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Jobsite COVID Protocols and Solutions: Career Toolbox Podcast

June 13, 2020

Protecting yourself and those around you shows respect and responsibility

Before jumping into the transcript, here are some links to the safety materials Fernando and Rob discuss.


NAHB Safety Resources

Jobsite Safety and Recordkeeping Guidance for Coronavirus

Disaster Response/COVID Safety Response Plan

COVID-19 Jobsite Checklist and Toolbox Talk

OSHA: COVID-19 Guidance for the Construction Workforce

NAHB Jobsite Safety Poster (Large - 11x17)


Welcome to ProTradeCraft's Career Toolbox. I'm Fernando Pagés, and I'm here to help you turn your day job into a career. In these difficult times, we're gonna be speaking today with Rob Matuga. He is the Assistant Vice President for Health, Safety, Jobsite regulations regarding all kinds of safety issues. And he's going to be addressing today, specifically the type of precautions that we should be taking with the coronavirus or the COVID-19 virus.

Especially now that we're returning to work, in a little bit less structured way, with more access to the job sites, more people on the job sites, perhaps doing remodeling, going into people's homes. Perhaps the people will be home.

He's got some terrific ideas that include, but also go well beyond wash your hands, wear a face mask, respect the social distancing of six feet and stay home if you're sick. Although those are really important elements and he will repeat those elements, I guarantee. I think he has also a lot of information that will add to that and you'll find interesting and useful.

I know this, 'cause I've been looking at the National Association of Home Builders website at www.nahb.org/safety.

They have a lot of really great information that we're linking to and highly recommend that you take a look at. They have a lot of information about COVID-19 and have actual some...

A lot of resources in terms of tailgate meetings. They urge, in fact, as a position, the organization, the NAHB urges members to halt work for at least 10 minutes to educate workers on how to stay safe from coronavirus.

This is something that you would do for your crew or with your co-workers if your company doesn't organize it. I think you could take a leadership position on this within your company.

Also some great tips in terms of just how to work in a home with existing... With people living and working within it. So, I think you're gonna get a lot out of it.

Hello, Robert, welcome to the ProTradeCraft's Career Toolbox. Thank you so much for joining us today. I was really looking forward to this interview, and it's so appropriate. And I think probably some of what we're gonna talk about will apply long after the virus is over. Tell us a little bit about the work of the NAHB, that's the National Association of Home Builders regarding labor, safety and health, specifically.

02:52 RM: Yeah. Sure. The National Association of Home Builders or NAHB and our members really work to ensure the housing is a national priority and that all Americans have access to safe, decent, and affordable housing, whether they choose to buy a home or rent.

Job site safety is really a key focus area for NAHB. For nearly 30 years NAHB has really been at the forefront of educating the residential construction industry about how to eliminate preventable accidents and to really operate safe job sites.

NAHB has developed a number of educational resources and safety training materials. We work with our Construction Safety and Health Committee to builders that are out there on the field, day in and day out.

These materials are really intended to help and educate employers, as well as workers on the various safety and health hazards that our industry faces, whether that's electrical issues, fall protection, how to use ladders safely, trenching and excavation, silica dust, there's many different hazards that are out there on the job site.

I do really, to better understand the importance and comply with the myriad of occupational safety and health or OSHA requirements. OSHA is the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration and they really oversee and write rules and regulations that every employer has to follow to make sure that workers are safe on the job site.

04:18 FP: Workers have to follow the rules, too don't they? You're responsible for your own safety. When I began in the trades many, many years ago, as a carpenter, one of the things I really prayed and hoped for was that I would end my career with all 10 fingers, and I have. I'm very proud of my 10 fingers.

04:37 RM: Yeah.

04:37 FP: You have to take care of it yourself, too don't you?

04:40 RM: Yeah. And not to get too far into the weeds. But the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 really set the groundwork for what OSHA does. They require, as employers to provide a safe and healthy workplace.

