We have all been affected by the virus in one way or another; whether it’s health, financially, or both, it’s making an impact on our daily lives. Going forward, it is safe to say that things will be different from what we have been used to. For example, people will likely be more hesitant to be in large crowds, and handshakes and hugs may not be as common as they used to be.
Utah has been one of the few states that didn’t go through a complete lockdown, so the construction trades have still been able to work as they have been deemed essential businesses. However, we still have to follow safe health procedures and social distancing. As of the time I’m writing this article, Utah is transitioning from a high risk to a moderate risk state.
What’s going to happen once we’re able to get to our “new normal”? At this time of uncertainty, I have to look at what the United States Marines say: “Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome”.
With that in mind, here’s what I foresee: Infection prevention measures will be a part of the new normal. Our clients that we are providing services to in their homes and businesses will want to make sure that contractors are able to protect their families and the workers from being exposed to any potential health risks.
Now, more than ever, is the time to prepare your company to be proactive with personal protection equipment (PPE). Those who install hard surface products such as hardwood, tile, resilient flooring, should already have safety glasses, dust masks and gloves. And yes, right now it’s difficult to get N95 dust masks, but you’re also seeing cloth dust masks being made to fill the gap. Fortunately for our company, we have stock of N95 dust masks, gloves, and safety glasses for the entire crew to make it for a couple of months, and we’re hoping that in the next few months, PPE inventories will increase with our distributors.
One thing we lacked prior to the pandemic was hand sanitizer. These days, our company is using more hand sanitizer and disinfectant spray than ever, and fortunately, we have some local distilleries that are now manufacturing hand sanitizer. Along with that we’ve had to purchase hand lotion so our hands don’t end up drying and chapping, since the entire crew is sanitizing several times a day. Tools and anything that is considered a high touch spot are also wiped down with disinfectant at the beginning and end of each day.
Several years ago, we purchased an air scrubber with HEPA dust control and a fogger for sanitizing on our projects. We also utilize the Zip Wall system with plastic sheeting to isolate our work areas. Who would have known that these tools would one day assist with making our job sites safer during a pandemic? These tools have also been a selling point, giving our clients assurance that we are going the extra mile to keep things clean and safe for ourselves and for them.
I’m putting together a PPE backpack for each of our installers. The kit includes ear protection, a sweatband for their head, kneepads, shoe covers, a water bottle, safety glasses, a N95 face mask, full respirator, work gloves/Nitrile gloves, hand wipes, hand sanitizer, lotion and a digital non-touch thermometer.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19 is a great resource for more suggestions on how to help those in construction trades stay protected on the job during and after the coronavirus pandemic.