The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted every corner of the world economy, and few sectors have been affected more heavily than those involving homes and business buildings. Contractors like construction workers, plumbers, and electricians are instituting new safety guidelines to protect their customers and employees during this difficult time. We gathered the official responses of ten industry leaders to highlight the steps they're taking to address the challenge.
If you or your company perform contract work, or you're looking for ways to talk to contractors about precautions to take in your home or office spaces, consider implementing some of these practices to help create the safest possible conditions for everyone.
Mandating Protective Gear
Even where not required by local authorities, top companies are enforcing their own standards for protective equipment like masks and gloves.
PCL Construction Enterprises: "All persons (workers, visitors, consultants, and vendors) shall wear a physical respiratory covering or cloth face covering adequate in size and shape that will cover the wearer’s nose and mouth. This requires that all persons on our sites participate in the use of cloth facial covers at all times. Respiratory covering may be manufactured or made at home. They may be of a type that can be washed or disposable. In addition to current PPE requirements and similar protections, glove use is mandatory on all jobsites."
Skanska: "[We have] strengthened glove policy requirements, mandating the use of “coated gloves” at all times, [and are] mandating additional PPE where construction activity does not permit adequate social distancing."
Monitoring Worker Health
Keeping workers home when they're sick is a prime concern for companies sending employees into people's homes, or into large jobsites where they work closely together. Many companies are requiring workers who can't operate remotely to stay home when they show signs of illness.
Turner Construction: "To ensure the health and safety of every person on a Turner project, workers must stay home if they are not feeling well."
House Doctors: "Stay home when you are sick."
PCL Construction Enterprises: "If you are exhibiting flu-like symptoms such as fever, coughing or congestion, do not come to work, contact your supervisor and your Human Resources department to let them know that you are exhibiting the symptoms, and consult with a healthcare professional on next steps before returning to work. If you are working in a PCL office or on a PCL jobsite and have been exposed to someone with a confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis or with COVID-19 symptoms (fever, cough, difficulty breathing), advise your supervisor. PCL will undertake an assessment of your particular circumstances to inform your work arrangements and those of your co-workers."
Kiewit: "We established dedicated processes and personnel, trained to use detailed exposure intake questionnaires to document, to closely track all confirmed and presumptive positive COVID-19 cases, and implement strict cleaning, quarantine and return to work protocols. We have worked closely with all employees, subcontractors, suppliers, owners and others to ensure that anyone who is ill or believes they have been exposed to COVID-19 refrain from entering our office and project locations.
This includes, in some locations, requiring pre-and post-access health questions and pre-access and periodic temperature screening. We have also severely restricted visitor access to our office and project locations and have required non-essential office personnel to work from home."
Haskell: "All office/project visitors [must] complete an attestation on travel and current health status."
Enforcing Social Distancing
Health organizations around the world have issued recommendations about maintaining space between people to limit the spread of COVID-19, so companies are formalizing these procedures.
Kiewit: "We developed protocols, procedures and best practices to ensure employees practice recommended social distancing (separation of 6 feet or more) to the extent possible, including protocols for transporting personnel on jobsites, using busing/shuttles and driving/riding in company trucks, vans and buses. On our project sites, we are providing surgical masks for specific operations that may require closer proximity to ensure the safety of personnel, and other face-protection tools for daily operations."
Skanska: "Non-essential business meetings and employee participation in large business gatherings or events are postponed or moved to a virtual meeting using remote meeting technologies wherever possible. Working remotely is available and strongly encouraged where possible and practical for one’s role."
PCL Construction Enterprises: "In-person meetings and events are to be avoided wherever possible. In the office, meetings and events of more than five people should not be held in person. On the jobsite, in-person meetings must have no more than 15 people. Meetings should be held in the area where an individual works instead of a large gathering point.
Project teams should stagger break and lunch schedules to minimize the number of people near one another. Meetings should be held in the area where an individual works, instead of in a large gathering point such as a conference or break room. Meetings and events of more than five people should not be held in person."
Turner Construction: "Turner’s social distancing guidelines respect a six-foot or greater distance. Projects are reducing encounters by staggering trade arrival and departure times, establishing distinct work areas, and limiting the number of people in all work spaces, common areas, and hoists. People are discouraged from facing each other while riding in a hoist."
Facilitating Defensive Hygiene
Professional construction operations are going beyond recommendations of hand washing to provide employees the tools they need to stay clean and safe wherever they work.
Kiewit: "With the guidance and direct involvement of industry-leading industrial hygienists, we implemented more stringent office and project site cleaning and hygiene protocols in all locations and developed specific viral contamination protocols to address confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 exposures. We also developed more stringent tool, vehicle and equipment cleaning protocols."
Skanska: "[We are] providing additional alcohol-based hand sanitizer and wash stations. [We recommend that you] avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash. If you do not have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your elbow.
Do not share personal items or supplies such as phones, pens, notebooks, PPE, etc. Refrain from shaking hands with others. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. If warm water is not available, use hand sanitizer."
