Fatigue, persistent dry cough, shortness of breath, pain or pressure in your chest, confusion, loss of appetite with weight loss. These are all symptoms we associate with contracting COVID-19, a new and unique illness society is still grappling with the most effective way to combat.
Coincidentally, these symptoms also appear in another familiar illness that the union construction trades and contractors have been mitigating for generations, namely asbestosis or asbestos exposure.
The extreme risks associated with handling building materials containing asbestos has been well documented. Over the years, a robust body of safety and training protocols have emerged both in terms of direct abatement, as well as risk awareness. These collaborative efforts ensure that any union-affiliated construction crew that shows up to perform work understands the associated risks and adheres to the controlling safety plan, regardless of whether these risks deal with asbestos, lead, silica, secondary infection or coronavirus.
Infection control risk assessment (ICRA) is a more recent example of the local union commercial construction industry coming together not only to protect their workers, but also building owners and those they serve.
Understanding that the needs of the project owners, as clients, come first, the local construction industry has collaborated for years to address those concerns. Halting secondary infections in health care emerged as one of these needs. With the safety of vulnerable patients as a priority, contractors and the trades, in partnership with health care, endeavored on a course to develop and implement proactive indoor containment measures.
Initially, the value of ICRA was readily apparent and has quickly emerged as the industry standard with many, if not all, of the local joint-training centers providing 8-hour awareness training to union members. This has resulted in safer worksites and a following of containment protocols by all who set foot on the project.
Now, the industry’s long-standing focus on safety and advanced training standards, as evidenced by almost universal adoption of ICRA throughout the union trades, allows for a swift response to COVID-19. The mentioning of common precautions, such as stay 6 feet apart, wear a mask and remain at home if you feel ill, are so widespread that they offer little to the conversation here.
Easily implementing advanced standards, like erecting temporary barriers in interior, close-contact environments, or properly handling and disposing of PPE, are firmly rooted in ICRA training.
The greatest advantage that differentiates these crews is their heightened focus on safety. This crucial buy-in creates an environment where COVID awareness and safety protocols can be seamlessly integrated into any project. Working with contractors and trades who utilize ICRA as a baseline awareness tool helps reduce the risk of COVID spreading due to construction activity.
From asbestos and lead, to silica and secondary infection, and now COVID-19, the construction industry has faced down many environmental risks. With a clear focus on prioritizing safety, the essential work of building our community continues, thanks in large part to the union trades and contractors adopting an industry-wide mindset rooted in collaboration on behalf of project owners. These new challenges only serve to reaffirm the approach of doing things the right way.