A construction site is a fluid place where things not only change day-to-day, but minute-to-minute. All the precautions that you can possibly take to protect workers has been executed to the best of your abilities. But, then it happens! Someone at the site has been exposed to or has the symptoms of COVID-19. What do you do?
First of all, don’t panic. Hopefully by now, you have a COVID-19 response plan in place that outlines exactly what to do to protect employees, subcontractors, and jobsite visitors. (If you don't yet have a plan in place, my previous post here may be helpful.) Your COVID-19 Response Plan should be tailored to each specific jobsite or company, but it should include the following:
- Social distancing requirements;
- Minimizing congested staffing and staging work scheduling;
- Implementing requirements for the use of gloves, face coverings, and/or face shields;
- Instituting heightened hygiene, sanitation, and cleaning practices;
- Regulating use and congestion in job trailers, elevators, and lunch and break areas; and
- Daily monitoring of employee health, to possibly include taking employee temperatures.
In the case of an employee or site worker reporting symptoms or a possible exposure, what are my next steps?
From a purely contractual perspective, the responsibility for the implementation and enforcement of a comprehensive COVID-19 response plan is likely on the general contractor and, specifically, the safety director. Accordingly, a general contractor’s representative should be identified and trained (preferably in advance) in how to manage a jobsite once a confirmed COVID-19 case is reported. If measures are not currently in place when a positive test is reported, a general contractor has a few options other than assuming everyone on the site has been exposed and the entire josbsite should be shut down.
It's important to get as much information as possible from the person who reported the case, such as where they were working, who they were working around, and if they were wearing all the proper PPE while they were on site for at least the last 72 hours. Without giving away the potentially infected person’s name, inform anyone who was working around them that there was a reported case of COVID-19. Make sure that the area where the employee was working is partitioned off until it has been properly cleaned and disinfected. Follow the directions of this COVID-19 flowchart to determine how long the possible exposed employee(s) should self-quarantine at home. At this point, you will also want to review your COVID-19 procedures to determine if there are any procedural or training issues that need to be addressed.
Not all jobsites are exercising a high degree of exposure prevention, which results in a constant battle to prevent cross-contamination between projects. As a preventative measure, developing policies or contract clauses that require “transient” subcontractors and suppliers to notify a general contractor of a confirmed case on other jobs could be a useful tool to prevent the spread to your jobsite.
Below are two documents you may find useful for handling a COVID-19 exposure on the jobsite: