Construction Site COVID-19 Protocols
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The COVID-`19 pandemic finds business and industry scrambling to do whatever it takes to ensure worker and public safety. Each industry has its issues as well as those in common with the general populace. Most industries associations have contacted the provincial and federal governments and related health organizations for guidance and instruction. On March 27, 2020, The Canadian Construction Association (CCA) responded with the “COVID-19 Standardized Protocols for All Canadian Construction Sites.” This document recommends the best practises and protocols to use on all Canadian construction sites.
It outlines three main priorities: Prevention, Detection, and Response
Prevention is the most important directive for all citizens across the globe. The more that can be done to prevent the range of this pandemic, the better. We need to slow the spread so that our health care teams can handle the illness and help those with the most threatening conditions. As far as prevention goes, the primary directives are the same everywhere: wash your hands, don’t touch your face, cough into your sleeve and social distance. However, there are some recommendations specific to the Construction Industry. The CCA recommends that expectations be clearly communicated so that all stakeholders are aware. Specific signage will be posted at entry points on the construction site and outline the commitment of the Contractor to maintain health and safety during the COVID-19 crisis. Worksite policies are communicated to workers and made available on site. All workers are to follow recommended practises set out by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), Health Canada and the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention. Some practises less known for construction sites include using non-medical face masks as a potential mitigant to giving or catching the virus. Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces, including reusable personal protective equipment (PPE). Do not share any personal items, including PPE (if necessary, to share, sanitize between uses). Use/remove PPE with care being cautious of surfaces that could be contaminated. Do not forget to WASH THOSE HANDS!
Contractors are encouraged to forgo any business-related travel, allow work at home options when viable, access and monitor the status of workers. The CCA recommends varying start and stop times, staggering lunches and breaks, and working at the recommended distance protocols. If workers must be closer than the 2-metre standard, workers are asked to wear face masks and any additional PPE that can add to their safety. The construction site is to be segregated to whatever extent is possible to keep crews and trades apart. Additional sanitary measures are to be implemented. Commonly touched surfaces disinfected between users and end of shifts. Eating is to be done only in designated areas, and upper limits will be put on areas such as lunch/break rooms. Delivery zones are to be clearly identified, and outside personnel are not allowed on site: no coffee and lunch trucks.
Detection is the second directive that the CCA has initiated. It calls for COVID-19 screening at the entry point of the construction site. At entry, workers must confirm they do not show any flu-like symptoms they have not been outside of Canada in the past 14 days, have no contact with anyone who has COVID-19 nor been on a site shut down because of the virus. People who are at high risk of illness are not permitted on site. Workers not authorized to access the site are to be safely transported back home or to a designated isolation site. If needed, a vehicle and driver will be provided. Both driver and worker will wear face masks and any other sanitation protocols available. The passenger wIll ride in the back seat opposite the driver. If a COVID-19 case is suspected or detected, a response protocol is initiated.
Response is the final directive set out by CCA, and specific protocols are outlined. If any worker shows signs of illness similar to the flu, they are not to come to work, advise their supervisor or human resource rep, and stay home to self-isolate. Contact the local health authority and follow their recommendations. If this happens on-site, workers are to return home immediately and self isolate. Any location contaminated will be barricaded and sanitized appropriately. If required, the Contractor will complete an integrated continuity plan to respond to partial or complete shut down of the site.
The construction industry has always made workplace health and safety a priority. With the rapid changes required to address the issues surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, the construction industry welcomed the support and recommendations developed by the Canadian Construction Association and Canadian Health organizations. Information regarding COVID-19 changes daily. We will continue to monitor publications and directives and initiate changes to keep our workers and local communities safe.