Coronavirus (COVID-19) - Tips

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Introduction

This tip sheet is for construction industry employers as an overview of potential hazards in the workplace due to COVID-19 and related control measures. It can also be useful for employees, trades, and contractors.

For general COVID-19 prevention practices, employers and workers can refer to the CCOHS COVID-19 Resources documents, including “Protect Yourself and Others”.

In all cases, guidance from local public health authorities and your jurisdictional health and safety regulator must be followed.

Consider the Risks

  • The risk of contracting COVID-19 increases in situations where people are in closed spaces (with poor ventilation) and crowded places when with people from outside their immediate household. Risk is higher in settings where these factors overlap or involve activities such as close-range conversations, singing, shouting or heavy breathing (e.g., during exertion).
  • As a construction worker, potential sources of exposure include:
    • having close contact with another person who has COVID-19.
    • touching surfaces or items that have been touched or handled by a person with COVID-19, and then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes.
  • Each workplace is unique. Employers need to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances to protect the health and safety of their workers. These precautions include assessing the risks of COVID-19 for their specific workplace and the activities conducted by their workers.
  • Employers must then implement appropriate hazard controls using the hierarchy of controls (i.e., elimination, substitution, engineering controls, administrative policies, and the use of personal protective equipment). Use multiple personal preventive practices in a layered approach.
  • Implement a written workplace safety plan that identifies potential exposures to COVID-19 and the controls implemented to protect workers.
  • Employers should consider the following:
    • Where and when do workers interact with others at the workplace?
    • How close are the interactions? The risk of transmission increases with close and frequent contact with a person infected with COVID-19.
    • How long are the interactions? Person-to-person spread is more likely with prolonged contact.
    • Where are workers taking their breaks and eating meals? Can physical distancing be maintained?
    • Can barriers be installed where it is not possible to maintain physical distancing?
    • How often are surfaces and objects cleaned and disinfected?
    • Do workers have the knowledge they need to protect themselves and others from the spread of COVID-19?
    • Are you able to assess if a worker may have COVID-related symptoms, and rapidly take appropriate actions?
    • Are precautions in place at construction sites?

Construction Site Specific Guidance

  • Make sure that you have the correct required number of washrooms for the number of construction workers on site before construction begins, to provide proper worker hygiene.
  • Provide adequate hand-washing facilities on site for all workers and ensure their location is highly visible and they are easily accessible.
  • Keep all facilities properly stocked, cleaned, and disinfected.
  • Do not neglect daily safety communications. Find ways to relay the information safely. Stress the importance of following COVID-19 protocols at each communication.

Communication and Training

  • Provide information and instruction to workers about the hazards of COVID-19 and what they need to do to protect themselves and others. Topics should include:
    • What COVID-19 is and the common symptoms
    • How the virus spreads
    • Screening and what to do if workers feel sick or may have been exposed
    • How to protect themselves and others by layering multiple hazard controls and personal preventive practices at once
    • How to properly wear, handle, and care for personal protective equipment (PPE)
    • Safe use of cleaning and disinfection chemicals
    • How to stay informed about COVID-19 (using reputable sources)
    • New and updated work practices and policies
  • For multiple-employer workplaces make sure that the lead site manager communicates the worksite COVID-19 safety plan to each employer or contractor and ensures they understand their responsibilities.
  • Encourage workers to report any COVID-19 concerns to their supervisor or employer. Workers can also report concerns to their health and safety committee or representative, or union if present.
  • Provide regular communications so that workers are informed of updates and have an opportunity to discuss their questions and concerns.
  • Post signs throughout the workplace, especially in high traffic areas, as a reminder about the precautions to follow (e.g., hand hygiene, physical distancing). Using clear language, along with graphics and pictograms can aid communication efforts.
  • Provide mental health support resources for all workers, including access to an employee assistance program (EAP) if available.
  • Communicate with any interested stakeholders (e.g., local community leaders) about the COVID-19 precautions being taken.

Screening

  • Actively screen all persons who enter the workplace (workers, visitors, contractors, etc.). Use a checklist, a web-based tool, or have a designated person ask screening questions.
  • Workers who have COVID-19 symptoms should return home immediately or stay home if already there. If they develop symptoms at work, they should put on a medical mask, or if unavailable a well-constructed and well-fitting non-medical mask and advise their supervisor. They should also contact their health care provider and local public health authority and follow their instructions.
  • To support contact tracing efforts, record the names and contact information of all workers and other persons who enter the workplace, as required by your local public health authority. Make sure that privacy is protected, and that the information is stored securely. Contact information must be destroyed in a timely manner according to privacy laws.
  • If a worker tests positive for COVID-19 and the case is work-related, additional notifications may be required (e.g., the jurisdictional health and safety regulator and worker compensation board). Complete an incident report and begin an incident review.
  • Have available, or have a plan for ready access to, the necessary health care professionals needed to support any COVID-19 cases among workers.
  • If a visitor screens positive for COVID-19 they should not enter the workplace. They should wear a medical mask and return home immediately.
  • If readily available and feasible, consider implementing routine rapid testing as an additional active screening measure. Consider how you will manage the response to a rapid test result.

