Building LA in Unprecedented Times

In a time when contingency planners are getting a run for their money, we are all looking to our leaders and colleagues for guidance now more than ever. The USGBC-LA Construction Sub-committee had a fruitful conversation last week about how all that is going on is impacting us and what we can do to help each other. We know construction is dangerous and as a result, safety has always been a priority.

Yet, construction has been deemed essential work. How do we keep building tomorrow’s LA in today’s environment, while keeping each other safe? This is a question each contractor is wrestling with.

Many crews use quick discussions at the beginning of the shift to highlight important ideas for the day. These ‘tailgates’ are often reminders on safety, stormwater, noise, or anything else of importance.  The trick is to keep them short and memorable. USGBC-LA is working on creating some tailgates you could use with your crews.  Maybe the ideas below will be of interest to get you started:

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is more important than ever before:

  • Face covering isn’t just for welders
    • Workers are being asked to cover their nose and mouth with job-appropriate face coverings (scarves, non-surgical masks or alternative fitted masks).
    • Many contractors are asking workers to add fitted shields to hard hats to increase protection from airborne contamination to the eyes. Some sites are providing guidelines (size of shield, metal or none for attachment adaptor).

Tailgate topic: demonstrate how to don and doff masks, cleaning and storage or disposal.

  • Gloves protect on many levels
    • Many sites already require workers to wear gloves, but have found new reasons to wear them in the trailers as well as in the field.
    • Viruses can live on many of the surfaces we work with, so keeping gloves on when touching plastic and metal surfaces is an added protection.
  • Wash your hands and your equipment
    • If we need reminders in the bathroom for employees to wash hands before returning to work, don’t assume teams know to disinfect their workspace, including keyboards and desk surfaces.

Tailgate topic: demonstrate how to remove gloves like those in the medical profession. Remind workers to wash their hands with soap after taking off gloves and before touching one’s face or ears.

Create community, but keep your distance

  • Essential work can continue as long as those tasks can be performed at a distance.
    • Know what 6-feet really looks like – and feels like. Think through and plan on-site work tasks to keep people a safe distance from each other.
  • Limit the number of people working in the same area
    • Know how many occupants should be in a space maintain minimum separation
    • Look at floor plans to create wider walkways and separation zones – ways for people to keep their distance while working
  • Staying safe at home can actually bring people closer.
    • Using on-line solutions to work from a distance can help streamline processes, enhance documentation and increase productivity. While creating options for people to keep working, look for unexpected positives to your work-flow and highlight creative solutions brought by team members.
    • Think about how to stagger work schedules so those who have family to care for have the flexibility they need to keep working and maintain business continuity.

Tailgate topic: demonstrate 6-feet of social distance and brainstorm ways to use hand signals to communicate positively. Reinforce.

Some requirements aren’t changing, but the process for compliance may be.

  • Check with city officials for permit requirements and clearances
    • Inspectors are still going into the field
    • If your site is taking time off, recognize what maintenance to the site must be maintained, such as construction stormwater inspections

As we adjust to a new way of working, new challenges are emerging:

  • How to dispose of used gloves and masks? The impact of increased waste streams.
  • Ways to monitor work without having to go to the site – the potential and limits of virtual reality and other media technologies.
  • How to maintain professional networks and enhance professional skills through webinars, virtual tours and other on-line platforms.

What solutions are your sites finding? What are you concerned about? I hope you will join our conversation [here].

Thanks to the following for their considerable input for this piece:

  • Shawn Mulligan, Webcor
  • Julie Jacobson, SunWorks USA
  • USGBC-LA Construction Sub-committee

Please join the conversation by leaving your thoughts below.

About the Author

Stacy SinclairStacy Sinclair is an environmental scientist and author. She partners with USGBC-LA to raise awareness about the issues related to sustainability and resilience facing decision-makers.

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