With the wave of COVID-19 moving out of the Western Cape and towards Gauteng – and with the economy reopening significantly – it is crucial for companies in the instruction sector to continue complying with health and safety procedures to continue to weather the storm. These are the words of Deon Bester, occupational health and safety manager at the Master Builders Association Western Cape (MBAWC).
“In 2019, the construction industry contributed approximately R32 billion to the Western Cape’s total gross value. It is vital that the construction sector continues to comply with health and safety requirements to protect jobs, boost economic growth and continue to attract fixed capital investment – which the country so desperately needs,” says Deon.
He says the lax behaviour of South Africans means that construction companies need to make sure they are not only putting the necessary protocols in place to protect the health and safety of contractors and workers, but they also need to train workers on what is needed.
“A big challenge faced by the country is the lack of understanding of how serious this pandemic actually is. Many South Africans do not practise social distancing, wear masks or wash their hands properly. Contractors also have no control over their workers once they leave the site and are using public transport or are at home. We must convince people to practise the same work-level protocols when they are not at work. We have to educate, educate and then educate some more,” said Deon.
He listed the following four tips to help mitigate risks on site:
1. Assessment and compliance
Risk assessments need to be carried out by contractors on site. Ideally, someone should be appointed as the dedicated COVID-19 protocol monitor to ensure continuous compliance, particularly relating to access control, eating areas and toilet/washing facilities. Similarly, subcontractors should consider appointing an employee in this role, as they need to make sure their employees know the compliance protocols and that they are screened before they go to site.
2. Transport of workers
The transport you provide for workers needs to give passengers enough space to sit well apart and it should be well ventilated. Passengers should sanitise before and after getting into the vehicle and masks should be worn at all times. Drivers and assistants in delivery vehicles must be screened and sanitised as well, and drivers should stay in their vehicles where possible.
3. Access to site
Ideally, there should be only one access point to a site, and everyone entering must be screened and socially distanced whilst they wait to enter. To prevent crowding, there should be a separate exit point from the site.
4. Working on site
The way that construction sites are set up and managed need an overhaul. Here are some of the requirements:
• Masks all the time: Social distancing is not always possible during all construction tasks, so all workers must always wear masks.
• Increased sanitisation: Handwashing stations should be available in strategic areas. All commonly used tools must be sanitised before and after use.
• Provide masks, personal protective equipment (PPE) and relevant training: All workers must receive all PPE free of charge, including two reusable cloth masks. They must be trained in how to use it properly. Workers doing hard physical labour can use a clear face shield instead of a mask.
Master Builders Association Western Cape
Tel: 021 685 2625