Guidelines for Coronavirus in the Construction Industry

With the recent increasing cases of coronavirus everywhere around the world, many things could affect the industry of construction. This industry requires majority of its effort for projects to happen in a face-to-face basis. Based from OSHA or Occupational Safety and Health Administration, here are some guidance to take to reduce risk of exposure to the coronavirus:

COVID-19 Guidance for Construction Workers by OSHA

People with these symptoms may have COVID-19:

  • Fever or chills 
  • Cough 
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing 
  • Fatigue 
  • Muscle or body aches 
  • Headache 

  • New loss of taste or smell 
  • Sore throat 
  • Congestion or runny nose 
  • Nausea or vomiting 
  • Diarrhea 

The Roles of Employers in Responding to COVID-19 by OSHA

Under the OSH Act, employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthy workplace free from recognized hazards likely to cause death or serious physical harm.

Employers should engage with workers and their representatives to determine how to implement multi-layered interventions to protect unvaccinated and otherwise at-risk workers and mitigate the spread of COVID-19, including:

  1. Facilitate employees getting vaccinated. Employers should grant paid time off for employees to get vaccinated and recover from any side effects. The Department of Labor and OSHA, as well as other federal agencies, are working diligently to ensure access to COVID-19 vaccinations. Finally, OSHA suggests that employers consider adopting policies that require workers to get vaccinated or to undergo regular COVID-19 testing – in addition to mask wearing and physical distancing – if they remain unvaccinated.
  2. Instruct any workers who are infected, unvaccinated workers who have had close contact with someone who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, and all workers with COVID-19 symptoms to stay home from work to prevent or reduce the risk of transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19. 
  3. Implement physical distancing in all communal work areas for unvaccinated and otherwise at-risk workers. A key way to protect such workers is to physically distance them from other such people (workers or customers) – generally at least 6 feet of distance is recommended, although this is not a guarantee of safety, especially in enclosed or poorly ventilated spaces. In a workplace, workers often are required to work in close proximity to each other and/or customers or clients for extended periods of time. Maintaining physical distancing at the workplace for such workers is an important control to limit the spread of COVID-19. 
  4. Employers could also limit the number of unvaccinated or otherwise at-risk workers in one place at any given time, for example by implementing flexible worksites (e.g., telework); implementing flexible work hours (e.g., rotate or stagger shifts to limit the number of such workers in the workplace at the same time); delivering services remotely (e.g., phone, video, or web); or implementing flexible meeting and travel options, for such workers. 
  5. At fixed workstations where unvaccinated or otherwise at-risk workers are not able to remain at least 6 feet away from other people, transparent shields or other solid barriers can separate these workers from other people. Barriers should block face-to-face pathways between individuals in order to prevent direct transmission of respiratory droplets, and any openings should be placed at the bottom and made as small as possible. The height and posture (sitting or standing) of affected workers, directional airflow, and fire safety should be considered when designing and installing barriers, as should the need for enhanced ventilation.
  6. Provide workers with face coverings or surgical masks, as appropriate, unless their work task requires a respirator or other PPE. In addition to unvaccinated and otherwise at-risk workers, CDC recommends that even fully vaccinated people wear masks in public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high transmission and notes that fully vaccinated people may appropriately choose to wear masks in public indoor settings regardless of community level of transmission, particularly if they are at risk or have someone in their household who is at risk or not fully vaccinated. 

