NAHB/CISC Guidance Implores Vigilance on Jobsites but Continued WorkJuly 23rd, 2020 by Drew Vass, Executive Editor
As the U.S. continues to fight the spread of COVID-19 and door and window companies grapple with physical distancing in the workplace, matters can be more complicated on jobsites where installers rub elbows with other companies and trades. Officials for the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) implored jobsite workers to practice safety and vigilance in recent weeks, steering them to guidance issued by the Construction Industry Safety Coalition (CISC). After working to secure home building as part of the nation’s essential infrastructure workforce at federal, state and local levels, “None of this should be at the expense of safety,” urged NAHB chairperson Chuck Fowke, adding, “Fortunately, the safety measures taken by home builders and remodelers have allowed our workers to stay on the job without jeopardizing their safety.”
As the nation breached a second peak for COVID-19, the association urged building and remodeling professionals to recommit to jobsite safety measures, including the guidance of a Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Plan for Construction developed by the CISC. The plan provides step-by-step guidance for reducing jobsite transmission via a system of forms that can be downloaded and put to use by employers.
“We all know the basics,” Fowke said. “Maintain a distance of at least six feet, wear face coverings and wash your hands frequently … For those of us in construction, we must take additional precautions, like avoiding the sharing of tools, properly disinfecting equipment that must be handled by others, using individual water containers rather than shared ones like water coolers, and minimizing the total number of workers on a site at any one time.”
Based on information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), in addition to basic measures like good personal hygiene, CISC’s guidance asks employees to continue monitoring for cough, fever of 100.4 degrees or higher, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing and early symptoms, such as chills, body aches, sore throat, headache, diarrhea, nausea/vomiting and runny nose. Any employee exhibiting symptoms “will be asked to leave the jobsite and return home,” the document declares. At the same time, though employers may ask employees who aren’t exhibiting symptoms but may have been exposed to stay home for 14 days, CISC’s guidance adds the caveat: “depending upon workforce needs.” Employers are urged to organize employees into set groups, which should be maintained to prevent cross contamination. They’re also advised to employ two crews for every project, to prevent delays in the event that one is required to enter quarantine.
According to the document, labeled as critical infrastructure by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (“CISA”), employees of home building and remodeling related businesses who have been exposed or potentially exposed to a suspected or confirmed case may continue working, but employers are required to measure their temperatures before they enter worksites. Exposed and potentially exposed employees must also wear face masks for 14 days after exposure and maintain social distancing as work duties permit, as well as routinely disinfect their workspaces.
Even with employees reporting to jobsites, when possible, CISC asks employers to conduct any and all meetings by phone. In cases where that isn’t possible, meetings should remain at 10 attendees or less, the Coalition suggests, and should be kept six feet apart. The same rules apply to such things as work and lunch breaks and those who remain at work are asked to avoid physical contact of any sort. In the event that tools must be shared or swapped, employers are to provide alcohol wipes for sanitization before and after use.
Companies are encouraged to limit the use of N95 respirators (for such things as dust protection) by using measures such as water delivery and dust collection systems, and by limiting exposure time. At the same time, “While construction work could generally be considered ‘low risk’ for viral transmission, some construction tasks or activities may involve working with others in proximity closer than six feet, including sitting in the same vehicle, and therefore might be considered as ‘medium risk’ under the Agency’s risk pyramid,” the document states. For this reason and in accordance with CDC recommendations, “we are implementing a face covering policy for certain work activities for the foreseeable future,” CISC officials declare.
Those who are required to enter buildings and homes are asked to sanitize work areas upon arrival and before leaving with alcohol-based wipes, while also maintaining a distance of six feet from homeowners and occupants.
Door and window companies interested in reviewing or employing CISC’s guidance and documents can download copies from the Coalition’s website, including fields for personalization of company names.