The outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic has ghastly affected humans and the economies worldwide, countries across the globe are facing an economic downturn with all their business and commercial activities coming to a pause. Alike, several industries, the construction sector is also facing the heat, challenges like liquidity crunch, supply chain crisis, manpower shortage, and lockdown are bringing several projects to a standstill.
Look at the construction production of EU-27 countries Eurostat’s data of the first quarter of 2020 shows a 12 percent production decline in construction for March 2020 compared to February 2020, with Italy facing the largest decline of 40.2 percent. In India, where the construction industry employs approximately 40 million people, the sector is facing a slowdown, working at 50 percent of its previous run rate, and several projects either canceled or paused. Several Asian and American cities too, are facing similar issues due to the uncertainty, of global integration and impacting the industry.
To manage, resume, and run the work smoothly amid this pandemic is the greatest challenge for the construction industry. As the health and safety of workers have become the utmost priority, the industry needs to accept the new working rules and norms aligned with government guidelines on and off the construction site.
Essential best practices for the construction projects to stay afloat
The construction industry needs to develop a resilience system to overcome the pandemic issues and face similar challenges in the future. The construction sites are high risk working environments with a large volume of manpower working close. Therefore, employers are required to plan and implement essential and best practices at the construction site to provide a safe and secure work environment.
Personalized counseling and monitoring of employee health
Create an action plan to deploy a team focused on the safety and health of employees; the team should develop protocols and suggest necessary actions for the site safety and maintenance during shut-down and restart phases. Conduct personalized counseling of contractors, architects, engineers, sub-contractors, etc. to run the project smoothly, address logistics and manpower issues, and bring awareness, support, encouragement, and regular tracking of health and safety of workers at the on and off the site.
Thermal check and healthcare guidelines
Site safety should be preferred in the current scenario, implement proper health and safety guidelines to mitigate the virus risk. Follow a standard healthcare protocol by the regular thermal screening of workers and visitors at the site. Proper sanitization, use of masks & gloves, PPE kit, and other hygiene and precautionary measures at the site and offices should be mandated to minimize the risk of virus. Perform a daily checklist of employees on health parameters of COVID-19 and tasks performed into action. Also, follow a standard procedure aligned to the CDC and mandatory government guidelines for sick, potentially sick, contact of the sick, and recovered workers at the site.
Social distancing at the site
Social distancing norm helps in spreading the virus by limiting close contact with other people and maintaining a safe distance from between each other. Social distancing norms should be mandated at the job site and observed by each deployed at the worksite.
Measures that can be taken to follow the social distancing norm are
- The limitation of the maximum number of employees that can join orientation, meetings, lunch, smoking area, tool crib, etc.
- Restriction on gatherings at the entrance of the project hoists and lifts areas.
- Restriction on access to occupied work areas
The practice of other measures like staff rotation, use of technology like video monitoring system, and Jobsite access control system for regular inspection of the work areas gives site security.
Install informational signage on the importance of social distancing and warning notice, i.e., the implications of not following the norm at several locations of the site.
Making use of technology for coordination and communication
Effective coordination and communication within the team ensure uninterrupted information flow and effective teamwork.
Use an online collaboration tool or project management software to create an efficient work process by capturing, communicating, and collaborating important project data and information at the site and office. Features of project management software like detailed task views, real-time notification, file synchronization, and activity feed help in monitoring the fieldwork, document control, and project budget and cost management.
The online collaboration tool allows handling issues like delays in supply chain, project delivery, rise in cost, labor supply, and another pandemic risk even from a remote place.
Bring other Communication tools like Skype, text, phone call, WebEx, chat, or WhatsApp to coordinate with the team frequently.
Partnering with experienced engineering firms for less on-site validation
The construction activities that can be performed off-site like shop drawings, RFI’s, submittals, change order processing should be maximized to mitigate the chances of virus spread. Partnership with an experienced engineering firm will help in minimizing the on-site design validation. Also, prefabrication and modular construction services offered off-site will bring fewer employees on-site. Off-site prefabrication and construction provide safety at it carried in a more controlled environment, construction schedule improves due to fewer site disruptions, higher quality is achieved as it is carried out in a controlled and consistent environment, and brings cost-benefit by saving transportation cost, improving co-ordination, and minimizing re-work.
Adherence to government guidelines
The COVID-19 safety guidelines mandated by the government of the particular city, state, or country where the project is constructed should be implemented and followed at the construction site and offices. For example, The occupational safety and health administration(OSHA) of California has issued COVID-19 guidelines specifically for the construction industry in addition to the general COVID-19 guidelines for workplaces, the construction project carried at California have to follow the guidelines of OSHA as well as the federal government.
Some common, basic minimum COVID-19 recommended procedures for the construction industry across the globe are Social distancing, use of face masks, cleaning and sanitization procedures at the worksite of mostly used and contact surfaces, Education and training on pandemic and preventive measure, and policies and procedures on how to handle suspected and actual COVID-19 cases.
Awareness programs for employees and customers
Education and awareness of employees and customers on COVID-19 and safety procedures should be the top priority. Conduct a Pandemic awareness program, train the employees on new health and safety rules, protocols, and work practices that are to be followed. Include social distancing norms, hand hygiene, and sanitization, cough and sneeze etiquettes, self-awareness of COVID-19 symptoms, and other preventive measures in the training program. Posters and notices on Covid-19 safety procedures on updated government guidelines be placed at each site to spread awareness. Also, post notices for visitors and suppliers on safety and preventive measures must be placed at the site entrance to avoid potential virus contamination.
Safety measures and work site best practices can help you through
Managing people and projects with all set of safety measures during this pandemic is challenging for all businesses. Get adapted to the new normal to sail through this pandemic. This pandemic will go, but till the time it will exist, fight it with all possible preventive and health measures to mundane its spread, prioritize the health and safety of your employees to attain your goal.