Personal protective equipment (PPE) has long been a part of a contractor’s work apparel. PPE hazards are addressed in specific standards, notices and letters of interpretation for the construction industry by OSHA and include things like foot protection, head protection, hearing protection, eye and face protection, respiratory protection, fall protection, safety belts, lifeline lanyards and nets and onward. What PPE additions can we expect with crews working during the COVID-19 pandemic? Scott Izon, PCL Construction’s U.S. director of Health, Safety and Environment (HSE), gives a peek into what their company is implementing to keep workers safe.
“PCL Construction is an employee-owned company and we always put the health and safety of our people first, especially in a time of crisis,” he says. “When cities and states started announcing coronavirus lockdown plans in March, the majority deemed construction to be an essential business. We immediately began exploring ways to keep our construction sites active while adhering to new guidance from the CDC.”
Prior to COVID-19, Izon says that PCL required gloves, safety glasses, hard hats, safety boots and high-visibility vests, but during the pandemic, the company is requiring cloth face coverings or respirators as well as adding new policies around social distancing, hygiene, airflow, sitewide cleaning and engineered barriers between workers.
“Re-evaluating what types of PPE workers need is another one of the many ways we are keeping our workers safe during the pandemic,” he says. “PPE plays one of the most important roles when it comes to a situation that is regularly evolving.”
In addition to its current PPE requirements, PCL Construction has also made glove use mandatory on all jobsites (but, remember not to touch your face). The storage of personal gear such as jackets, vests and rain gear are not permitted on-site unless stored in a location where contact with individuals is not possible. This is done because an infected individual may have left respiratory droplets on their clothing, which could expose others if they touch the clothing. Workers should also use gloves, masks and eye protection when cleaning a suspected infected area.