Working Safely as an Essential Worker

Working Safely as an Essential Worker

It’s nice to be needed, but when you’re an “essential worker” these days, that can also mean putting yourself and your crew into some very risky situations.  Depending on what kinds of jobs you typically take, there are plenty of risks you won’t be able to avoid, but there are things you can do to help lower your chances of catching the novel coronavirus and developing COVID-19.

Before you go into one more home or business, change your company’s policies to:

Lower risks involved with taking payments.  You can choose to refuse cash and checks entirely or work out a system that will allow you to collect a check from a work area (for example, a shelf in the garage or slipped into the mailbox) without coming into direct contact with your customers.  Digital currency is always the safest, so if you can set up a way to accept payments remotely with PayPal, Venmo or any of the many other digital payment platforms, you’ll reduce your risk dramatically.

Teach your people how to keep “clean.”  Even though they’re not going to be 100 percent safe going into other people’s homes, your crew can still be safer.  They should be wearing eye protection and respirators for a lot of jobs, anyway, so go ahead and implement that as a practice for everyone, regardless of the job.  Issuing zip up jumpsuits like a lesser version of what you’d see on a hazmat job can also help protect clothing from becoming a virus reservoir if they’re used properly.  Oh, and show them how to properly disinfect shared tools when each person is done handling them.

Get your clients involved.  If, for example, you’re installing a new HVAC system, don’t go running into and out of living space multiple times.  Instead, have the customer do things like flip the thermostat on and off, turn off the breakers, etc., even if you have to talk them through it on the phone.  The less contact you have with other people and their personal spaces, the more you reduce your risk.  For a lot of contractors, it’s not strictly necessary to do everything themselves, it’s just a matter of habit.

Check your boots.  If you or your guys are moving in and out of unfamiliar occupied spaces, remind them to check their boots.  Either remove them before going inside any closed spaces (including your truck!) or use precautions like spraying them with disinfectant (even the bottoms – especially the bottoms) to reduce the risk of coming into contact with virus particles when pulling them off or putting them on.

Keep everybody spread out.  We know that some people are carrying coronavirus without showing symptoms right away or at all, so it’s important that you give your crew as much space as possible right now.  If you can have some guys working on one side of a building and others on the other, great.  If you can’t, do your best to keep them at least six feet apart.

Persistently wash your hands.  Yeah, yeah, everybody’s been saying it, but it bears repeating.  Wash your hands.  Don’t just wash your tools and assume that’s plenty to keep your hands clean, wash your hands, too, all the way to the wrist (or the elbow is even better).  Wash every finger, wash like you’re covered in oil and it won’t come off.  Hum one of the many tunes that are at least 20 seconds long and make sure to dry your hands with a clean towel, even if it’s just a disposable paper towel.

What steps is your company taking to ensure that your team is safe in this unusual time?  Do you have any words of wisdom for contractors who have yet to implement more rigid safety measures?