Hello from the future main entrance of the Soldiers’ Home in Chelsea, MA…
The issue of conducting on-site construction administration during the current pandemic is not unique to Payette, and across the industry there are teams working on projects designated as “essential” that must continue with on-site activity. The new Community Living Center in Chelsea is one of these projects, and it has generally maintained its schedule over the past few weeks and we continue to perform weekly site visits.
I will admit that I had some reservations about visiting the site during the current COVID-19 climate. As I have mostly isolated myself away from the world these last weeks, I have grown more accustomed to the adjustments I need to make while venturing out in public to protect myself, my family and other people I may come in contact with.
Below are the measures that have worked for me while conducting construction administration observations that require a weekly trip from my home in Quincy to the job site in Chelsea. Normally, this 14.5 mile drive would take anywhere from 45 to 90 minutes. Now it is only 20 minutes. I’ll take it!
- I plan my visits for Friday afternoons because things are winding down for the week and the bulk of activity has been completed, and I can easily see what has been finished over the course of the week. Crews are mostly cleaning up on Friday afternoons and there are fewer workers. On a recent visit, I counted only 5 contractors installing under slab drains – this made it easy for me to stay well beyond the 6′-0″ recommended distance. In this case, it’s more like 100′-0″.
- I always let the Contractor know I am coming ahead time with a simple email or phone call. I try to arrive approximately two hours before the site closes for the day, giving myself plenty of time to walk the site and observe progress that has been made during the week.
- Per the Contractor’s COVID-19 Safety Plan, I agree to the information set forth in their procedure manual before stepping on-site The biggest items are that I show no sign of fever, cough, shortness of breath, have not traveled outside of the United States recently, have not been in contact with an individual diagnosed with COVID-19 and will maintain a 6’-0” distance from all individuals on-site.
- When I arrive, I park outside of the gated construction area in a spot that is away from other vehicles in the parking lot. At this point, I put on all of my PPE accessories including my vest, hard hat, safety/sunglasses, gloves and now a face mask. Fortunately, I have an N95 mask to use on-site, but even if I didn’t, I would be using my homemade dual-layered cotton mask to help protect myself. Before leaving my vehicle, I put several travel-sized packs of antibacterial wipes in my pocket. My Purell-dispenser sits in my cup-holder awaiting my return.
- I text the Superintendent that I will now be walking the site. I do not enter the job trailer for any reason and keep my visit strictly outdoors. Out of personal preference, I do not use any of the toilets or shared wash stations on-site.
- I walk the entire site, taking photos and jotting down notes. I touch nothing and stick to walking around to observe progress. Even though I have a mask and gloves on, I do not interact with anyone, which is fairly easy since there are few people there at this time of day.
Once I complete my walk, I return to my vehicle and pull out my wipes. I wipe my door handle before entering and use the Purell from my cup holder on my hands. I also wipe my phone and steering wheel. Even though I haven’t touched anything, I do this before taking off my hard hat, mask, glasses and vest as my hands will be in/around my face. I Purell again before driving home. I call or text the Superintendent to let him know I’m leaving so that he can check me out on his personnel log.
I drive home feeling generally okay that I haven’t interacted with anyone, kept a safe distance and touched nothing on-site. Before entering my home, I take off my shoes and leave my jacket on the porch to air out. Per the recommendation of the Contractor, I change out of all my clothes and shower. I then complete my field report from the comfort of my own home, while trying to focus over two screaming children.
It has taken me a couple of weeks to feel ‘OK’ doing this sort of thing – however, I now feel more comfortable with these trips and it allows me to maintain an on-site presence while exercising an abundance of caution. At some point, perhaps all of this will feel normal to a degree, but for now I run through my checklist before I leave for the job site, keep my trip succinct and always adhere to these steps to ultimately keep me and my family safe.
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