COVID19 CRISIS - A GUIDE FOR AUSTRALIAN CONSTRUCTION
Updated: Jul 27
The construction Industry has been lucky so far. We work outdoors most of the time, with plenty of air flow. Besides that, It was considered an essential service, so construction workers can keep going to work.
Spades works with Labour Hire and people are our priority.
It is our duty to make your workplace safer - We don't want to spread the disease to the ones that were not as fortunate as us during this crisis.
Both employers and workers should follow some simple rules to protect themselves in times of pandemic.
During the impact of Coronavirus through the building industry, it is everyone’s duty (employers and workers) to create a secure, healthy workplace every day.
While we have already started feeling the effects of this crisis, there are still some inevitable questions to answer about the impact on employment conditions and safety.
YOUR ROLE IN MAKING THE JOB SITE SAFER
We know that work-life has changed dramatically since its arrival, but you have the duty to stay safe.
This article will take you through the main steps on how to play your role during the spread of this disease. From the maintenance of hygiene to social distancing on site, here is how YOU need to play your role in the work field.
ESPECIAL NOTE ABOUT CASUALS / LABOUR HIRE
If you are Spades' Client:
We've shared this article with all our workers. We've also properly checked if they have been practising as they were instructed and if they've been putting themselves and others is risk off and on-site.
We can also ensure they are being supported in every way we can through this time of crisis.
If you use Casuals in your workforce:
Ask you casual construction workers if they are following the recommendations. Feel welcome to share this article with them.
If you are a Construction Worker: Keeping yourself and others safe should be your priority - You cannot work if you get sick. Follow the recommendations and report to your superiors any contamination hazards. It's everyone responsibility to do so.
DEFINITIONS TO KEEP IN MIND
Here are some terms workers will often meet during the article:
● Personal Hygiene
As its name suggests, it refers to all people’s habits and behaviours in keeping their personal hygiene at good standards. The result? They will contribute to minimizing the spread of the disease.
● Workplace Hygiene Standards
All the facilities (field and office) the employer will offer to provide a good look after the welfare of construction workers.
● Site Amenity
This term embraces site officers, toilets, showers, changing rooms, lunchrooms, bubblers , decontamination areas, furniture, and kitchen appliances in lunchrooms and so on.
● Social Distancing
The term basically refers to less contact between workers and their employers. Social distancing is crucial, as it helps in slowing down the spread of the disease.
Pro Tip: Get familiar with these terms, as you will meet them often during this period of time.
THE 10 THINGS TO DO ON SITE - FOR EVERYONE
Long term success in the building industry through Coronavirus depends on both employers and workers.
Here are 10 simple ways to prevent the spread of disease at work:
1 - Keep social distancing whenever possible (2 meters).
2 - Wash your body, clothes, and hair daily as soon as you came back home.
3 - Wash your hands and wrists with a great sense of responsibility. This process should last at least 20 seconds, and be done before eating food, after going to the toilet, as well as soon after you finish work
4 - Put the cigarette butts in the bin. Not only that will keep the workplace clean, but it will also prevent the spread of germs and COVID-19 virus.
5 - Refrain from spitting at all times. Saliva is the “home” for the virus, and the last thing you want to do is spreading it all over your colleagues.
5 - When coughing or sneezing, go or turn away from the other workers. Otherwise, the liquid possibly containing virus nose and mouth will be spread in the air and finally, people will breathe them in.
6 - Avoid handshakes or other physical contacts. A "how is it going, mate?" will do just as well for now.
7 - Avoid touching your face with your hand.
8 - Use antibacterial solutions for washing your hands. Especially when about to drive home. Remember that on your days off if you drive your car you will put the hands on the wheel and it might be contaminated.
9 - Don’t come to work if you feel sick, have the flu, you are coughing or sneezing. Protect yourself, as well as the other workers.
Pro Tip: One does not rule out the others. Make sure you respect all the rules above and contribute to your work space health.
