Published October 15th, 2020
Moving Construction Projects Forward In The Face of COVID-19
The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are rippling across the global construction industry and have caused unprecedented challenges to the sector. With the unscheduled closures of construction sites, projects have been impacted by severe delays, disrupted supply chains, labor shortages, permit delays, contractual complications, and financing pressures.
Despite these challenges, some members of the construction industry have resumed projects and been adapting to the new normal. This brings forth a wave of changes for the construction sector—some of which may be permanent. Keeping a tight ship in these circumstances requires utmost coordination and cooperation across all levels of the organization to ensure the safe and compliant reopening of construction sites.
In this article, we will highlight focus areas for the reopening of construction sites and feature reopening checklist templates to help project managers and safety officers plan for the seamless resumption of construction projects.
Construction Reopening: Top 7 Focus Areas
In the reopening of construction sites, comprehensive planning is key in ensuring the safety of the construction workforce and resuming operations that are in accordance with local and international health and safety restrictions. Here are top 7 areas of consideration that leaders can focus on to effectively manage the risks of reopening:
Established Site Operating Procedures (SOP)
Before starting construction work during a public health crisis, it is critical to first have a review of the construction work phases, its risks, and the steps necessary to comply with government guidance. With well-documented site operating procedures (SOP), project managers can have a good starting point for risk assessment and establishing the revised method statements to determine exactly which controls are necessary for risk mitigation.
Safety of Employees and Their Families
Construction site reopening should center around the safety of its people. It is important to strategize how projects can resume while ensuring that employees can go to work and leave the site as safe as possible. The appropriate levels of safety control should be applied for identified risks; these can include measures such as improved ventilation, setting up a mobile food canteen within safe parameters, additional sanitary tools and facilities, and provision of personal protective equipment (PPE) against COVID-19 infection. It would also be good for companies to talk to employees and know how the company can provide assistance to protect the health and safety of their employees’ families.
Social Distancing Implementation
The need for social distancing will probably remain for months or years to come; it could lead to lower productivity, but is essential if a business is to continue operations despite the pandemic. Activities and processes in construction sites must be altered to make social distancing work. Work must be scheduled carefully to allow sufficient distance (usually at least 2m) between workgroups and individuals. Other measures can also include staggered work shifts and breaks, using personal hoists or lifts, and allocation of isolation rooms for people who exhibit symptoms.
Site Walks and Equipment Inspection
With sites and equipment being left idle during temporary project shutdowns, there may be increased risk within the premises. Site walks and equipment inspection can provide project managers and safety officers a clearer picture of their conditions and identify the necessary actions to manage risk. With the use of site audit checklists, it will be easier to document the walkthrough and easily set corrective actions as they do the inspection.
Increased frequency for cleaning and disinfection of working tools and equipment will be the
new norm for construction sites. Protocols must be set to schedule cleaning activities and minimize disruption to activities. Communication should also be given focus to ensure that all personnel are aware of their individual responsibilities to maintain cleanliness within the facility.
Contractual Obligations with Contractors and Sub-contractors
It is recommended that project managers review contracts with contractors and sub-contractors and take specific note of any force majeure provisions that allow for work to be halted when events like a pandemic arise. The impacts of COVID-19, particularly regarding supply chain disruptions, are sufficiently broad and many claims will be valid.
While the pandemic has allowed for some delays in statutory requirements such as annual inspections, it has not entirely exempted construction companies from them. It still remains the company’s responsibility to ensure that they abide by traditional laws and regulations concerning their operations and the new requirements related to the pandemic. These can include guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), World Health Organization (WHO), and the United States Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
It will be important to accurately document these efforts to help substantiate a company’s position should there be a case for entitlement. Documentation will also help serve as reference for learning and improved risk management strategies for future health crises.
Plan for Safe and Compliant Construction Reopening with iAuditor Checklists
Reopening construction sites will remain a challenging task amid a global health crisis that constantly evolves ; it is vital to plan thoroughly and equip your team with tools and resources that can help in the safe and compliant resumption of construction activities to ensure that they are well-protected while at work. To get you started, we have gathered construction reopening checklists from iAuditor by SafetyCulture that are designed to help construction sites safely resume operations after a temporary shutdown due to the pandemic.
*Please note that these screening checklists are hypothetical examples and provide basic information only. They are not intended to take the place of medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should also seek your own professional advice to determine if the use of such a checklist is permissible in your workplace or jurisdiction.
Featured Construction Reopening Checklists
COVID-19 Self-Assessment Checklist for Construction Personnel
This COVID-19 checklist can be used by construction personnel to perform individual safety assessments and help inform construction managers about the general health of the workforce. This template was converted by Burbank Construction to digital through iAuditor.
Construction Site Return to Work Checklist
Use this return to work checklist to help create a clearer picture of an employee’s condition and help him/her go back to work as safely as possible. With this checklist, supervisors and construction staff can identify the necessary controls to ensure a seamless resumption of their work duties.
COVID-19 Construction Site Operating Procedures Checklist
Based on UKCG Guidance, this template can be used to establish site operating procedures (SOPs) for a construction site. It can also help with the identification of hazards and risk assessment for construction activities.
Construction Site Safety Audit for COVID-19
Converted to digital using iAuditor, this template can be used via a mobile device when conducting site safety walks. Easily attach and annotate photos, summarize findings, and assign corrective actions on-the-go.
COVID-19 Guidance Protocol Assurance Audit Template
This COVID-19 protocol assurance audit template can help safety officers to ensure if safety protocols are executed properly on sites. This template was based on the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Multi-Industry Construction Guidance.
Return to Work Guidance for the Construction Workforce
This return to work guidance can be used as a reference by construction site safety managers when planning for the safe resumption of construction work. You can customize this guidance to include additional and specific guidelines/measures from the CDC and construction industry associations.