Navigating a New Normal in Workplace Safety
by Darin Douglas, CEO, Lowe Roofing, Inc., & president, Merge 3 Technology, Inc.
(Editor’s Note: Darin Douglas began roofing in 1997 after graduating from Black Hills State University in Spearfish, South Dakota. Lowe Roofing, Inc., is a family-owned roofing company that has been in operation since 1975 in South Dakota and Wyoming. Merge 3 Technology, Inc., helps contractors track and control their safety processes and efforts on a daily basis. Douglas also served on the WSRCA Board of Directors for nine years and was the chair of the Safety and Health Committee and Low-Slope Committee.)
COVID-19 has become a heavy burden on the global economy. Citizens have been forced to stay home, businesses are closed, and the tourism industry has been hit hard. Fortunately, the roofing industry has been able to stay active and productive, and roofing professionals must work to keep things that way and strive to make jobsites safe for team members and customers.
First and foremost, be vigilant when it comes to washing your hands. Viruses spread from person to person via respiratory droplets. When an infected person coughs or sneezes, people in close contact can be infected. Viruses can also live on door handles, tool grips, and many other surfaces. If you touch those surfaces and then touch your eyes, nose, or mouth, you can become infected. So, vigorously wash your hands multiple times daily, especially after touching surfaces that are communally used. The CDC recommends you wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
Social distancing is another term we have been hearing. On a jobsite, this can be done relatively easy at times and then at other times, it is impossible. There are new products on the market to help with this, such as wearables that beep if you get to close to someone. Eventually, a new norm will become apparent, but no one knows what that looks like yet. So, for now, common sense is the best answer on the jobsite. Take into account your fellow workers and their families. Please do not go to work if you are sick, and be honest and about your health with your employer.
Employers’ daily protocols have changed considerably during these times. Make sure you are up to date with and are posting the most recent COVID-19 CDC recommendations and information to help keep your team members safe and healthy. Companies should start with screening all who enter the workplace and all staff before the start of each work shift. The CDC recommends asking your team members a couple of questions as they report for work, to help limit the exposure to COVID-19.
Ask your crew members if they have any of the symptoms of COVID-19, which include fever, shortness of breath, cough, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, or loss of taste or smell. Employees who have symptoms of acute respiratory illness are recommended to notify their supervisor and stay home until they are free of fever, which is 100.4° F or greater; have signs of a fever; and any other symptoms for at least 24 hours, without the use of fever-reducing or other symptom-altering medicines, such as cough suppressants.
Also, ask if they are ill, or caring for someone who is ill. Employees who are well but who have a sick family member at home with COVID-19 should notify their supervisor. If an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19, employers should inform fellow employees of their possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace but maintain confidentiality as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Consider implementing a daily health screening checkpoint and log for all employees entering the workplace. If you have one or more symptoms that may be related to COVID-19, stay home and take care of yourself.
This COVID-19 pandemic will have long-standing effects on the world, the nation, the economy, and the construction industry. Your company and team will be tested like never before and will experience many highs and lows. However, if we start every day with these processes and protocols and improve on them as we go forward, we can keep roofing professionals healthy, safe, and working.