  7. Workers should wear a face covering that covers the nose and mouth to contain the wearer’s respiratory droplets and to help protect others and potentially themselves. Face coverings should be made of at least two layers of a tightly woven breathable fabric, such as cotton, and should not have exhalation valves or vents. They should fit snugly over the nose, mouth, and chin with no large gaps on the outside of the face. 
  8. Employers should provide face coverings to workers who request them at no cost (and make replacements available to workers when they request them). Under federal anti-discrimination laws, employers may need to provide reasonable accommodations for any workers who are unable to wear or have difficulty wearing certain types of face coverings due to a disability or who need a religious accommodation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In workplaces with employees who are deaf or hard of hearing, employers should consider acquiring masks with clear coverings over the mouth to facilitate lip-reading.
  9. Unless otherwise provided by federal, state, or local requirements, workers who are outdoors may opt not to wear face coverings unless they are at risk, for example, if they are immunocompromised. Regardless, all workers should be supported in continuing to wear a face covering if they choose, especially in order to safely work closely with other people.
  10. When an employer determines that PPE is necessary to protect unvaccinated and otherwise at-risk workers from exposure to COVID-19, the employer must provide PPE in accordance with relevant mandatory OSHA standards and should consider providing PPE in accordance with other industry-specific guidance. Respirators, if necessary, must be provided and used in compliance with 29 CFR 1910.134 (e.g., medical determination, fit testing, training on its correct use), including certain provisions for voluntary use when workers supply their own respirators, and other PPE must be provided and used in accordance with the applicable standards in 29 CFR part 1910, Subpart I (e.g., 1910.132 and 133). There are times when PPE is not called for by OSHA standards or other industry-specific guidance, but some workers may have a legal right to PPE as a reasonable accommodation under the ADA. Employers are encouraged to proactively inform employees who have a legal right to PPE as a reasonable accommodation for their disability about how to make such a request. Other workers may want to use PPE if they are still concerned about their personal safety (e.g., if a family member is at higher risk for severe illness, they may want to wear a face shield in addition to a face covering as an added layer of protection). Encourage and support voluntary use of PPE in these circumstances and ensure the equipment is adequate to protect the worker. 
  11. For operations where the face covering can become wet and soiled, provide workers with replacements daily or more frequently, as needed. Face shields may be provided for use with face coverings to protect them from getting wet and soiled, but they do not provide adequate protection by themselves. See CDC’s Guide to Masks. 
  12. Employers with workers in a setting where face coverings may increase the risk of heat-related illness indoors or outdoors or cause safety concerns due to introduction of a hazard (for instance, straps getting caught in machinery) may wish to consult with an occupational safety and health professional to help determine the appropriate face covering/respirator use for their setting. 
  13. Educate and train workers on your COVID-19 policies and procedures using accessible formats and in languages they understand. Train managers on how to implement COVID-19 policies. Communicate supportive workplace policies clearly, frequently, and via multiple methods to promote a safe and healthy workplace. Communications should be in plain language that unvaccinated and otherwise at-risk workers understand (including non-English languages, and American Sign Language or other accessible communication methods, if applicable) and in a manner accessible to individuals with disabilities. Training should be directed at employees, contractors, and any other individuals on site, as appropriate, and should include: 
    A – Basic facts about COVID-19, including how it is spread and the importance of physical distancing (including remote work), ventilation, vaccination, use of face coverings, and hand hygiene. 
    B – Workplace policies and procedures implemented to protect workers from COVID-19 hazards.

    2. For basic facts, see About COVID-19 and What Workers Need to Know About COVID-19 above and see more on vaccinations, improving ventilation, physical distancing (including remote work), PPE, and face coverings, respectively, elsewhere in this document. Some means of tracking which workers have received this information, and when, could be utilized by the employer as appropriate. 

    3. In addition, ensure that workers understand their rights to a safe and healthful work environment, whom to contact with questions or concerns about workplace safety and health, and their right to raise workplace safety and health concerns free from retaliation. (See Implementing Protections from Retaliation, below.) This information should also be provided in a language that workers understand. Ensure supervisors are familiar with workplace flexibilities and other human resources policies and procedures.  
  14. Suggest or require that unvaccinated customers, visitors, or guests wear face coverings in public-facing workplaces such as retail establishments, and that all customers, visitors, or guests wear face coverings in public, indoor settings in areas of substantial or high transmission. This could include posting a notice or otherwise suggesting or requiring that people wear face coverings, even if no longer required by your jurisdiction. Individuals who are under the age of 2 or are actively consuming food or beverages on site need not wear face coverings. 
  15. Maintain Ventilation Systems. The virus that causes COVID-19 spreads between people more readily indoors than outdoors. Improving ventilation is a key engineering control that can be used as part of a layered strategy to reduce the concentration of viral particles in indoor air and the risk of virus transmission to unvaccinated and otherwise at-risk workers in particular. A well-maintained ventilation system is particularly important in any indoor workplace setting and when working properly, ventilation is an important control measure to limit the spread of COVID-19.  
  16. Perform routine cleaning and disinfection. If someone who has been in the facility within 24 hours is suspected of having or confirmed to have COVID-19, follow the CDC cleaning and disinfection recommendations. Follow requirements in mandatory OSHA standards 29 CFR 1910.1200 and 1910.132, 133, and 138 for hazard communication and PPE appropriate for exposure to cleaning chemicals. 
  17. Record and report COVID-19 infections and deaths: Under mandatory OSHA rules in 29 CFR part 1904, employers are required to record work-related cases of COVID-19 illness on OSHA’s Form 300 logs if the following requirements are met: (1) the case is a confirmed case of COVID-19; (2) the case is work-related (as defined by 29 CFR 1904.5); and (3) the case involves one or more relevant recording criteria (set forth in 29 CFR 1904.7) (e.g., medical treatment, days away from work).  

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