you to send them to more locations. This will probably translate into smaller teams in greater numbers and hopefully won’t have a great impact on productivity.
Similarly, there will be less chopping and changing of team makeup, so you can manage this by building a team of a certain size and then keeping them that way. This should prevent people from mixing with new groups while on-site, but might prove difficult to maintain in some circumstances.
Wherever possible we’d recommend having staff work remotely, both now and in the future. While this is difficult for many areas of the construction industry, even removing a few people from the site will reduce the risk of infection.
You can also use this current potential down time to think how you might work this in the future. Perhaps a rotation of employees on-site would be most effective for you. The best thing to do is to plan strategies now so that you have time to test and develop them before they need to be put in place.
It’s definitely still too early to say how the pandemic will affect legal issues, but it’s vital to stay up to date with them. These will obviously vary by state, but there may also be federal developments you need to be aware of.
If you don’t already, it might make sense to employ someone on the administration side of things to research and communicate legal changes to the construction industry. We all know that Covid-19 will have far-reaching consequences and it’s best to plan whatever possible while you have some spare time on your hands.
Managing a construction site during a pandemic is no easy task. However, there are plenty of ways you can begin improving employee safety while maintaining productivity on-site. Most importantly, ensure your staff know about any changes you’re making and that they have a way to communicate with you and other managing bodies.
Construction Guide Team