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COVID-19 and construction: How our industry can come together

March 31, 2020

A construction worker has the habit of always keeping a toilet-paper roll on his dashboard, for when duty calls and bathroom conditions or supplies are subpar. When he pulled into a jobsite the second week of March, another tradesman jokingly told him he better change that habit and hide the toilet paper because his van is going to get broken into.

How are we as manufacturers and construction workers going to stay in business during the COVID-19 pandemic? Mild-mannered jokes certainly help. Other actions need to start now so everyone is prepared.

Resources are waiting for you

Just like medical staff, first responders and retail workers, construction workers cannot work from home. Every level of construction, therefore, has to work smarter. Start by reviewing the pre-construction, construction and post-construction processes of your company. Make all meetings virtual with Skype, Facetime, Zoom or WhatsApp. Many online platforms now offer free services to help connect companies. Google has made Microsoft Teams (part of Office 365) available for free as a “freemium” to help companies come together.

Call your product representatives (like ours) and distributors instead of meeting with them face to face. Order supplies via phone or online. When it’s time to walk a jobsite for bidding, job prep or inspections, do so alone or keep a safe distance between yourself and someone else (6 feet is recommended).

During the construction process, talk to your employees about their concerns of being around too many people. Advocate for them to work with fewer trades or co-workers when possible to limit exposure. This may slow the construction process for a general contractor and owner, but it will prevent a crew or an entire company from being knocked out for 2-6 weeks in quarantine. Ask owners and other constructions workers about their health and exposure risks before entering a home, building or jobsite. It is not rude, it is essential to limit exposure. 

Jobsites already have been closed because of the virus. On March 13, the $1.3-billion Google headquarters project in London stopped construction for 2 days (at the time of this writing) because a subcontractor who was at the site tested positive for COVID-19. Unfortunately, we fear we will have more of this. OSHA offers tips about how to prep workplaces for COVID-19. If an employee becomes sick at work, COVID-19 is reportable according to OSHA if: the case is confirmed COVID-19, is work-related, and involves medical treatment or days away from work.

Every trade show probably will be canceled through May or later, but know that you are not alone through this. Associations and groups are using alternative ways to share information. For instance, the Associated General Contractors has put together weekly webinars that started on March 20 to share updates and talk about concerns. We will use social media to share other opportunities as they are made available. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn for this news!

Information to share

COVID-19 is spread via respiratory droplets by coughing and sneezing and close personal contact like touching. You also can get it by touching an object or surface with the virus and then touching your face. Based on recommendations, do the following:

  • Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds.
  • Avoid touching your face.
  • Clean surfaces often.
  • Cover your mouth and nose when you cough/sneeze.
  • Stay out of crowds.
  • Don’t share food.
  • Wear a mask only if you have respiratory symptoms.

Show respect

While we still come to work every day at Flex-Ability Concepts, it is different. We now keep the doors locked and screen everyone who enters the building, including employees. No one with a temperature above 100 F may enter. A sign on the door asks visitors to call for an appointment. In the office, we no longer shake hands and we only hold essential meetings (with distance). Our facility workers already work more than 6 feet apart, so our manufacturing has not slowed. We talk with all of our employees each day to see how they are doing, and they are told to stay home if they don’t feel well. We are prepared to make any additional changes as recommendations continue to roll out in Oklahoma City.

Think about how much life has changed in the past few weeks. It’s stressful! Above all, let’s remember to take care of and respect each other during the next few months. We are here to help!

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