As COVID-19, or the “coronavirus”, continues to impact the United States and the rest of the world, OSHA remains committed to protecting the health and safety of the men and women who continue to go out into the workforce on a daily basis, including those who work in the construction industry.
First and foremost, OSHA does not consider the construction industry a high-risk industry like the healthcare industry, so the agency will not enforce record-keeping requirements to mandate that contractors make determinations regarding whether a coronavirus case is work related or not. However, in cases where there is a “reasonably available” objective evidence that a coronavirus case may be work related, contractors are required to log the case when it is confirmed and involves one or more of the general recording criteria, like medical treatment beyond first aid or days away from work.
On April 22, 2020, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued safety guidance aimed at reducing construction workers’ risk of exposure to the coronavirus. The substance of the guidance presents no new regulations but provides contractors with a clear and concise list of practical advice regarding areas such as enhanced workplace cleaning, social distancing in the workplace or at the construction site, and face coverings and other protective equipment.
More specifically, when working in the construction industry, OSHA recommends that the following actions be taken to reduce the risk of exposure to the coronavirus:
- Encourage workers to stay home if they are sick;
- Allow workers to wear masks over their nose and mouth to prevent them from spreading the virus;
- Continue to use other normal control measures, including personal protective equipment (PPE), necessary to protect workers from other job hazards associated with construction activities;
- Advise workers to avoid physical contact with others and direct employees/contractors/visitors to increase personal space to at least six feet where possible. Where work trailers are used, all workers should maintain social distancing while in the trailers;
- Train workers how to properly put on, use/wear, and take off protective clothing and equipment;
- Encourage respiratory etiquette, including covering coughs and sneezes;
- Promote personal hygiene. If workers do not have immediate access to soap and water for handwashing, provide alcohol-based hand rubs containing at least 60 percent alcohol;
- Use Environmental Protection Agency-approved cleaning chemicals from List N or that have label claims against the coronavirus;
- To the extent tools or equipment must be shared, provide and instruct workers to use alcohol-based wipes to clean tools before and after use. When cleaning tools and equipment, workers should consult manufacturer recommendations for proper cleaning techniques and restrictions;
- Keep in-person meetings (including toolbox talks and safety meetings) as short as possible, limit the number of workers in attendance, and use social distancing practices;
- Clean and disinfect portable jobsite toilets regularly. Hand sanitizer dispensers should be filled regularly. Frequently-touched items (i.e., door pulls and toilet seats) should be disinfected; and
- Encourage workers to report and safety and health concerns.
While many of these recommendations are standard operating guidelines with respect to jobsites, it is increasingly important to ensure that these guidelines are closely followed to prevent any unanticipated effects of the coronavirus.
For more information, visit www.osha.gov/coronavirus or call 1-800-321-OSHA (6742). Thank you to all of the essential workers who are heroes risking their lives every day for the greater good!