The coronavirus pandemic continues to have a profound and global impact on many aspects of everyday life – the need to adapt has become the new norm. COVID-19 is changing the way we do business too, with social distancing reconceiving how transactions take place; how we interact with customers and collaborate with colleagues; and the way that products and services are delivered.
 
The significant economic impact of this pandemic has made keeping people in jobs a national priority. As Australia’s third largest employment sector there is considerable focus on boosting construction – enabling this industry to continue employing people, whilst placing equal emphasis on keeping this workforce safe.
 
Here we uncover five ways construction industry businesses can help to prevent the spread of illness within the workplace.
 
1. Physical distancing
 
Most of us have come to terms with maintaining 1.5m of space (or physical distance) as we go about our personal lives – but navigating these “no-longer physical” interactions in our work environments can be a little more complex.
 
In the construction industry physical distancing may seem simple on small residential construction sites, with small workforces and relatively few overlapping trades. But what does this look like on larger developments and major projects – and how can it be implemented? Here are some ways to encourage best practice physical distancing in a range of construction environments:
 
  • For larger workforces, stagger start times and meal breaks to reduce the number of people arriving, working and congregating.
  • Encourage taking breaks in outdoor areas, limiting the number of people sharing seating.
  • Be mindful of tasks requiring higher numbers of workers, and reduce the scheduling of other trades and tasks during these times.
  • Conduct site inspections, inductions and toolbox talks online, or in smaller groups.
  • Encourage the use of stairs instead of lifts and personal hoists when it is safe to do so. If lifts and hoists are necessary, limit numbers and ensure people face away from each other.
  • As unnatural as it still feels, replace traditional handshakes with an elbow or foot tap. Or why not try an “air high-five”?
 
More useful construction industry social distancing tips are available on the Master Builder Association of NSW website.
 
2. Aim high with hygiene
 
Unless you’ve been living under a rock you’re probably familiar with public health messaging encouraging people to maintain personal hygiene at all times. Reinforcing these messages and adapting workplaces to facilitate good hygiene is one of the most important and effective prevention measures you will undertake to reduce the spread of illness within your workforce.
 
Other ways to encourage good hygiene on construction sites may include:
 
  • Promoting safe coughing and sneezing practices and disposing of any used tissues.
  • Ensuring trades supply their own tools, taking them home at the end of the day or thoroughly cleaning before secure storage on site. Avoid sharing PPE between workers.
  • Providing alcohol based hand sanitiser stations around site, with a focus on high traffic areas like entrances and lifts.
  • And regularly cleaning high touch areas and equipment, like:
    • Lift buttons and light switches
    • Handrails / guards / door knobs
    • Amenity areas (toilets, kitchens)
    • Table tops and outdoor seating
    • Heavy equipment controls and panels
    • Shared work mobile phones and two-way radios
    • Work vehicle steering wheels and door handles.
 
4. Screening
 
Many industries are increasingly relying on workplace screening services (like temperature checks and health questionnaires) to monitor and maintain the health of the workforce. Screening processes like these prior to entering construction sites can be an effective, relatively simple and low-cost way to stop the spread of disease and keep construction workers safe.
 
5. Response planning
 
Having an incident response plan to manage any COVID-19 cases is another vitally important step in stopping the spread. Detailed information in relation to work health and safety is now available from Safe Work Australia’s COVID-19 portal.
 
Coates Hire continues to practice physical distancing and heighted hygiene; implement additional workplace and equipment cleaning practices; and assist suitable staff in working from home. Read more about Coates Hire’s COVID-19 response, or find your local branch.
 

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