PCL Construction Enterprises: "Hand sanitizer should be available at or near entry points to the project and at various high traffic locations throughout the project such as doorways, field plan tables, tool cribs, hoists, water containers, etc. Hot and cold running water, and hand soap should be available at bathroom facilities, lunchrooms and kitchen areas. If hot and cold running water are not available, hand sanitizer will be made available."
House Doctors: "Steps we are taking [include] cleaning frequently touched surfaces, [and employees washing] hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing [their] nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, [they should] use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol."
Turner Construction: "Turner projects provide access to hand washing stations. Frequent cleaning and disinfecting of objects and surfaces helps to maintain a safe site. These areas include: hoist, tables, microwaves, coffee machines, turnstiles, handrails, buses for transport of workers, doorknobs, bathrooms, and all common areas."
Securing Financial Transactions
This pandemic has increased uncertainty, and in some cases created gaps in communication that bad actors have attempted to exploit.
Turner Construction: "There are individuals who are using this situation to target the financial dealing of companies. We will not change payment instructions via email or text. Please do not act upon or accept any requests to change the payment instructions specified in your contract with Turner unless the communication comes directly from a Vice President of Turner in writing by regular mail, and you follow up with a phone call to Turner at a number you know to be accurate."
Intensifying Cleaning Routines
One of the most effective measures to prevent viral spread is rigorously cleaning frequently touched surfaces.
Lendlease Group: "Across Lendlease's corporate workplaces, our cleaning regime includes the use of full disinfectant on hard surfaces, high touch points and high traffic areas, as well as ongoing day time hygienic cleans . . . To help keep people working on our global construction sites safe and healthy, we’ve increased the frequency and intensity of our cleaning procedures."
Skanska: "Increased and enhanced cleaning and sanitizing by third-party specialist cleaning contractors of high touch surfaces, high traffic areas, equipment, tools and vehicles."
PCL Construction Enterprises: "Before commencing work each day or shift, high traffic surfaces (in terms of hand contact) within offices, meeting rooms, orientation rooms, coffee and kitchen areas, work stations, portable and permanent washrooms, and common work spaces should be cleaned . . . Hard surfaces and buttons your hands may meet on frequently touched items such as refrigerators, microwaves, water cooler handles, taps and faucets, light switches and other high traffic objects should be cleaned after each use."
Verifying Supply Chains
Delivery services and material stocks have been significantly impacted by the global efforts to fight the coronavirus, so contracting companies are taking extra measures to ensure their supplies are available when and where they're needed.
Turner Construction: "Turner is monitoring worldwide supply chains for actual delays that may affect our ability to maintain the schedule on our work."
Restricting Access to Jobsites
Limiting the number of people on a site helps meet social distancing guidelines, and minimizes risk of accidental contamination by unnecessary visitors.
Suffolk Construction: "Suffolk’s jobsite safety protocols include minimizing in-person meetings and large gatherings; enforcing social distancing guidelines of six feet or more; installing additional hand wash and sanitizer stations; surveying all individuals on jobsites daily to ensure they are symptom free; posting highly-visible signage related to COVID-19 protocols; thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting all at-risk areas and portable bathrooms multiple times daily; and establishing strict safety criteria for food trucks. Our safety protocols, training and check lists will continue to evolve in response to new developments."
Skanska: "[We have instituted] new screening measures at jobsite entry gates."
PCL Construction Enterprises: "PCL has implemented enhanced screening measures to help reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus. All employees and tradespeople accessing both offices and jobsites will require screening prior to entering those locations. Screening is voluntary but any person who refuses screening will be denied access to the work location."
Turner Construction: "Site access is restricted to those essential for project continuity. If you had close contact with an individual who has a confirmed positive test result for COVID-19, you are not permitted on a Turner jobsite or office for 14 days from the date of contact. If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early and stay away from others. You are not allowed in a Turner facility."
Limiting Employee Travel
By necessity, most air travel requires exposure to group settings, increasing the chances of exposure to the virus. Some companies are explicitly limiting travel by employees, and requiring periods of quarantine after trips.
Kiewit: "We have prohibited virtually all company travel unless approved by executive leadership. We have also required all employees to report their personal travel schedules so we can closely monitor and take any necessary steps to maintain the safety of our workforce."
Haskell: "[We have] suspended international travel, non-essential domestic travel, and have postponed events, shows, and large group meetings, [and] required all employees, who have traveled internationally or to COVID-19 high-risk areas, to self-quarantine for 14 days."
Skanska: "Skanska has implemented a global ban on international travel currently effective through April 30, 2020 and has limited domestic air travel to business-critical purposes only. Employees traveling to a high-risk country, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), are required to self-quarantine for 14 days upon their return and before visiting a Skanska office or jobsite."
PCL Construction Enterprises: "Non-essential business travel should cease until further notice. There may be some limited exceptions to this rule for unavoidable and essential company or personnel reasons. Overall, at this time, the risk to your health and your family’s health, your PCL coworkers and the communities we work in created by personal travel is difficult to gauge. For these reasons, we urge employees to postpone or cancel their personal travel plans."