It also requires the workers to follow all of the OSHA safety and health regulations. And like I said, there are numerous and myriad OSHA rules and regulations that are out there. Just to make sure that workers are safe and healthy on the job.

Have a written COVID plan on the jobsite

05:09 FP: Now most states have regarded construction during this period of time that we've shut down to try to limit the contagion of our COVID-19 virus, that we've been all dealing with and the construction and remodeling industry, in most areas has been considered essential activities and companies have been permitted to work through the shutdowns.

And now, I think all the states have opened up at this point for construction. How has the role out of COVID safety measures, specifically occurred among NAHB members.

Like, what have you seen on the construction sites that you're familiar with?

05:44 RM: Sure. I think first and foremost, it's been critically important for our builder members and trade contractors to really develop and implement a coronavirus preparedness and response plan.

NAHB, early on, was able to develop this guidance that every construction employer and employee could use to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19. This plan has really described how to prevent worker exposure to coronavirus.

Protective measures should be taken on the job site or some protective equipment and safe work practices that should be used, cleaning, and disinfecting procedures. And then what happens if a worker is unfortunate enough to have COVID-19 and is sick on the job site.

Really, this document is a template that individual contractors should carefully review and really tailor to their own job site. And even many state and local jurisdictions, as they're reopening, are now requiring Preparedness and Response Plan to be in writing.

Luckily, NAHB, like I said, with our construction industry partners, wanted to really standardize and streamline this plan that we've put together and it's available free.

06:55 FP: So it's a template, it could be customized really to your local conditions, your local requirements and your particular needs. So really, contractors should consult with their state and local ordinances regarding really what is essential work in their areas and what contractors should be doing specific to their local areas, and I will say contractors should continue to monitor developments in this area 'cause they're even continually changing.

So, I think that's first and foremost is to develop that plan. What else are we seeing on construction sites?

RM: I think screening is a big issue right now. I think that employers and contractors out there are really using screening questions to make sure that anybody that comes to the job site, whether that's workers or other visitors, really asking them some simple questions such as,

  • Have you been in close contact with a person that has any signs or symptoms of COVID-19?
  • Does anybody in the household, have they been in contact with somebody that has been tested and shown signs or symptoms, or has been diagnosed with COVID-19?

And then the other thing is that temperature screening, I think that's another mechanism.

We're not seeing that a lot on residential construction site but on some commercial sites, we're seeing them do temperature screens as well as screening questions to make sure that anybody that's coming to the job site is not infected with COVID-19.

So I think that is sort of the second thing.

And then there are other things that I think that we're seeing that builders are doing, making sure that they're eliminating all non-essential visits to the job site. Sometimes there are job site tours, there are vendor demos, those are being eliminated on the job site, any visitors that do come to the job site, we're seeing contractors keep a visitor log, tracking those visitors that do come to the site, and then really keeping only essential personnel on the job.

When visitors do come to the job site, keeping a log of those visitors that do come to the site, just in case, if somebody does test positive for coronavirus and had interaction with other visitors on the site, you're able to now potentially trace those back.

Limit the number of people on the jobsite

I think it's also important that companies are now limiting crew sizes and I think even in the state of Pennsylvania, in the state statute or the state return-to-work order, it limits the number of individuals that can be on any given jobsite and I think in Pennsylvania, it's limited it to the number of only four per home building site.

09:27 FP: Four workers at a time per home building site?

09:29 FP: Yes, that's correct. And that's in just in the state of Pennsylvania. The key here is just really limiting the size of the crews.

Also, if you've got two large crews, continue to allow those crews to always work together. That way you're sort of limiting the exposure, so if one crew has somebody that tests positive, that only impacts that one crew instead of allowing the workers to go from crew to crew and sort of intermingling those crews.

09:56 FP: Make it a family group, if you will, on the job site, the same people work together all the time, versus a lot of mixing and different people showing up on the different crews?

That's interesting. What about in the practical sense? We hear a lot about social distancing, masks, hand washing, we hear that all every day. What about establishing sanitary conditions on the job site.