WHAT ELSE YOU SHOULD KNOW AND DO
Here is some additional information to help both employers and workers manage their activity during COVID-19:
● Workers should always stay informed about good hygiene practices
● Workers of all ethnicity should be treated equally. Racism and bullying most not be tolerated, especially if we talk about multicultural working teams
● Every construction site should have health and safety representatives, who must provide training on personal hygiene matters
● Site inductions, as well as workers and employers meetings, are great opportunities to raise awareness and offer information about the workplace safety.
● Where possible, organise a meeting in larger spaces, even outdoors and show workers how to apply social distancing.
● Open windows, and adjust air conditioning for even more ventilation.
● Avoid any congregating in small spaces.
● Divide working groups when possible or when you do a presentation.
● Monitor social distancing through supervisors. Make sure the good practices are followed by everyone on the site.
● Reduce the length, size, and number of meetings.
● Start having a schedule over the working hours and divide the total number of workers into two shifts. This way, you avoid the possibility of all the employees getting sick.
● Cancel any non-essential events to avoid larger workers congregates.
Pro-Tip: Neither of you is immune in front of this crisis, this is why some simple rules in the work field can be live-savers
EMPLOYERS, THIS IS YOUR CALL
Workplace hygiene is mandatory during the COVID crisis. Employers need to consider these LOW-COST measures:
● Provide great cleaning for the common areas (including lunch sheds, showers, and other facilities) or do the cleaning process more often
● Clean and maintain toilets regularly
● Provide a good delineating between the construction site and the site amenities
● Start coordinating the number of workers that utilise the site amenities once. Here you can consider staggering meal breaks, coordinating work and planning, as well as the start time.
● Inform workers about workplace hygiene etiquette. You can make some intuitive posters about how to clean after themselves, how to place rubbish in bins provided, as well as how to avoid putting their personal items on metal surfaces.
In a nutshell: Employers should start taking low-cost measures even though COVID-19 has not arrived in their communities already. Stopping or slowing the spread of this virus is a matter of wise solutions.
HOISTS AND ELEVATORS
Well, so far so good, but how to avoid using personal hoists and lifts during the pandemic crisis? Employers should promote the following:
● Use the stairs, monitor overuse
● Travel to direct floors
● More trips, and a reduced number of persons in one hoist or lift
● A schedule for the use of the hoist
● Regularly cleaning the hoist in a safe manner
● Provide hand sanitizers in hoists
● Rotate hoist operators
● Respect the principles of social distancing when it comes to using lifts and hoists
Good to know: Taking the stairs is healthier. Hoists and Lifts are closed spaces where virus can accumulate easily.
WHAT THE LAW REQUIRES EVERYONE
In the case of a pandemic crisis, it is clear that the LAW will come in. As such, all citizens have legal obligations, otherwise, they risk penalties, or worst, going to jail.
Directions are easy to follow and to remember:
● Have you travelled lately? You need to self-quarantine upon return for at least 14 days.
● Feeling unfit or sick? Don’t go to work.
● Have you been in contact with a COVID-positive person? Make sure you self-quarantine. Moreover, if you have symptoms, ask for a medical consultation. Go back to work only after you have the medical results.
● Respect social-distancing.
● Keep a distance of two meters from the ones around you.
● Allow vulnerable employees to work from home (elderly workers, diabetics workers or those who have special medical conditions).
Keep in mind! This is not only your legal responsibility but also social duty.
No matter what you do or did for a living before the COVID-19 pandemic, it is crystal clear that the work-life has changed dramatically since the dynamic spread of this virus.
The construction industry needs to move on. If you are an employer in this field or a worker, you need to be across the questions you may be asked in case of workplace risk management.
Nowadays, respecting some elementary hygiene and social distancing requirements are mandatory. Moreover, they help in fighting against the spread of this virus. Washing the hands regularly, having a good working schedule, or avoiding congregating together in small spaces are few of the advice from today.
Want to learn more about managing construction teams? Have a look at our other blog posts here
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