Vaccine

  • Encourage workers to get the vaccine.
  • Workers who are vaccinated should continue to follow all required public health precautions such as wearing masks and maintaining physical distance from others.
  • Employers should maintain their COVID-19 workplace controls, no matter how many of their workers are vaccinated, until public health restrictions are reduced.
  • For additional information on the vaccine please refer to the Government of Canada website.

Reducing Potential Exposures

  • Assign a worker to coordinate infection prevention and control measures and to monitor public health advisories.
  • Create teams of workers (cohorts) who will work on the same shifts, if possible.
  • Determine if any workers can work remotely (e.g., roles that perform administrative functions). Provide ergonomic support and resources for workers setting up home offices.
  • Restrict access to the workplace to essential workers and visitors only.
  • Eliminate non-essential work travel for all workers.
  • Discourage unnecessary physical contact such as handshakes.
  • Avoid in-person meetings and training sessions where possible. Use remote communications methods instead (e.g., teleconferencing, videoconferencing). When in-person meetings and training are required, use a large well-ventilated space, instruct participants to stay the greatest physical distance (at least 2 metres) apart, wear a mask, and limit the number of participants. If possible, hold meetings and training outside.
  • Some jurisdictions have limits on the number of people that can be in a space at the same time, both indoors and outdoors. Always follow local public health requirements.
  • Reduce the amount of paper documentation or other items being exchanged between workers. Consider using electronic methods to exchange documents. If this exchange can’t be avoided, wash or sanitize hands after handling items.
  • Avoid in-person gatherings such as social events.

Physical Distancing

  • Keep the greatest physical distance possible (at least 2 metres) from others at the workplace.
  • Avoid non-essential in-person interactions and keep essential interactions as few and as brief as possible.
  • Identify areas that may be crowded (e.g., mine entrance, change rooms). Remind workers to maintain physical distancing. If necessary, stagger shift and break schedules to avoid having large groups of workers in the same area.
  • Space chairs apart (at least 2 metres) in cafeterias, meeting rooms and break areas. Remove chairs if necessary.
  • Post capacity limits at entrances to shared areas (e.g., washrooms).
  • Maintain physical distancing during breaks and meals. Since masks can be removed when eating or drinking, limit the number of people taking breaks at the same time. Arrange for breaks to occur in larger spaces or outdoors (weather permitting) and at staggered times.
  • For travel underground (e.g., mobile personnel carriers or mine cage), limit the number of workers to allow for more space. To the greatest extent possible, maintain a 2-metre distance between workers and avoid having workers positioned face-to-face.
  • Review how specific activities are conducted to determine if there are any situations where physical distancing cannot be maintained. Precautions include reorganizing the task, installation of barriers, or the use of PPE such as masks and eye protection.

Physical Barriers

  • Install physical barriers in areas where it is not possible to maintain physical distancing (e.g., screening areas, eating areas).
  • The physical barrier should be made from a non-porous material such as plexiglass than can be easily cleaned and disinfected.
  • For additional information, please refer to the CCOHS resource “Physical Barriers”.

Ventilation

  • Ventilate construction sites as appropriate. The more enclosed spaces become, the more ventilation will be necessary. Ventilation dilutes viruses present in the air.
  • If multiple people must share a vehicle, ventilate it by opening windows and setting ventilation systems to non-recirculation mode and clean and disinfect between users.
  • For buildings (e.g., offices, construction sites), consult a ventilation specialist to determine whether any enhancements can be made to the ventilation system(s) (e.g., increasing the percentage of fresh air intake, increasing air exchange rates, and improving filtration).
  • Verify that the mechanical ventilation system(s) are operating properly.
  • Make sure that regular inspections and preventative maintenance for ventilation system(s) is conducted according to manufacture’s instructions.
  • For additional information on indoor ventilation, please refer to:

Personal Hygiene

  • Encourage frequent and proper hand washing with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water aren't available, use a hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.
  • Place hand sanitizer dispensers in high traffic areas (e.g., workplace entrances). Ask everyone who enters the workplace to perform hand hygiene with hand sanitizer.
  • Wash hands at the start of shift, before eating or drinking, after touching shared items, after using the washroom, after cleaning and disinfecting objects, before and after putting on or removing PPE or a mask, and at the end of the shift.
  • Discourage individuals from touching their eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands and from touching the outer surface of their mask while wearing or handling it, as it may be contaminated.
  • Promote good respiratory hygiene. Provide disposable tissues and remind individuals to cough or sneeze into the bend of your arm or a tissue and to dispose of tissues immediately, followed up with hand washing or use of hand sanitizer.
  • Verify that all necessary materials are readily available in the workplace (e.g., hand sanitizer, no-touch waste receptacles, disposable tissues).

