Erland / Continuing Construction Amid COVID-19: A Field Perspective
Authored by Mitch Beyer, Field Supervisor & COVID-19 Officer
Continuing construction amid the COVID-19 pandemic was definitely a steep learning curve. Back in March of 2020, information and guidance would change overnight. We had to deal with a lot of unknowns. Most of those were resolved thanks to the CDC’s guidelines, state and local mandates, and Erland’s COVID-19 Response Team. Regularly having to implement new rules was difficult, but our subcontractor partners adjusted quickly and followed the procedures we put in place.
Ensuring worker safety was a priority on every Erland jobsite. We implemented the following initiatives to minimize the potential spread of COVID-19:
- Installed handwashing and disinfecting stations
- Staggered access to work areas
- Reduced the number of people in spaces
- Reinforced the use of proper PPE
- Implemented 6-foot social distancing
- Scheduled daily sanitation
- Designated an Erland site-specific COVID-19 Officer for each jobsite who continuously monitored and reported on compliance with CDC and other regulatory requirements
- Required self-certifications be completed prior to entering the jobsite each day
Additionally, we held multiple socially distanced and virtual stand-downs to keep our staff and subcontractor partners informed and prevent them from becoming complacent with regards to the virus. We even hired a bus company that followed the 6-foot social distancing policy to pick up subcontractor employees that were unable to get to work without carpooling.
Many construction activities require more than one person to complete a single task. This is difficult to do when you’re in the midst of a global pandemic and need to maintain a 6-foot social distance at all times. We were required to come up with new practices almost every day to complete work while reducing the need to be directly next to another person. Though this was challenging, it was a great way to get our subcontractor partners more involved. We worked together to brainstorm adaptations to typical construction activities that allowed us to remain 6-feet apart and still put work in place. An example of this is prefabbing components as a solitary activity thus reducing the time spent working in close proximity.
Another challenge was reinforcing the proper use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) during the hotter months. It was difficult to work efficiently while wearing face coverings, eye protection, and cut-resistant gloves. We tried to keep morale up as much as possible and thanked our crews for their efforts regularly.
It’s important to note that as we moved through different stages of construction, we adapted some of our COVID-19 safety protocols. For example, once our building was enclosed and the movement of air had changed, we had to increase the decontamination of all spaces, find ways to create better air flow, and limit the number of people in the building.
A year later, we’re pretty accustom to the COVID-19 safety protocols and have finally gotten back into a rhythm of work that mimics where we were prior to being disrupted. Unfortunately, no matter how much preplanning is done prior to construction, there will always be hurdles to overcome throughout the building process. COVID-19 was certainly a major one! It’s not something anyone could’ve predicted, but it has brought a whole new level of understanding to managing construction and client expectations which is something we can all appreciate and learn from.