Shifting to Remote Work
Where possible, contracting organizations with administrative components are shifting those business elements online and minimizing in-person interaction. This reduces the number of people on work sites, which limits the potential spread of the virus.
Haskell: "Haskell [has] moved the majority of our office-based team members to a teleworking arrangement . . . All office sites and active project sites continue to operate."
Kiewit: "We postponed social gatherings, large in-person training sessions and other activities involving groups of 10 or more."
PCL Construction Enterprises: "All previously scheduled PCL social and non-essential events are canceled or postponed . . . In-person meetings and events are to be avoided wherever possible."
Turner Construction: "Turner is limiting in-person meetings, using remote conferencing technology tools, practicing social distancing when meeting in person."
The larger the work force, the more crucial it is to maintain lines of communication. Clear, uniform standards can better protect both customers and employees.
Kiewit: "For employees, we established a robust, regularly updated COVID-19 information hub with FAQs, important communications, regularly updated protocols, business planning tools, best practices, signage/flyers and other important resources . . . We have significantly increased communications, signage and oversight of personal hygiene requirements to drive better prevention practices."
Skanska: "Employees have access to an internal website via the web or an app. This site provides daily updates related to COVID-19, Skanska recommended policies and more."
Continuing to Improve
As the situation evolves, companies are keeping a close eye on any emerging challenges, restrictions, and opportunities to improve.
PCL Construction Enterprises: "As the COVID-19 issues and impacts rapidly evolve, we are closely monitoring these changes and following guidelines supplied by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Health Canada and the World Health Organization."
Bechtel: "Because circumstances can change quickly, we are monitoring developments around the world in real time, and making decisions as needed. We are updating our people and our customers daily to ensure they have the latest information."
Balfour Beatty: "In addition to our workplace measures, Balfour Beatty’s U.S. Pandemic Task Force is closely monitoring the quickly evolving situation and adjusting our response to meet the rapidly changing situations in the communities where we serve."
Kiewit: "As the COVID-19 pandemic – and the responses by federal, state and provincial governments – rapidly evolve, Kiewit continues to make adjustments to its practices and policies to protect the health of our employees and those we work with at our projects and office locations, while continuing to provide our essential construction services to our clients and the public."
We are fully engaged in active and ongoing monitoring of this issue, including disease progression, federal, state, provincial and local government actions, CDC and WHO responses, supplier and supply chain risks, and prevention and containment measures to maintain business operations. This includes ongoing communications with leading health experts and public officials."
Skanska: "Skanska has established a US COVID-19 Coordination Response Team, as well as Local Coordination Response Teams in every market. These teams are tasked with monitoring this evolving situation, sharing information, implementing protocols, reducing exposure to the virus, and supporting our teams and operations."
House Doctors: "We will continue to closely monitor the situation surrounding the COVID-19 coronavirus and act accordingly. We hope this alleviates any concerns you may have when choosing House Doctors. Please contact us with any questions or concerns."
Turner Construction: "Turner has an Action Team in place devoted to establishing the manners in which we protect and support people, share information, reduce the potential for the spread of the virus, and support the continuity of our operations. The team has developed and will continue to refine protocols for responding to this dynamic situation."
Responding to Customer Needs
No two homes or businesses are the same, and especially in this challenging moment, families or companies hiring contractors may have special requirements they need met.
House Doctors: "We encourage our customers to let us know in advance of an appointment if there are any concerns or they would like us to take special precautions."
This moment has put the whole world to the test. Like many individuals who are reaching out to help others, some companies are providing support to their employees, their customers, and the health services working for our collective safety. Bechtel Corporation, for example, is donating supplies to first responders, and supporting their employees with mental health resources.
Kiewit: "We wish good health and safety to all our business partners and their employees and families."
Bechtel: "COVID-19 is impacting communities around the world that are home to our people and the people we serve. Our thoughts and support are with everyone who is working to overcome this historic challenge, and especially those whose lives have been touched directly.
Stopping the spread of COVID-19 is a responsibility we all share. Bechtel is taking whatever actions are necessary to care for the well-being of everyone who works at our company, their families, and those whom we work alongside.
We are also here for our customers. Many of our government and commercial partners provide essential services. Throughout this crisis we will deliver for them wherever and however we are able to do so safely. The same goes for our communities. Bechtel is donating critical supplies to local hospitals and first responders in several areas near our active projects. We will look for additional ways to help those who are on the front lines in this fight in the weeks ahead.
We are also reminding colleagues of the resources available through our company to care for the stress and mental health impacts that so many experience in times of crisis. This is a major challenge in our industry. It’s critical that we support each other.
We look forward to returning to normal operations as soon as we can. In the meantime, we will continue to update you on our efforts as we move forward. Stay safe."
Note: Doityourself.com is not professionally affiliated with the companies in this article. We're offering a look at their new guidelines as examples of how leaders in the field are meeting this serious moment. Their full statements are available on their websites.