Tell me a little, a few specifics in the job site environment, for example, you talked about disinfecting.

Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces frequently

10:27 RM: Yeah, I think regularly cleaning and disinfecting, really, that's the frequently touched surfaces. Obviously, tools and equipment, door handles, the port-o-John, handrails, and even cellphones.

I think that all of those need to be cleaned and disinfected on a regular basis with an EPA registered household disinfectant, that's geared towards killing the coronavirus or the COVID-19 virus.

I think one other important part about the disinfecting, obviously, as you're framing a house, touching different parts of the structure, I think that those aren't the frequently touched items.

It's the other things, it could be the tools and the equipment—and I think it's really important to remember to follow the manufacturer's recommendation for sanitizing all of the tools and equipment. You definitely don't wanna use a harsh chemical that could damage your $300, your piece of equipment. SO make sure that you're following the recommendations of the manufacturers when you're cleaning and disinfecting those tools and equipment.

11:28 FP: I guess it'd probably be important to have your own tools too, over shared tools so that you're in contact with your own equipment all the time versus trading around?

11:38 RM: Yes, absolutely, I think that a couple of things, you want to make sure that you are using your own tools, your own equipment, and not sharing those if at all possible.

We recognize that the way that the construction industry is set up, oftentimes, tools are shared amongst one another, it's important to try to limit that.

And if you can't, certainly clean and disinfect those tools on a regular basis, as well.

12:04 FP: What about for remodeling contractors that are working in a home with occupants, an existing home? The family is living there and you're coming in and out, doing, it could be repair work or it could be some remodeling.

Are there any special precautions that you would take to protect the customer, the family, and/or yourself?

Remodelers have the added complications of homeowners on site

12:25 RM: Yeah, I think that's an excellent question and I think when workers are performing construction or even maintenance activities in an occupied home or office buildings or any other establishment, these locations, I think really present a unique hazard with regards to COVID-19 exposures.

I think, once again, first and foremost, those screening questions for the occupants, I think it's going to be very important because you don't wanna send a worker into a home or other indoor environment, where there could be a positive coronavirus case.

So you wanna ask some of these simple questions such as,

  • Have you been confirmed, or is anybody in the home or any of the occupants confirmed positive for COVID-19?
  • Is anybody experiencing signs or symptoms of COVID-19 such as fever, shortness of breath, cough?

Those are the types of things and I think the screening should be done if you're going to go into an occupied home or office buildings.

Also during this work, I think once again, it's gonna be really critical that the employees and the workers sanitize their work areas upon arrival, throughout the workday and immediately before departure.

And I think the companies make sure that they need to provide alcohol-based wipes for this particular purpose.

And I think finally, the workers should also ask all the occupants to keep that personal distance of six feet, the social distancing at a minimum.

And then, obviously, workers should wash and sanitize their hands immediately before starting work and right after they've completed the work.

So, if there's a not wash station available, using hand sanitizer with at least 70% alcohol is a good rule of thumb.

14:08 FP: Now you have a tailgate-type list of precautions and all that NAHB publishes. Would you give me that website so our listeners can go to it?

14:21 RM: We've got a number of free safety training and OSHA compliance guidance information available at www.nahb.org/safety.

We've got construction safety toolkits, or easy-to-use guides that help builders address the most pressing safety issues such as fall protection, trenching and excavation safety, confined spaces and we even have some information about how to survive any kind of OSHA inspection.

We also have short video Toolbox Talks that are about five minutes each, that also has an accompanying handout that really present relevant and timely safety information, from ladder use to heat stress, to safe driving.

And like I said, it's all available. It's free, for free at no cost to both NAHB members and non-members alike.

15:14 FP: Well, good. That's a great resource, especially for guys that may be put in charge of a crew and need to do the jobsite tailgate safety meeting, and that's a great resource. You can, I mentioned, show the videos on your phone and then discuss a little bit, and get on to work.

15:32 RM: One other note about our free safety resources, many of them are available in both English and Spanish.

