Construction Site Safety Practices Evolve During Covid-19 Pandemic

How can construction sites maximize safety during the Covid-19 pandemic? A new column in the Philadelphia Business Journal offers lessons and best-practices from Philadelphia-area job ites.

According to the column, that city’s chapter of the General Building Contractors Association started putting together safety protocols early in the pandemic, and took input from other industry stakeholders like the Building Trades Safety Committee, Med-Tex Services, and the Eastern Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters. The coalition met via weekly digital conferences to identify key safety issues and how to deal with them. Said one member of the group, “In a matter of weeks, the group put together a program that every building trades member and contractor in the region, or anywhere in the country, could use.”

Their best practices covered areas such as social distancing procedures, health screenings, and the use of personal protective equipment; it drew from official guidance from federal, state, and city health authorities, as well as from private organizations like the Mayo Clinic and Penn Health. The column notes that the group’s Covid-19 preparedness assessment “was validated by the City of Philadelphia’s Department of Licenses and Inspections (L&I) as an acceptable certification for Pandemic Safety Officers, who L&I requires to be on every active jobsite.” It shared its resources with its members in both the US and in Canada, translating them into Spanish and French.

As the column notes, the group’s Covid-19 online training and certification materials are accessible to everyone in the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, in addition to other trades and stakeholders. The training, which reportedly has been completed by almost 40,000 professionals, is available here. “In an industry that continued essential work even in the early days, we haven’t seen any work-related cases or cluster cases of Covid-19,” Hoyt Emmons, a consultant at Med-Tex Services, told the Philadelphia Business Journal, “showing that when everyone is committed to making safety a priority, we can protect ourselves and each other.”

Some of the lessons offered by the group of stakeholders includes: a renewed focus on safety instead of competition; a consideration on site-specific risk factors, such as the need for enhanced PPE in sites where workers cannot socially distance; consistent and clear communication; the consistent reinforcement of safety measures by multiple organizational leaders; and the recognition of the successful implementation of safety measures whenever possible. More information on the GBCA’s Covid-19 training is available here.

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