How to Work through COVID-19 If You're a Specialty Contractor

Dominic Delfino imageDominic Delfino  •  

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, many businesses around the world are limiting in-person work. Construction projects, however, typically require nearly everyone involved to be at the jobsite, either to perform their job or to check that work is done correctly.

Whether you’re managing on-site teams remotely or going on-site yourself, here’s how to keep you and your team safe and productive during COVID-19.

Ensure a safe workplace

Generally, construction workers at most sites do not need overly special precautions beyond those already used to protect them from the hazards they encounter during their routine job tasks. But COVID-19 can be spread easily person-to-person as well as by touching a surface that has the virus on it and then touching your own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes — a reminder to stop touching your face!

Here are five steps to limit the spread of COVID-19 on the jobsite.

1. Screen everyone’s medical records

Anyone who has serious chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes, lung disease, and mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety are more prone to serious complications when dealing with the coronavirus. Identify high-risk employees and refer to trained medical professionals for next steps.

2. Have everyone wear masks & gloves

Wearing a mask can keep you from getting the virus and from giving it to others if you don’t know you have it. Crew members don’t necessarily need N95 masks, so consider asking them to make their own at home. As to gloves, request your crew members wear their heavy-duty work gloves at all times on-site. Advise them to bleach wash them for the next day when they go home.

3. Keep temperature logs

At the start of each day, ensure every crew member has their temperature taken before going to work. It’s all about structure and making sure employees know the date that the system is being implemented, what it will look like, and why — no one likes being caught off-guard, even if it’s just a temperature check.

You should take and log crew members’ temperatures three times a day — morning, afternoon, and at the end of the day. Infrared digital thermometers can be used to measure temperature by holding the thermometer over the central forehead approximately 3 cm from the body surface.

4. Secure six-foot markers at workstations

When someone coughs or sneezes, tiny near-invisible drops spray out. If you’re standing too close, you can breathe them in. Those droplets could contain the coronavirus if the person coughing is infected. Six feet is far enough to be out of reach.

Obviously, having a mask and gloves on will lessen the chance of these droplets entering your crew members’ systems, as well.

Delegate crew members to measure out and tape off their work areas six feet apart. Consider setting up cones as well.

5. Clean all areas on-site

Though the coronavirus is spreading mostly via person-to-person contact, people can also catch it from surfaces.

Use a mechanical sprayer or thermal fogger that mists disinfectant into the air before wiping all surfaces down. It’s enough to clean frequently with soap, alcohol, or bleach-based products.

Consider equipping every crew member with a spray bottle of bleach water or disinfectant and a rag. Completely wipe down every work area before and after shifts.

Stay safe!

Some things you can do if you’re working off-site

As limiting as being off-site can be for a construction manager, there could be opportunities to catch up and get ahead if you’re able to WFH. Here are a few ways to make the most of your time when you can’t be on-site.

  1. Nurture your professional network, finding your people online now so you can reach out to them when you need them
  2. Pre-populate punch list items
  3. List out pre-task items for concrete pours
  4. Make sure everyone has reviewed and understands drawings, flagging any information gaps
  5. Check due dates of tasks to understand priorities
  6. Establish a daily meeting
  7. Work on submittal and RFI log maintenance
  8. Manage accounting and change orders
  9. Do resource leveling and clean up projects with three-week look-aheads
  10. Review vendor submittals and product data for compliance with project specifications
  11. Review shop drawings for compliance with project drawings and specifications
  12. Check that as-built drawings are up to date based on approved RFIs resulting in design modifications
  13. Coordinate with other on-site teams for schedule updates and critical equipment delivery dates
  14. Coordinate with facilities or end-users to schedule planned process shutdowns
  15. Perform area, equipment, and material take-offs for preparing estimates

More ways to prepare your construction company and yourself

Beyond securing safe and coronavirus-free jobsites, there are several steps you can take to prepare for potential impacts from COVID-19.

  • In preparation for increased absenteeism, cross-train employees to handle other functions
  • Encourage workers to develop contingency plans for child care in the event of long-term closures of schools and daycare centers.
  • Clarify or amend sick-leave policies and encourage work-from-home for all employees who can be productive working off-site
  • Communicate potential delays to customers due to coronavirus-related issues
  • Streamline workflows with a task and project management solution, consolidating site information to a single source of truth so you can plan and work in real-time

Fieldwire allows construction teams to communicate and collaborate in real-time, on-site and remotely. Click to schedule a demo.

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