15:38 FP: Excellent! I speak both of those languages.

Now, which of any of the precautions we're taking today, specific to the coronavirus, do you think are gonna stick with us, are gonna be things that five years from now we're still gonna be doing?

Are we gonna be wearing face masks?

Are some good things to come out of this in terms of habits? I guess hand washing is the good habit. My mom has always told me that.

16:06 RM: Yeah, I think this is an excellent question, and it's really the $64,000 question that everybody keeps asking. These safety precautions, specific to COVID-19, how long are we going to continue to follow these?

I think according to the CDC, the COVID-19 outbreak could last for a couple of months. It could last a year, or longer. It really is dependent upon the severity of the outbreak and what the public health officials in each of the local jurisdictions are seeing and how we're gonna spread this disease.

So, the question is, what's gonna be here to stay in terms of some of the practices that are coming out of COVID-19?

I believe that practicing good personal health habits are here to stay for the foreseeable future. That is staying home if you're sick, practicing good hand hygiene, cleaning and washing your hands on a frequent and regular basis, or using alcohol-based hand sanitizers to disinfect your hands.

I also think that you're practicing simple respiratory etiquette. Cover your coughs and sneezes. I think everybody's well aware now how this virus and any other virus spreads through the air. And I think people are much more aware. One other thing. I don't necessarily see workers donning face masks over the long haul.

Once I think that the COVID-19 threat dies, I think that we will go back to regular order and hopefully business as usual in terms of making sure that workers are safe in a variety of aspects.

17:44 FP: So a lot of the recommendations that go for COVID-19 also apply to the regular old annual flu and some other diseases that are... If they're not killers, they're certainly unpleasant. [chuckle] So you'd rather not get them.

17:58 RM: Absolutely.

18:00 FP: Thank you so much, Rob. I really appreciate you coming on with us today. You provided some really great information. We'll be linking to all the NAHB material that you mentioned and look forward to having you back in some other occasion to kind of maybe take up a little more generally with the safety, on the job site safety issues.

18:17 RM: I'd be more than happy to.

18:21 FP: So that was great information we got from Rob and some very actionable information, actually, in terms of how you can conduct yourself on a daily basis to keep yourself healthy and to show respect for your co-workers and especially if you're working with any clients, customer's homes.

If you're meeting with them, if you're seeing them, not only to be respectful in terms of not transmitting the virus should you or they have it, 'cause it works both ways. Protect yourself, protect them. You may even have the virus and not know that you do, 'cause understand, a lot of people don't have any symptoms.

You may not be sick, but carrying it, so you're protecting other people. You're respectful of other people, and you're protecting yourself if you don't wanna come down with it.

It's not just like a cold. It's a pretty severe illness if you get it, and even if you survive it, you're young, you're healthy, etcetera, no worries about being one of the statistics. But, man, you're gonna have a terrible experience [chuckle]. It really is not something you wanna catch.

Homework: Prepare your personal etiquette for dealing with customers and co-workers

On the other hand, if you transmit to your customer, and this I think is part of the homework and your co-workers that you're watching out for them, that you're respecting them.

For example, you should use your own tools and not share them. But let's say you were going to share them. The plumber asks if he can borrow your hammer for a second. If you've got some alcohol wipes, then you wipe down that hammer before you hand it to the plumber, that plumber's gonna consider you a considerate person and someone that's watching out for his or her well-being.

If you wipe down the doorknobs and you take care of your space and you sanitize it, not only when you arrive to protect yourself, but when you leave, anybody watching you, particularly a homeowner is gonna know that you are a person that respects other people, that's responsible, that takes the well-being of others and yourself seriously.

And, by extension, that you're probably a damn good tradesman because if you take that much care with health and safety, you probably take that kind of care with everything that you do.

So you just incorporate that into your best practices, the way that you live your life, with attention, with care, and responsibly.

Career Toolbox is a production of SGC Horizon Media Network. I'm your host, Fernando Pagés, and the show is produced by Dan Morrison.

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