Acknowledging that work will continue on a variety of construction projects nationally during the COVID-19 outbreak, John Howard is pushing for enhanced workplace safety precautions.
Howard, the director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, is particularly stressing the importance of physical distancing.
“We should separate workers as much as we can,” Howard remarked during a webinar sponsored by his agency and the National Safety Council.
“And when we can’t, we make sure they’re well-protected,” Howard continued.
Admitting that construction sites are “probably one of our more challenging workplaces,” Howard urged a series of best practices that he wants to see all construction companies embrace.
Those practices include encouraging sick workers to stay at home, requiring foremen to ask workers to self-identify possible COVID-19 symptoms, and screening all visitors to a construction worksite.
Howard also encouraged the practice of supervisors talking to workers about safety matters, otherwise known as “toolbox talks,” but making certain they are done with a physical distance of 6 feet between participants.
Workers should also be discouraged from sharing water bottles, while also disinfecting all such shared equipment as tools and vehicles before and after use.
Companies may also want to consider staggering work shifts in a move to reduce the number of workers at a site at any given time.
On the issue of personal protective equipment, Howard was blunt: “Eye protection is a must. For workers who have to work in close quarters, they should use appropriate personal protective equipment and augment ventilation in those areas.”
Ultimately, Howard echoed the recommendations of other health care experts studying the spread of COVID-19 who have emphasized the need for constantly cleaning and disinfecting.
“Cleaning is getting the dirt out,” he remarked. “Sanitizing is what’s used in public health a lot to get down to a certain level of bacteria—sometimes 95 percent is killed.”
Added Howard: “Disinfection is killing everything. That’s where you want to aim.”
By Garry Boulard
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