Construction Sites & Coronavirus: Managing Projects and Keeping Workers Safe

Posted By

Cathal McKeever


Construction Sites & Coronavirus: Managing Projects and Keeping Workers Safe


As of March 11th, HSE have reported 43 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the Republic of Ireland. As the threat of coronavirus continues, construction site managers face questions as to how they should manage this rapidly changing situation on their construction sites so that they can keep their workers safe and slow down the spread of the disease.


Construction projects are likely to be affected by the coronavirus outbreak. Whilst the nature and scale of the impact cannot yet be predicted, it is clear that labour and supply chain issues are inevitable.

The World Health Organisation has made the assessment that COVID-19 "can be characterized as a pandemic". However, this is the first pandemic in history that could be controlled. Therefore, there are steps that can be taken by construction site managers to protect themselves and those onsite during this coronavirus crisis.  


Coronavirus outbreak and construction projects: Be prepared for…


Supply chain and import issues

​​Firstly, it is important that site managers are prepared for the impact that this virus will have on projects. There have already been reports of longer delivery times caused by the outbreak of coronavirus in China.

With Italy now in quarantine until next month, there are growing concerns that products such as cladding and materials such as stone will remain in Italy for the foreseeable future.

Other countries that export to Ireland include Germany, Spain and the Netherlands – these countries have also been hit badly by the outbreak and therefore managers need to be ready for supply chain and import delays on equipment and products such as electrical wires and air conditioning equipment.

Contractors are already bracing themselves for the cost of jobs to rise – construction managers need to consider these supply issues, think of their own budgets and adjust projects accordingly in order to cope with delays.


Lockdown and self-isolation 

The official advice from HSE is that if you are displaying symptoms of coronavirus, you need to self-isolate to stop others from getting the disease.

Construction site managers must be prepared for this disruption over the coming weeks. Many businesses and offices have contingency plans in place already if the advice changes and everyone must go into lockdown, like the current situation across all of Italy. This means many employers must be ready for their employees to have to work from home.

However, any lockdown situation will obviously halt construction site activity. Site managers need to be prepared for a limited workforce, or in a worst-case scenario, no staff onsite whatsoever. The impact on the cost of work and projects not completed must be considered.



Project management during Coronavirus crisis: Steps to take…


Planning and preparing

Construction managers must plan their response to the coronavirus outbreak just as they planned for a possible no-deal Brexit. Review those continuity plans and improve resilience if this epidemic does take hold.

Planning and communication are key when it comes to effective project management. Although dealing with the Covid-19 outbreak is unchartered territory for managers, speaking with workers, letting them know what is happening and ensuring them that their safety is the top priority is extremely important moving forward.


The most important steps - following HSE advice on construction sites:

Whilst it is crucial that you are prepared for delays and disruption to projects, safety should be at the top of your list as project manager and leader. Follow and keep up to date with the official advice from HSE. To protect yourself and others from coronavirus, it is so important to know how the virus is spread.


“Coronavirus is spread in sneeze or cough droplets. To infect you, it has to get from an infected person's nose or mouth into your eyes, nose or mouth. This can be direct or indirect (on hands, objects, surfaces). Keep this in mind. It will help you remember all the things you need to do to protect yourself and others from the virus.”


HSE have issued important advice on how to stop the spread of coronavirus. Managers should follow this as strictly as possible and communicate this advice with workers so that they are following more hygienic procedures onsite and are more protected from the disease. The official advice includes:


- Washing your hands properly and often

- Covering your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve when you  cough and sneeze

- Not touching your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean

- Putting used tissues into a bin and then washing your hands

- Cleaning and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces

- Avoiding close contact with people who are not well

- Not sharing objects that touch your mouth such as bottles, cups etc

- Following the travel advice from the Department of Foreign Affairs

- Staying at home if you are sick to help stop the spread of whatever infection you may have


Site managers must meet with workers and discuss and implement these procedures onsite. Similarly, there should be an in-depth discussion of coronavirus symptoms and the plans that are in place if workers should display any symptoms. It can take up to 14 days for these to appear. The most common coronavirus symptoms include:



If you or anyone else onsite should show any of these symptoms and has been to a place where there is spread of coronavirus (such as China or areas of Northern Italy) the advice you need to follow and give to others can be found here. Similarly, anyone with these symptoms who has been in close contact with a confirmed case in the last 14 days should follow the official advice from HSE.

To keep up to date with the coronavirus situation as it develops, visit HSE's coronavirus information page.  


So, although there are confirmed cases of coronavirus in Ireland, the risk of catching the disease here is still considered low to moderate. This could change at any time and therefore construction site managers should be ready for this eventuality and the disruption this may cause for construction projects.

In the meantime, following and communicating the appropriate advice on how to protect yourself and others from coronavirus is the correct way to help stop the spread of Covid-19 on construction sites and ensure the safety of construction workers.   



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