Cleaning and Disinfection

Follow general cleaning guidance found here.

  • Construction operators should focus on construction equipment controls, touchscreens, tools, washrooms, scaffolding, elevators, hoists and rigging, vehicles, and barriers.
  • High transmission risk objects and surfaces should be disinfected multiple times a day.
  • Make sure washrooms are cleaned frequently, have running water or alternative, and are stocked with soap, paper towels and a plastic lined no-touch waste container.
  • Make sure hand sanitizer stations are inspected, cleaned, and re-stocked daily.
  • Consider applying long-lasting antimicrobial products to high touch surfaces in construction trailers or offices.
  • Do not exceed maximum occupancy of office and break trailers.
  • Consider longer operating hours to allow for a morning and afternoon shift, decreasing the total amount of people onsite at a time.

Wearing Masks

  • Properly wear a well-fitted and well-constructed mask when:
    • you’re in a shared space (indoors or outdoors) with people from outside of your immediate household
    • advised by your local public health authority
  • At meals, keep masks on as much as possible, and only take it off when eating and drinking.

Work Cohorts

  • Depending on the nature of the work, the employer may consider creating cohorts of workers (teams, crews).
  • Cohorts should operate as a unit, and work, travel, eat and stay together (if applicable).
  • Each cohort should stay physically distant from other cohorts and should not socialize with other cohorts (e.g., during shift changes).
  • The use of cohorts helps reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 and helps with contact tracing if a positive COVID-19 case is found in the workplace.
  • Consider critical roles required for each cohort team.

Suppliers and Contractors

  • Make sure that suppliers and contractors are subject to the same COVID precautions as other workers on site (e.g., screening, physical distancing, wearing masks).
  • Communicate all changes to COVID-19 precautions to suppliers and contractors. Make sure they understand and comply with changes.

COVID Alert App

  • Provide workers with information about the COVID Alert App that can be installed on their phone. This app is designed to let Canadians know whether they may have been exposed to COVID-19.
  • The app maintains your privacy; it does not record or share your geographic location.

Business Continuity Plans

  • Review and adjust business continuity plans to address issues related to COVID-19 such as what to do in the event of an outbreak, and how communication will be coordinated with stakeholders such as health and safety regulators and local public health authorities.

COVID-19 Response Plan

  • Have the symptomatic person immediately wear a medical (surgical) mask (if not available, they should properly wear a well-constructed and well-fitting non-medical mask).
  • Immediately isolate the symptomatic person from others in a designated area or room.
  • Clean and disinfect all surfaces and objects that the symptomatic person may have touched or been close to.
  • Suggest to the symptomatic person that they should self-isolate at home as soon as possible, seek medical care if necessary, and follow instructions from their local public health authority (information is widely available on their websites).
  • Instruct the symptomatic person to avoid using public transit, taxi, or ride-share, if possible.
  • If a client, worker, or contractor informs you of a positive COVID-19 test result, contact your local public health authority and cooperate with any contact tracing efforts. You may also be required to inform workers who might been exposed, unless that is the responsibility of your public health authority. Advise that all who were exposed carefully monitor their health. Maintain personal privacy as much as possible when doing so.
  • If the infection is suspected to have occurred at the workplace then confirm with the agencies responsible for OHS (Occupational Health & Safety) and workers compensation in your jurisdiction if this illness needs to be reported. Complete an incident report and begin an investigation.
  • If a vehicle or an office is the site of the infection, consider immediately taking it out of service for deep cleaning.

It is important that mental health resources and support are provided to all workers, including access to an employee assistance program, if available.

For further information on COVID-19, refer to the Public Health Agency of Canada.

Note that this guidance is just some of the adjustments organizations can make during a pandemic. Adapt this list by adding your own good practices and policies to meet your organization’s specific needs.

Disclaimer: As public and occupational health and safety information is changing rapidly, local public health authorities should be consulted for specific, regional guidance. This information is not intended to replace medical advice or legislated health and safety obligations. Although every effort is made to ensure the accuracy, currency and completeness of the information, CCOHS does not guarantee, warrant, represent or undertake that the information provided is correct, accurate or current. CCOHS is not liable for any loss, claim, or demand arising directly or indirectly from any use or reliance upon the information.

Document last updated June 7, 2021