How to Minimize Construction Site Dangers During the Pandemic In New York
Now that we know that the COVID-19 pandemic will be around for another year or two, we must make sure that all construction site employers follow the best safety guidelines. To help meet this challenge, OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration) has created detailed workplace recommendations.
Since these guidelines are rather comprehensive, it will help to review them based on each of the specific construction safety topics they address. Both employers and workers must alter many past work practices to keep everyone safe from COVID-19 and regular construction site dangers.
Subjects addressed include the need to create multiple teams and shifts, asking everyone about whether they are free of COVID-19 symptoms, distributing PPE (personal protective equipment) as needed, and helping workers keep their hands sanitized throughout the day.
At the start of each new workday, construction site managers should walk around the entire work area, looking for any new or unreported dangers. They must carefully evaluate all possible new risks before anyone can begin work. Proper air ventilation must be provided in every part of a construction site.
- Recording worker attendance, handling meetings, lunch breaks and more
- No workers should be allowed to start work who have any common symptoms of COVID-19. A list of these pandemic symptoms should be posted at work and a copy given to all employees.
- Attendance records must be kept in a manner that minimizes physical Sign-in sheets must no longer be used since too many hands touch and share them. Once employees have arrived and want to document their presence, the employer should simply call out their names and mark them present.
- Worker training must be provided. Gathering in groups of less than 10 (or by providing required online tutorials, all workers must be shown how to use their PPE properly. They must also be shown how to cover their mouths if they suddenly cough – aiming their mouths toward the inside of an elbow.
- Delivery workers, subcontractors, and all others must be questioned about possible COVID-19 infections or symptoms. Since employers have a duty to keep all their employees as safe as possible, they must ask all those who want to enter a worksite to answer some COVID-19 screening questions.
- Lunch breaks should be held at staggered times to help with social distancing. It is best that no more than 10 workers eat at the same time. They should all practice social distancing, remaining at least six feet apart.
- Ice chests should no longer be used to keep worker beverages cold. All employees must keep their beverages in individual plastic or other types of containers.
- Hand sanitizer stations must be set up all around the construction site. Since running water is often unavailable for workers to wash their hands as needed, employers should provide adequate sanitizer dispensers and hand wipes.
- All indoor and outdoor toilets must be cleaned with proper, EPA-approved cleansers throughout the day. This includes cleaning the outside door handles.
- Creation of two or more separate teams of workers – and shifts — for each project
- Whenever possible, employers should create two teams of dedicated workers for every project. That way, if one team must be quarantined, the other team can step in and take over.
- Two or more work shifts should be created. This will make it easier for workers to socially distance from each other. Should COVID-19 spread among workers during a shift, the other shifts of workers can still come in and handle tasks.
- Teams of workers must clean all shared forms of PPE (personal protection equipment) used at the start of each shift. If the same tools must be used during multiple shifts, those must also be cleaned at the start of each new shift.
- Chokepoints – or work areas where many employees must pass by each other – must be eliminated as much as possible. Employers must make sure that only a few workers walk down any given hallway close in time – and only one or two socially distancing employees should ride on an elevator together.
III. Work & vehicle routines that can help minimize the spread of COVID-19
- Sharing rides to work should either be discontinued – or limited to no more than two people traveling together. Masks should be worn and adequate air ventilation within the vehicle must be maintained.
- Workers must completely remove all construction site clothes upon getting home. Employees should be told to put on clean clothes each day. Wearing the same socks, jeans and undergarments will increase the chances of carrying germs to and from the worksite.
- All work vehicles should be cleaned and sanitized at the end of every shift.
- N95 and other respirators must be used sparingly. However, workers operating in extremely dusty areas – or working around hazardous chemicals — must always be provided with the safest respirators required for each task.
- Types of PPE that should be provided to all workers – or at least required
- Face masks designed to cover the mouth and nose. All employees should always wear these, while working at least six feet apart. If the work or area temperature causes masks or face coverings to become quickly damp or soiled, employers should provide all the new clean ones required.
- Eye goggles or face shields should be encouraged, especially if job assignments involve considerable dust and flying debris. All drilling, jackhammering, cutting, and breaking of materials should be kept to a minimum to lower the spread of dust particles.
- Workers must be asked to wear appropriate gloves whenever possible.
- Hardhats or helmets. Employers should consider supplying these and purchasing the kind that provide highly protective visors that protect worker eyes.
Periodic project or task delays may sometimes become necessary
When indoor or outdoor construction work is causing a rapid spread of COVID-19, quarantine practices must be put into place. Furthermore, construction management must remain ready to halt non-emergency construction projects when they prove too hazardous to worker health.
If you have suffered a serious construction site accident injury, be sure to contact our New York City construction accident law firm. We will carefully investigate the facts of your case and then fight hard to win the maximum compensation available. Our firm wants every client to fully recover for all lost wages, pain and suffering, medical expenses, and other losses.