Disaster preparation and strategies to mitigate them are part of every comprehensive site safety plan. Despite all the scenarios safety professionals account for, no one can truly anticipate a pandemic unlike anyone has experienced in recent history, but the way companies react to it sets the course for current and future operations. From the outset of the COVID-19 outbreak, company and project site leadership laid out a plan and implemented it successfully to maintain safety and continuity on construction sites around the country. Although some locations required slight alterations, the core actions remained the same.
Determine a Plan
Early on, as warnings increased about the virus in the US, JE Dunn established a SWAT team to help steer and guide the direction of site plans and our company response. The team, comprised of leaders from various departments, met daily to adjust plans and disseminate new information to the company as it changed. In addition, the team created Stay Safe, a dedicated email address for employees to reach the SWAT team with concerns, updates, or for any questions that arose. This proved to be a critical part of our plan because with many unknowns and frequent changes coming from CDC, our team needed to remain informed.
Given the rapidly changing events and directives, the team anticipated the need to reshape our Business Continuity Plans, so we quickly developed site-specific plans with special emphasis on the local project(s) and business. Due to different needs based on geography, site Specific Safety Plans began to change the landscape in a rapid way. We were challenged to keep pace with WHO/CDC/Local/State recommendations and ordinances in addition to any client requirements. We started with an early Business Continuity Plan, where we outlined comprehensive plans for project sites with an emphasis on protecting our people through the principles of social distancing, personal hygiene, and incident management (i.e. contact tracing). These plans proved valuable for work site management and driving safe project sites. Plans built included:
- Quick Start Guide – Site Work Plan with information detailing how to get started on a jobsite with Coronavirus preparedness
- Coronavirus Site Work Plan that included a downloadable training presentation for jobsites to tailor to a specific site if necessary
- Coronavirus Site Work Plan Additional Details, which included specific, detailed direction for jobsites
Implementing Evolving Measures
As the situation continues to evolve, so too do many of our safety measures. To avoid cross-contamination inside and/or outside of projects when the pandemic first hit, we started implementing additional provisions, such as reducing field staff to include only essential workers while others were sent home to work. We introduced a proactive screening plan and process that included a questionnaire and temperature checks. Following WHO/CDC guidelines in addition to local ordinances—while remaining flexible in implementation—we are allowing our teams to stay in front of these unprecedented times.
Ramp up Company Communications
Communications has always been important throughout the company, but leadership took it to another level when cities began implementing stay-at-home orders, as it affected everyone in our offices and paused some jobsites. Executive leadership conferenced daily and continues to provide all-company video updates regularly, outlining any changes as they relate to our projects, CDC guidance, work environment, and any other information employees need. In addition, we created a Coronavirus Resources page on our internal intranet, where we communicate recent changes, guidance, and continuously update FAQs as we received them. This communication and emphasis on prioritizing everyone’s safety cascaded through the regions and departments and remains a point of emphasis as the pandemic continues.
As a pioneer for safety excellence, it was important that we kept our focus on just that from the start. As COVID-19 spread, things changed at times by the minute—and continue to change as we learn more about the impact both near and short term—but safety and health remains at the forefront of every decision we make. We are steadfast in our commitment to following the guidance we receive as we receive it to keep employees, families, and partners safe as we continue leading the way in the construction industry.