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COVID-19 | Reopening of Construction Site

Use checklists to implement the hygiene and safety measures required by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Reopening construction sites during the Corona pandemic

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is being felt throughout the construction industry worldwide, presenting unprecedented challenges to the industry. Significant delays in construction operations, disrupted supply chains, labor shortages, permitting delays, contractual complications, and financing issues have been part of daily operations for numerous construction companies since the Corona pandemic.

Despite these challenges, nearly all companies in the construction industry have maintained their projects and adapted to the new situation. This brings a number of changes to the construction sector, some of which may remain for the long term. Maintaining operations under these circumstances will require the highest level of coordination and cooperation at all levels of the company to ensure that construction sites operate safely and in accordance with regulations.

With the removal of protective regulations, reopening and operating construction sites will once again become easier. For construction companies, this means regularly adapting guidelines to reduce the risk of transmission to workers to the current situation. The scope of the guidelines will depend on the size and nature of the construction site and the work to be done. In preparing them, contractors should follow state, local, and federal guidelines.

This article addresses the following issues:

1. Checklists to guide site reopening

2. 7 focus areas in COVID-19 prevention

3. Digital checklists for reopening worksites

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Checklists to guide reopening of construction sites

Checklists make it easier for construction companies to implement and monitor the necessary safety and hygiene measures during the Corona pandemic on construction sites. Step by step, all points from the catalog of specifications can be worked through with the checklist. In this way, no point is forgotten and problems in implementation are discovered immediately. During construction work, audit checklists can be used to regularly check whether hygiene and safety measures are being adhered to.

Construction companies face difficult issues that need to be addressed when reopening, resuming or continuing normal operations. To address all conditions on construction sites, a multi-layered approach must be taken that redefines the way companies and their employees work. Appropriate checklists for reopening should consider, among other things, the following questions:

  1. How can the health and safety of workers best be protected?
  2. What communication is needed to inform everyone of the hygiene and safety measures being taken?
  3. What measures can be taken to minimize the risk of infection?
  4. How can regular cleaning and disinfection of surfaces with high contact density be implemented?
  5. What training is required for employees?
  6. How can the updating and monitoring of hygiene and protection measures be organized?

7 Focus Areas of COVID-19 Prevention on Construction Sites

When operating construction sites under Corona conditions, comprehensive planning is key to ensuring the safety of construction workers and managing operations in compliance with local and international health and safety regulations. Here are the 7 key areas managers should focus on to effectively manage risk:

#1: Establish firm on-site operating procedures (SOP)

Before construction begins, it is critical to review the phases of construction, the associated risks, and the steps necessary to comply with regulatory requirements. With reliably formulated operating procedures, project managers have a good starting point for risk assessments to Covid-19 standards and creating revised operating procedures to determine exactly what controls and safeguards are needed to mitigate risks.

#2: Safety of the workforce and their families

The focus of operating a construction site under Corona conditions should be the safety of the employee. It is important to develop a strategy for getting projects done while ensuring that employees are safe on the job and return home in good health. Appropriate safety measures should be put in place for the identified risks, such as improved ventilation, the installation of a mobile canteen with given spacing, additional sanitation and facilities, and the provision of personal protective equipment (PPE) against COVID-19 infections. It would also be good for companies to involve their workforce to better assess how to protect their employees and their families.

#3: Implementation of social distancing

The need for social distancing will likely continue for a long time. This can lead to lower productivity, but is essential if a company is to continue to operate despite the pandemic. To do so, worksite activities and processes must be changed. Work must be carefully planned to ensure adequate spacing, usually at least 2 meters, between workgroups and individuals. Other measures that can be implemented include staggered work shifts and breaks, the use of personnel elevators or elevators, and the assignment of isolation rooms for individuals with symptoms.

#4: Site walk-through and equipment inspection

When construction sites, and therefore equipment, are not in use during a temporary project shutdown, there may be an increased risk for accidents on the site. Site inspections and equipment inspections give project managers and safety officers a clearer picture of conditions and allow them to identify the necessary measures to control risk. Site inspection checklists make it easier to document the walk-through and determine corrective actions during the inspection.

#5: Intensify cleaning activities

The intervals for cleaning and disinfecting tools and equipment will have to be increased on construction sites in the future. In addition, more areas will be cleaned and disinfected than before. For this, protocols should be established to schedule cleaning activities and minimize the disruption of activities. Also, communication should not be neglected to ensure that all staff is aware of their individual responsibilities for maintaining cleanliness within the facility.

#6: Contractual obligations with contractors and subcontractors

Project managers should review contracts with contractors and subcontractors, paying particular attention to force majeure provisions that allow work to be interrupted during events such as a pandemic. The impact of COVID-19, particularly in terms of supply chain disruption, is devastating, so claims should be filed where appropriate.

#7: Regulatory compliance

While the pandemic has caused some delays in regulatory requirements, such as annual inspections, it has not completely exempted contractors from them. It is still the contractor's responsibility to ensure that it complies with laws and regulations governing its operations, as well as new requirements related to the pandemic. These include guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

It is important for construction companies to document efforts related to combating and containing the virus to support the company's position should a recourse claim be made. The documentation also serves as a basis for learning from the Corona crisis to better position risk management in the future for health risks.

Use digital checklists for hygiene plans on construction sites

The Corona pandemic is particularly challenging for the construction industry because work has continued throughout despite lockdowns. This makes it all the more important to properly implement hygiene and safety measures to protect against infection. Implementing all measures using analog checklists is a challenge with vulnerabilities and loss of information. Tracking developments, making updates and implementing measures is easier with a digital application. It's also easier to implement training and preventive measures by sharing all the related information digitally with all employees.

With Lumiform's mobile app, the hygiene plan for a construction site can be simply checked via tablet or smartphone - online or offline. With the desktop software, checklists are created and, in retrospect, the collected data is evaluated. This significantly reduces the risk of information loss and documentation errors. Clean, transparent documentation helps to meet all the requirements of a hygy concept for construction sites.

With Lumiform's digital solution, safety managers play it safe in hygiene planning by taking advantage of the following benefits, among others:

  • With the flexible form construction kit, they create individual checklists for construction sites within minutes, which can be updated at any time.
  • Provide methods for implementing health advice or safety measures digitally as a checklist.
  • Save time by making it easier to analyze all data and more quickly identify areas for improvement.
  • Have the hygiene plan at hand at all times - online and offline.
  • Emergency drills and training are completed circa 30%-50% faster overall, depending on the scope.

To make it easier for contractors and site managers to continue safe operations in the midst of a global pandemic, we've put together some templates to help get started. All templates are adaptable to in-house and regulatory requirements at any time - no programming knowledge is required.

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