By now, most of us are starting to get accustomed to what is being referred to as “the new normal” – a daily routine consisting of social distancing (6 feet), wearing face coverings in public (or at least enclosed spaces) and washing hands more regularly (minimum 20 seconds). For some of us, these safety practices are becoming somewhat habitual, and while that is a good thing considering the fact that many states are reopening, not everyone is following the guidelines. As the economy reopens, much of the population is feeling a little more relaxed as the quarantine phase of life is lifting, but not everyone is on the same page as to what is considered “safe”.
In the workplace, people who are not able to do their jobs remotely may be asked to return to work after they have spent months staying home, avoiding people, places and any sort of contact. This brings up a lot of questions (and sometimes anxiety) around the safety of businesses and workers alike, as not everyone feels safe returning to the office or field.
While restrictions are loosening across the country, this is certainly not a time to loosen your safety standards. It is quite the opposite; if anything, you should be more clear about new safety expectations on the job, as well as make the added safety standards enforceable. The idea of being relaxed or holding less restrictions is not ever really an option on a construction site. The safety of your employees, crews and clients should always be a top priority as a roofing contractor, before, during and after this pandemic passes.
In response to the coronavirus pandemic, OSHA has made an effort to provide guidance for employers and businesses within a variety of sectors by publishing basic tips for staying safe under these uncertain conditions. Based on OSHA’s latest guidelines, and as published in their newest document entitled COVID-19 Guidance for the Construction Workforce, here are tips for reducing the risk of exposure to Covid-19:
- Stay Home When Sick – Although this goes without saying, employers should encourage workers to stay home if they are sick.
- Wear Face Coverings – Allow (and encourage) workers to wear masks, especially indoors and when social distancing is not an option.
- Maintain Regular Safety Controls – Continue to use normal control measures that you already have in place for safety on the job; this includes personal protective equipment (PPE) necessary to protect workers from other job hazards associated with construction activities.
- Stay Socially Distant – Make sure employees avoid physical contact with others, including keeping personal space to at least six feet between employees/contractors/visitors, on-site, in the office and in work trailers.
- Provide PPE Training – It is important to not assume that your team members already know how to use and handle masks, gloves, etc. Take the time to train workers on how to properly put on, use/wear, and take off protective clothing and equipment.
- Address Etiquette – According to the CDC, coronavirus spreads when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks, and droplets from their mouth or nose are launched into the air and land in the mouths or noses of people nearby. For this reason, it is important to review proper respiratory etiquette with crews and team members, including covering coughs and sneezes.
- Promote Personal Hygiene – This can be a touchy subject, but it is necessary to address hygiene and should not be viewed as a personal statement on anybody’s “cleanliness”. Keeping hands clean is something that must simply become standard practice, and if employees do not have immediate access to soap and water for hand washing on the job site, it is the employer’s responsibility to provide alcohol-based sanitizing solution (minimum 60% alcohol) to keep hands clean.
- Use Environmental Protection Agency-approved Cleaning Chemicals – All cleaning products listed on the EPA “List N” or that have verified label claims against the coronavirus are acceptable for cleaning surfaces and shared tools/appliances.
- Clean Tools – When tools or equipment must be shared, there is a risk of transferring the virus. For this reason, provide and instruct workers to use alcohol-based wipes to clean tools before and after using shared equipment and as per the manufacturer’s recommendations.
- Limit In-person Meetings – When you simply cannot “Zoom” your meeting or conduct it remotely, OSHA suggests keeping in-person meetings (including toolbox talks and safety meetings) as short as possible, as well as limiting the number of workers in attendance and practicing social distancing.
- Keep It Clean – Job site toilets, shared spaces and frequently touched items (i.e., door handles, toilet seats, water dispensers) should be cleaned and disinfected on a regular basis. Hand sanitizer dispensers (preferably touchless) should be checked and refilled as needed.
- Report Health Concerns – Many people are worried about their job stability should they report not feeling well, or tension on the job due to reporting others who may be exhibiting signs of illness. It is better to be proactive on this matter and have the difficult discussion with your team about why it is important to report and how to report any health and safety concerns in a safe and constructive manner.
To learn more about OSHA’s guidelines as they relate to the current pandemic, as well as have a printable copy to share with your crews and employees, visit OSHA’s publications. To ensure that your team members are safe on the job, contact Brauner Safety Services to strengthen your safety training program and secure roofing safety equipment for your crews.
DISCLAIMER: The information provided on this website is for general educational purposes only and does not constitute legal or other professional advice or guidance. Moreover, the information provided may not be accurate for circumstances or equipment at an individual facility or specific work site. The author takes no responsibility whatsoever for any person’s/entity’s use of or application of information provided on this website.