Guest blog by Jeff Janicek, Vice President and Partner, Skender

As construction work has been deemed essential work in many states, it’s fortunate that site safety has always taken precedence in the industry, particularly for those of us who specialize in healthcare construction.

In terms of keeping the construction of healthcare spaces safe and healthy, not much has changed – which is a good thing. The protocols and life safety plans we follow on healthcare construction sites have been in place for a long time, and our first priority has always been protecting both our workforce and the patients. These days, all types of construction sites can leverage the best practices from healthcare.

Across the industry, the level of detail and care for cleaning practices has increased, and we’re paying extra attention to how often a piece of equipment or material is touched, how many workers are needed on a job site at a time, and who is on our job sites. Following are some best practices we’re implementing at healthcare sites that apply to all construction sites.

Cleaning and sanitation
Infection control is always a primary concern for healthcare facilities, and now, with such a contagious disease as COVID-19, containment efforts have ramped up – both at healthcare and nonhealthcare job sites. We’re vacuuming and mopping sites more frequently to remove dust and prevent mold from growing, which are especially key during a respiratory virus outbreak.

We’re also paying more attention to cleaning high-touch surfaces and, when possible, reducing the number of surfaces that need to be touched. We’re also covering surfaces with materials that serve a dual purpose – they protect the new installation from possible damage and can be easily sanitized during construction.

Additionally, we’re addressing the challenges of moving and using supplies and materials. Our Lean practices mean we only have as much supply that’s needed every 24 to 48 hours, which helps us reduce waste. With this approach, we also put materials in place immediately, reducing the amount of movement and handling per jobsite per day. Wearing gloves (a standard practice before the pandemic) and keeping materials wrapped until final installation can mitigate risk infection through frequently touched supplies.

Social distancing on the job site
One of the most important measures to curb the infection rate is one of the most challenging to meet on the job site. Many tasks require a few people to work closely together at once, such as putting up a piece of a dry wall: two people have to hold it up and another person has to nail it in. We’re working to limit how often these types of tasks are performed, while also clearly communicating to subcontractors the importance of social distancing on-site.

We’re also limiting the number of people allowed on a job site at a time, and staggering shifts when possible so there are fewer workers on site at any point, but the work still gets done in the allotted amount of time. Another tactic inspired by healthcare job sites is implementing more stringent requirements to get on the job site. Hospitals are keeping only one entrance open in order to track everyone who enters the hospital, take their temperature and screen them for COVID-19 symptoms. By putting these measures in place on all construction sites, we’re becoming hyper-aware of who is on our site at all times, and we can ensure consistency. Working with our subcontractor partners, we’re asking that the same people are assigned to the site every day instead of new subs coming into the mix. Keeping the group of subs tight and constant can help contain exposure to the virus.

To keep things moving with clients that may not want to visit a job site right now, we’re utilizing both construction-specific tech as well as everyday technology to provide virtual walkthroughs for clients. StructionSite 360-degree software is common, and in some cases, we’re having subs just take photos and videos on an iPad or iPhone.

Safety is paramount

As long as construction work continues during stay-at-home orders and the threat of COVID-19 is present, construction site leaders should be taking extra precautions to keep job sites safe and clean. After all, the safety of our employees is the highest priority, especially in these uncertain times.

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Jeff Janicek brings 30 years of construction experience to Skender’s leadership team, with a diverse background in the healthcare, higher education, civic, and retail market sectors.