As New York City is preparing to restart $17 billion in spending across 1,700 construction and renovation projects including schools, housing and parks, tens of thousands of workers will soon be returning to their jobs. In preparation, developers and construction managers should make sure to have proper COVID-19 protocols and procedures in place to safeguard the health of everyone on their sites.
Below are a number of ways to practically implement the construction COVID-19 guidelines and protocols established by the CDC in the safest and most efficient way possible:
To determine if workers are not only healthy, COVID-19-free and have not been exposed, prepare a standard set of questions to be answered daily. Be sure to keep these questions short and simple, or it will unnecessarily delay the start of each workday. Sample questions include:
• Have you tested positive for COVID-19?
• Is your temperature 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher?
• Do you live with someone who has COVID-19 or is experiencing related symptoms?
• Have you traveled out of the state in the past 14 days?
Designate specific people to oversee the process and ensure certification forms are printed out, completed and signed correctly. Be sure to provide ample time each morning for everyone to fill out and submit the forms, especially when you are first starting or resuming a project.
Temperature & Health Checks
With daily temperature checks required before workers can enter a building site, construction managers must be able to perform testing without adversely affecting work schedules. One way to keep track is to assign different color bracelets each day to all workers who complete the certification form and do not have a high temperature. A turnstile can also be set up, and ID cards can be deactivated for anyone found to have a temperature above 100.4 degrees.
A fever is often the first symptom associated with COVID-19. However, be sure to make all of your employees aware of other possible symptoms and immediately report any of them including chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, headaches, sore throat and congestion or runny nose. Placing signage throughout a site reminding workers of possible symptoms, along with proper hygiene and use of personal protective equipment (PPE), will help everyone remain diligent as well as feel comfortable they are working in a safe environment.
PPE & Social Distancing
It may be easier to look the other way when someone does not wear a mask properly, but it is important to take this requirement seriously, as it may be the only way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 if someone becomes sick. Anyone on our site who does not comply will be sent home for the day and permanently banned if they fail to comply a second time.
It is a best practice to wear gloves in close quarters, as it may be possible to spread the coronavirus through touching objects. Even if gloves are worn onsite, frequent hand washing should be encouraged, with soap, water and paper towels readily available, along with hand sanitizer.
Try to maintain six feet of distance whenever possible on the job site. Set a limit of two people when working inside rooms, and make sure everyone continues to wear their masks in the proper way. The CDC also recommends maintaining proper ventilation whenever possible, including opening windows to circulate airflow.
In addition to the above, regular COVID-19 testing is required. It is strongly suggested that all workers receive a rapid test for the coronavirus at least once every two weeks. This should be done on a rotating basis to help accurately gauge the overall health of the crew, as one person testing positive could mean there are others who have the virus onsite. If one or more workers is found to be positive, make sure everyone gets tested as soon as possible.
Finally, try to provide as much onsite safety training and guidance as possible to reinforce safety habits and minimize time spent away from the job. In addition to signage, frequent safety reminders should be made throughout the day, and specific employees should be designated as safety and health officers for the site.
While implementing effective COVID-19 protocols and procedures may require both additional time and money, there is nothing more important than the health of all workers. It is essential to the success of any project that they not only remain healthy but feel safe while executing their tasks, resulting in more productivity and faster project completion.
Stefano Braganti is executive vice president of HAP Construction, a full-service construction management company. He is a licensed professional engineer in New York and California and a licensed construction superintendent in New York City. His vision and management skills have played a key role in HAP Construction’s creation and growth. In addition to leading the company’s construction team, Braganti serves as project executive for the Maverick, a mixed-use residential building at 215/225 West 28th Street in Manhattan, as well as 247 East 117th Street in East Harlem, New York.