Like many other workers, construction workers have had their world flipped upside down by the coronavirus pandemic over the last several months. Whether they are essential workers who never stopped working or are still figuring out ways to return to work, one hurdle that’s been a constant obstacle is how to get to and from work safely while still following public health measures and curbing the spread of the virus.
When it comes to getting to work, construction workers often have a need to carpool. It’s a common sight on construction jobsites and part of the workplace culture in the industry for a variety of reasons. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers physical distancing to be one of the most effective strategies to avoid being exposed to the virus. However, it is virtually impossible to stay the recommended six feet apart when you’re in a car or truck carpooling with others. Additionally, shared air in vehicles can increase the risk of transmission. And between the door handles, buttons, knobs, touch screens, center console, cup holders, armrests, seat belts, grab handles and other areas, the inside of a vehicle is pretty much one big high-touch surface.
“For workers who are able to do so, driving to and from work without any passengers is the preferred option to limit exposure and risk for COVID-19,” says LHSFNA Management Co-Chairman Noel C. Borck. “However, when carpooling can’t be avoided, there are some extra steps, planning and precautions workers can follow to reduce their risk of contracting or spreading the virus to their fellow workers.”
The Fund’s latest graphic, which is based on CDC guidelines and real-life experiences from the construction industry, contains practical tips workers can follow.
In general, these best practices are focused on:
- Increasing airflow in the vehicle
- Reducing the time people spend in close proximity to one another
- Promoting the good hygiene practices that are effective against the virus
These best practices are only intended to help workers reduce risk in personal vehicles when carpooling can’t be avoided. Company vehicle use should be handled separately, with protocols such as driving alone, wearing personal protective equipment when necessary, cleaning schedules and other procedures being spelled out as part of an employer’s safety and health program.
Overall risk can depend on who is in the vehicle, how large it is and many other factors, such as whether you’re making additional stops. By following these best practices, workers who must carpool can do their part to continue to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. These measures are not a guarantee by any means, but following these guidelines can surely help.
For more resources on how employers and workers can work together to stop the spread of COVID-19, see the LHSFNA’s Coronavirus & COVID-19 Resources page.
[Travis Parsons is the LHSFNA’s Associate Director of Occupational Safety and Health.]