Pandemic safety for real estate developers

By Rohan Parikh 

Safety has always been the most important factor in the construction sector. Looking out for the safety and security of labourers is therefore essential for any company. Continuing work in the construction sector during a pandemic can be quite tricky as the job demands people to work in close proximity to one another. Real estate companies have to come up with unique solutions to tackle this problem.
First and foremost, all site workers should undergo a basic training course on the virus, how it spreads, the measures to be taken to keep themselves and their colleagues safe, and the protocols to be followed onsite. If someone understands the logic behind the protocols, they are more likely to follow up. After all, the workers do not wish to risk themselves either. 

Even though wearing a mask while working onsite could be difficult given the weather conditions and intensity of the job, there are many jobs onsite that do permit workers to continue wearing masks. Less intensive work like tiling, cutting, grinding, etc. can be carried on with a mask, and supervisors have to ensure that these standards are maintained under all circumstances.

For more labour-intensive work, one solution is to house together small groups of people that will also work together, and then prevent them from interacting with others. Each group can be appropriately distanced from the other while onsite and given private transportation to and from the site. This essentially builds a bubble for the workers, under which the health risks are controlled and exposure to external factors are reduced. 

This also reduces the risk of shutting down a site if someone is unwell and tests positive for Covid. Then just that small group can be quarantined and nursed back to health, while areas that they have been working in are thoroughly sanitised. This also prevents the entire site from being shut down as the spread is controlled due to grouping of workers. Lastly, the small groups also allow the workers to socialise with each other which is equally important for their wellbeing. 

Sites can maintain staggered break hours for the workers, so that canteens and lunch stations are not overcrowded at any point, and groups can socially distance themselves from each other. All utensils should be thoroughly cleaned before being reused for other workers, and all canteen workers will also follow hygiene protocols of face masks and frequent sanitisation.

Managers should also control the number of people accessing the site. All unnecessary people can be avoided for the time being, such as external agents, insurance agents, etc. Visits to the site should be by appointment only, and a ledger with visitor details has to be maintained.  Even site visits can be reduced to dedicated days of the week. With fewer people coming into the site, the risk of bringing Covid into the bubble can be reduced. 

For essential requirements coming to site such as vehicles with material, temperature checks and sanitisation protocols should be made mandatory. If new workers are being brought to site, companies should ask for a certificate from the PHI (Public Health Inspector) officers of the workers’ villages, that will indicate whether or not the workers  are coming from highly infected areas or not. Additionally, for additional precaution these workers can also be quarantined for five to six days in provided accommodations, and tested before being moved to site.
The last factor in ensuring a safe working environment would be to appoint a manager who can do daily and frequent audits of the different areas to ensure that all workers are adhering to the protocols. Strict monitoring must be done to prevent any issues from hampering the work.

Creating a safe and clean working space just requires a little bit of planning and appropriate execution. With basic but strict protocols such as the above, companies can ensure that their workers are kept safe during this time, and their projects don’t see any further delays. The work must go on.


(The writer is the Managing Director of Iconic Developments and an alumni of the Wharton School of Business and INSEAD)