By: Kevin B. Keith, ABC Keystone Director of Safety
Every employer is being tasked to combat the spread of the COVID-19 virus. A lot of companies are finding themselves asking questions about how they should proceed. There are many ways to approach this with one of them being to review the Emergency Action Plan. The company’s EAP will have certain criteria that you can possibly draw from even if you do not have any of the details for handling a viral outbreak. Many plans do not address viral outbreaks specifically, but they will after this. One area that we can start focusing on is information sharing with our workforce. Due to the fluidity of the situation, directives are being given on almost a daily, and sometimes on an hourly, basis. This type of information can be quickly communicated using toolbox talks.
Sharing information with employees on a regular basis is critical in addressing, and in many cases correcting, misinformation. Several topics can be covered during these safety updates. Reinforce that if workers are feeling ill, they should not be reporting to work, and they should contact their family doctor for appropriate treatment. Jobsites should provide handwashing areas that can be temporary soap and water stations, if possible, and if not, provide hand sanitizers containing at least 70% alcohol. Handwashing should be done after using shared hand tools or equipment and prior to eating or drinking. Maintaining clearance between workers becomes a critical part of prohibiting the spread of the virus. This means that work assignments should take this into consideration. Limiting the distance between workers of 3 ft. – 6 ft. becomes extremely critical. If this cannot be accomplished, employers should then assess the viability of continuing these types of work activities. Employers should send a consistent message to all employees, which would include if the company policy addresses the number of people that employees can be exposed to, then this must then also be true for jobsites. If handled incorrectly, this type of approach creates confusion and discontent with workers. Communicate clearly what the expectations are and then ensure that the expectations are being met and maintained. The White House has provided additional guidance to decrease the spread of the virus. Please visit this link for additional information.
If you have questions related to the COVID-19 virus and the impacts in construction, ABC Keystone offers some guidance to assist your company to access the latest information. A link to the COVID-19 section of our website can be found here. We will be providing frequent updates along with links to provide the best assistance that we can. If you are still looking for guidance, please feel free to contact Kevin Keith, Director of Safety Services, to discuss your concerns or issues.
Please note: The above information is provided as of 3/19/20. We encourage you to stay up to date with the COVID-19 developments and federal and state updates as the situation continues to be fluid.