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Construction Project Safety- Tips for Operating Safely during the Pandemic

 Construction Project Safety- Tips for Operating Safely during the Pandemic


The pandemic has brought significant challenges for the construction companies across the globe. A majority of them are struggling to find their footing even as the restrictions are lifted and projects are coming back on track. There are several challenges that every construction firm has to deal with during this phase when the virus is still rampant. Right now, you would want to continue projects and meet the new deadlines. At the same time, employee health and wellbeing is a matter of concern. 

Additionally, there would be challenges like change orders, delays, labour shortages and inconsistent data and recommendations to deal with. With so much happening around, it becomes imperative to have a risk mitigation and safety plan in place in addition to the strategy to handle the regular operational tasks and challenges. Here are some helpful tips for managing a construction project while matching COVID-19 complications and problems. 

Build a Culture of Trust and Credibility


When it comes to dealing with the impact of the pandemic, businesses need to go above and beyond with the health and wellbeing of their employees. Apart from safety from the infection, job security is another concern that will be at the top of their minds. At this stage, nothing matters more than building a culture of trust and credibility so that people stay with you and give their best to ensure the completion of projects. 

Prioritising a positive and professional environment that fosters trust makes it easier for businesses to implement response plans and processes for protecting employees and clients. Mutual trust encourages people to communicate and collaborate, which can go a long way in making projects successful. At the same time, it makes them more safety-conscious so that they go the extra mile to protect themselves and their colleagues from exposure. 

The process of building a culture of trust and credibility starts at the top. Leaders need to understand the value of engaging the employees and supporting those in the field. Automating processes with a construction management software solution can help support a safety-driven culture. It enables you to bring everyone on the same page, which creates a consistent culture and a proper response plan for cutting down the exposure risk for the employees, subcontractors, clients and the community as a whole. 

Establish Clear Communication Lines


Undoubtedly, excellent communication is vital for any company, but it is more important than ever now. Keeping the lines of communication open between your team, clients and trade partners can be significant for the timely completion of already delayed projects. First things first, you must designate a primary communications representative for each project to deliver all communications to all the stakeholders. Also, you need to implement a proper communications medium for sharing updated safety policies, procedures and changes.

Even better, you can use a project management software that has features to facilitate seamless communication between teams, clients and subcontractors. Apart from the exchange of project-related information, it would be best if you also communicated the measures related to the COVID-response plan implemented by your business. Here, it is also valuable to set clear expectations on communication from anyone who has been exposed to or tested positive for the virus. 

Work Remotely Wherever Possible


Although construction projects are restarting during the pandemic, it is best to work with the minimum number of people in the field. The idea is to let employees work remotely when possible because some are not actually needed on site. The practice can go a long way in promoting social distancing and preventing the spread of the virus, given its contagious nature. 

The project managers can play a significant role in this context- they need to identify the on-site personnel who have such job functions and responsibilities that can be completed remotely. Any person who is deemed not necessary on the construction site should be allowed to work from home. Also, managers should ensure adherence to gathering limits and schedule workers smartly to enforce proper social distancing in all work shifts. 

Create a Backup Plan


It is also a project manager’s responsibility to come up with a viable backup plan that has them covered during a contingency. Ensure that you have backup personnel for replacing essential resources if they fall sick or have to take leave for possible quarantine situations. You cannot afford the project to stall just because a critical employee is not available.

Besides a plan B for substituting the employees, you would also need one for making up for shortages of equipment and supplies. Stay in touch with the suppliers and equipment procurement organisations and discuss the “what-if” situations well in advance. You would not want the delivery dates to be impacted, and in case they are, you should know how to manage the challenges and procure alternatives. 

Ensure Adherence to Social Distancing Regulations 


Another aspect of ensuring successful and timely completion of construction projects in the pandemic era is adherence to social distancing regulations. Primarily, you need to make sure that people are at least six feet apart everywhere, at work areas, break areas, meetings and offices. Moreover, any gathering should be limited to a maximum of ten people, and virtual interactions should be encouraged. 

Practices like staggering shifts to cut down the number of workers, dividing work areas into zones to curb workers in each zone and segregating break times and locations can help. If possible, you can also consider designating entrance and exit locations for segregating different populations such as employees, clients and subcontract partners. These simple measures can be highly effective for mitigating the risk of exposure on the job site. 

Establish Clear Rules 


While you need to have proper safety measures for the people on-site, managing visitors is equally essential during the outbreak. Allowing visitors to a site opens up the risk of getting in the virus unknowingly. Consider restricting them from job sites unless they have proper health checks along with prior approval of the project manager. Allow access to only essential visitors on-site, even if they are client visitors. Right now, it is also necessary to review all deliveries before arrival on-site and ensure that adequate safety measures have been taken in transit.

Travel is another risk factor for the spread of COVID-19. It is equally important to have clear standards to manage people travelling for business and personal reasons. Permit business travel only if it is critical to business continuity. Even if they have to travel, train the employees about measures for limiting potential exposure while travelling. Discourage personal travel and ask people to review and postpone their plans for the safety of their families, co-workers and community as a whole. 

Train People on Cleaning Etiquette 


As people have seen the worst, they will surely have a fair idea of the personal hygiene measures for combating the spread of the infection. It is still worth providing further training and education to the employees, clients and subcontractors. Encourage frequent hand washing by having more handwashing stations on the worksite. Educate them about the importance of doing it the right way as well. 

Since the virus can survive on surfaces for extended periods, daily and frequent site cleaning is mandatory for all firms and projects. Have a trained cleaning and sanitising team that is responsible for wiping common areas, construction tools and work platforms, office and trailer interiors and common areas in break rooms after each use and multiple times daily. 

Have a Protocol for Handling Symptomatic Employees


Since the virus is rampant right now, you can expect one or more people in the team to get infected during this phase. So it makes sense to have a clear protocol for handling symptomatic employees and convey it to everyone on board the project. Any person who is unwell or showing any symptoms should stay home. If the person happens to come for work, send them back immediately and communicate the information to their supervisor and project manager.

If the infected person has been in contact with others, contact tracing and quarantining anyone in contact should also be done. The protocol should also include thorough cleaning and sterilisation of the site. Ideally, the infected worker should be recommended to stay quarantined for 3–14 days depending on the severity of symptoms and diagnosis. Exclude all the sick and symptomatic employees from the project until they are fit and symptom-free.

The situation right now is uncertain and confusing for construction companies. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to safeguard your employees, clients and business. Still, the right safety precautions can make all the difference to the safety and success of your project and business. At the same time, you need to realign your processes and operations too. An advanced construction project management software solution can be of great help in this context.  Seeking cooperation from the stakeholders is also vital, which they would surely be happy to do because they would want the project completed successfully as much as you would.

Summary

The pandemic has brought unprecedented challenges for the construction industry. Even as businesses resume projects at the end of the lockdowns, they need to implement proper safety measures, and response plans to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the employees, clients and subcontractors. Here are some useful tips that can help in this context and ensure completion of projects on time and in adherence with the quality specifications. 


About the author:

The author is a construction project manager with Zepth and has a flair for writing as well. Since She has a rich experience in working on construction projects of diverse sizes and scales, she likes sharing them as articles on leading blogs and online platforms.