Failure by construction industry players to comply with Covid-19 hygiene regulations and protocols could lead to site shutdowns which the industry can ill afford, says Databuild CEO Morag Evans, given that it was already in a severe slump prior to the outbreak of the pandemic.

“While the country’s move to lockdown level 3 has enabled all construction work to resume, it’s certainly not business as usual and sites are very different to what they were prior to the pandemic.

“South Africa has always been conscious of health and safety on its construction sites, but the pandemic has created the need for even cleaner and safer working conditions to limit the spread of the virus.”

According to Evans, President Cyril Ramaphosa’s recent announcement of a substantial infrastructure build programme to address the economic impact of Covid-19 will go a long way towards stimulating recovery in the industry.

“While the building of schools, roads, hospitals, bridges and the like will help to created much-needed jobs, the hiring of additional staff will mean increased activity on site, which could cause a surge in Covid-19 infections. Consequently, it’s imperative that all role players develop appropriate policies and procedures to protect their workers from exposure to the virus.”

“Project teams must receive comprehensive education and training on Covid-19-related protocols, including how to promptly identify suspected or actual infection cases, and the subsequent procedures to be deployed to mitigate the spread of infection.

“Staggered work shifts, limiting tool and equipment sharing, enforcing social distancing, the wearing of face masks, and regularly sanitising frequently touched areas all form part of the new way of working.”

“Employees’ temperatures should also be screened daily and accurate records kept of their medical conditions,” she continues. “Additionally, companies with projects on multiple sites need to be particularly mindful of their employees’ health and safety when moving construction workers from site to site.

“Where possible, meetings between developers, architects, engineers and other professionals should be conducted virtually rather than in person, while not neglecting to employ adequate supervision on site to ensure compliance with the health and safety regulations.”

The construction industry will continue to encounter unique challenges as it strives to minimise the risk of spreading Covid-19, says Evans. “As ongoing research reveals new information about the virus, regulations geared to stopping its spread will change.

“Consequently, industry stakeholders must ensure that their policies and procedures are regularly revisited and updated to accommodate any new regulations.

“Furthermore, employers need to be cognisant of the health and economic implications of non-compliance, not only in their own companies, but throughout the construction industry at large,” she concludes.