Jobsite Workarounds Increasing as Construction Firms Practice Social Distancing

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By KERRY SMITH, EDITOR, ST. LOUIS CONSTRUCTION NEWS AND REVIEW MAGAZINE

Social distancing is being practiced everywhere, including on commercial construction job sites in and around St. Louis and the nation.

One such example is the practice of transporting construction workers up the floors of high-rise projects via a buck hoist, a temporary external elevator that transports workers and equipment up the side of a building that’s under construction.

John Wilson is owner of Penn Services LLC, a steel erection, curtainwall and rebar specialty contractor whose current St. Louis projects include the 29-story One Cardinal Way (St. Louis Luxury Apartments) and the 36-story 100 Above the Park luxury residential tower in the Central West End. Wilson says the not-more-than-10-people population density restriction is impacting many job site facets, including how many workers and how many trips it takes in the buck hoist.

“Normally we’re transporting more than that,” Wilson said. “Now, we’re not allowing more than 10 people in a buck hoist at one time. That means more trips and more time. It’s taking a concerted effort on the part of owners and contractors to understand the schedule-related impacts of keeping everyone safe.”

Staggering starting times at job sites in order to reduce the numbers of workers in close proximity is also occurring. Stretch and flex, the routine job site daily warm-up exercise normally performed as a large group, is now being done in increments with smaller groups of 10 or fewer, Wilson said.

“Safety talks that normally involve the entire job site crew are now taking place with just the general foreman and a few others at one time in one location,” he said. “And lunch breaks that were often spent as a group on a job site have evolved into a worker eating lunch in his or her vehicle. Crew sizes are being paired back and that’s a big deal because crew sizes equal production. There’s so much you don’t think of in terms of everyday behavior on a construction job site that now needs to change…even stringent disinfecting of tools and break areas. Safety is our number-one concern.”

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