Construction workers at sites are the most vulnerable group of people who face severely any disease condition due to various reasons. Not like developed countries China, Hong Kong, Singapore but, Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh have different worker facilities in a way certain instances all are in the same boat and the same storm. Depending on the Contractors or employers facilities in offer, most of the laborers are living in sites in poor health, safety and sanitary facilities including common sleeping, poor and minimal sharing lavatory facilities, dust and hazardous evaporative environment, direct exposure to sunlight, sleepless long nights, gang bullies, homesick due to long uncomfortable living away from homes are some of inherent associate issues probably very complex matrix to place, context and people. Social security and social recognition are some important aspects of their expectations striving through their lifelong vocation. But most of the instances like the lockdown for 2 months or more, most of these laborers hit their livelihoods very hard and un-reversible economic impact due to their casual wages and social insecurity without any guaranteed income beyond surpassing world pandemic. New normal should address these issues to overcome approximately 10% representation of the population in developing countries and 5% representation of the population in developed countries solely dependent on casual construction work. Some key points to improve labor standards and their job security are of utmost importance, equally the social status any human being is seeking. COVID-19 outbreak is a very good example to create job security for lower-level construction and industrial employees, because in this situation there is no procedure to look after the grass-root level laborers in the construction industry; especially Masons, Carpenters, and other technical support staff, those who rely on day to day basis. Now they do not have a proper ensured survival mechanism. Therefore, after this pandemic situation, there will be a huge gap in the said area, and no people will return for their jobs, because they had a very bad feeling. Therefore, smart training and smart recognition to be identified for them in future and ensured job security needs to be explored for bringing back for their employments. The following points could be helpful for this broader perspective to get some light. Simple subsequent health and safety guidelines could be adopted on construction sites as simple steps for the way forward of new normal.
Addressing all in the same manner – All the parties engaged to the work in sites are equally, adequately facilitated to ensure the safety measures as per the guidelines. They will be eased with equal precautionary items disregarding their levels of hierarchy.
Professional recognition to the laborers by standardization – The sanitary facilities in the buildings, structures in the worksite shall be disinfected. The number of occasions to disinfect shall be decided on the number of workers in a worksite, and thereby minimizing the spread of the virus. The sanitary facilities, lavatories, bathing rooms, etc., shall be provided in the worksites, and such facilities/places, handles, and taps in them shall be disinfected. These shall provide running water, soap, hand sanitizer containing alcohol, detergent, etc., and anti-microbial coatings could be applied to their sleeping and utility furniture.
Minimization of other respiratory diseases – Due to the hygiene etiquettes taken at the sites, spreading other respiratory or infectious diseases among the workers will be diminished.
The hygienic environment in construction sites – Personal hygiene, work area cleanliness, clean restroom/accommodation facilities, and a clean kitchen or lunchroom are to be hygienically maintained regularly to keep a healthier environment within site. Anti-microbial liquids could be applied on walls, foot baths, compulsory hand sanitation points could be implemented, awareness posters of their native language to be displayed.
This also sustains morale, productivity, and a sense of professionalism towards labor work.
Maintain a long-term labor force – It is benefitted to maintain a long-term labor force at construction sites as a limited known cluster which can be easily monitored effectively during COVID-19. This will make positive impact on labor work at the site, and the stability of the jobs related to labor work will be empowered through this concept. Procure the labor slots in sites as clusters for particularly long periods like 3 months with properly identified and remarked segregation clusters to use long term.
COVID – 19 PRECAUTIONARY METHODS TO BE CONSIDERED AT SITE– EMPLOYEE / WORKER
- Workers must keep a distance of one meter in carrying out site work and on all possible occasions such as when checking the temperature, washing hands and when during tea and dining, etc.
- All construction workers must wash hands with soap or hand sanitizer containing alcohol and running water when entering the construction site.
- All workers shall ensure that their body temperatures are checked at the entrance of the construction site for their own safety in order to curb the spread of this disease.
- Construction workers while at work must wash hands at intervals, especially when using equipment commonly used, with soap/hand sanitizer containing alcohol and running water.
- Construction workers must engage in work at the site wearing face masks and hand gloves. After removing the mask, it has to be discarded into a pedal-operated closed bin, and hands should be washed subsequently.
- There should be minimal handling of the mask when removing it.
- Before and after using the finger scanning machine, workers shall ensure the cleaning of hands in the manner mentioned above.
- Construction workers must use a handkerchief or paper tissue when coughing or sneezing or at least the inner side of the elbow to be used.
- Construction workers shall refrain from spitting or sneezing/coughing, putting out the discharge of phlegm in public places.
- Contaminated waste and used tissues, hankies shall be either buried or disposed of in a pedal operated closable garbage bin.
- Disposal of waste shall be carried out as per the guidelines routinely followed except for the waste of suspected persons which has to be managed in accordance with the guidelines on waste management.
- Construction workers shall not be indulged in smoking or consuming any drugs, which lower the immunity levels.
- Construction workers shall not get together after finishing the day’s work for discussions, group games, to consume food, water, or alcohol.
- Each construction worker shall keep separately a plate, water bottle glass/cup, toothpaste, toothbrush, razor of their own and shall not use these in common.
- Used hankies, paper tissues, disposable razors, and toothbrushes shall be disposed of in a pedal-operated closable garbage bin or be buried.
- Construction workers shall not touch each other, handshake, hug, etc., during this period under observation.
- Each construction worker shall keep his clothes, suits, towels, shoes, overalls, etc. separately and must not borrow these from each other.
- Construction workers shall not go out of construction site once reported to work in the morning and before completing work at the end of the day without the due permission of the owner.
- In order to maintain the body’s immune system healthy, Construction workers shall consume a nutritious and balanced diet and take a good rest after work and good sleep.
- Construction workers shall avoid crowds; avoid visiting public places as much as possible during the outbreak under observation.
Author: Russell Dandeniya, FIA (SL), Chairman – ACSR