Maintaining Social Distancing for Workers Returning to Worksites

Crane on a building site, covered by construction insurance

As organisations attempt to return to normal operations following months of lockdown measures due to the coronavirus pandemic, there are new factors that must be considered in order to protect workers.

Social distancing continues to be a key component of minimising risks related to the spread of germs. As such, organisations should implement the following precautions:

  • Keep employees at least 2 metres apart, or at least 1 metre with other risk mitigations if 2 metres is not possible.
  • Install screens or barriers to separate workers from each other.
  • Instruct workers to work back-to-back or side-to-side rather than face-to-face.
  • Establish fixed teams or partners so that workers are in contact with as few colleagues as possible.
  • Reduce congestion by staggering workers’ arrival and departure times or by establishing additional entry and exit points.
  • Decrease equipment sharing, job rotations and movement within buildings and worksites.
  • Avoid in-person meetings by using remote meeting tools, such as videoconferencing software.

Given the ongoing threat that the coronavirus pandemic poses, it is important that workers understand how personal protective equipment (PPE) and the threat of COVID-19 relate.

Utilising Personal Protective Equipment Against COVID-19

In general, organisations and workers should be aware that layering on additional PPE beyond what a worker would normally use is not beneficial in combatting the risk of COVID-19 transmission. That being said, additional PPE may be advisable in certain situations, such as in clinical settings like hospitals.

There may also be circumstances in which the use of face coverings can reduce risk. Face coverings can lessen the chance of an infected worker spreading germs to colleagues and may be particularly useful for those who must work in close proximity. Employees should be instructed to avoid touching their coverings, to wash or sanitise their hands before and after using them, and to wash or dispose of masks after use.

It is important that organisations assess each worksite and situation on a case-by-case basis. In the event that a risk assessment shows a need for additional PPE, organisations are required to provide it free of charge.

Stress, Depression and Anxiety in Construction

In addition to risks and hazards that may cause physical harm, organisations should also prioritise the mental health of workers.
According to estimates, there are approximately 16,000 work related cases of stress, depression or anxiety each year among construction workers. This represents approximately 25% of all ill health in the industry.