Advice and Opinion

How the construction industry can mitigate the risk of Covid-19


The Western Cape’s Covid-19 infection peak will take place from late July through to early August according to the latest epidemiological models. Both longer and flatter than anticipated, the worst of the pandemic is still to come.

With the economy opening significantly and the construction industry returning to site, it is now more important than ever that the industry follows the strict health and safety guidelines to prevent further infections.

Deon Bester, OHS Manager at the Master Builders Association of the Western Cape (MBAWC) says that although the construction sector has been a leader in formulating and implementing measures around Covid-19, it is vital that companies prepare to continue to comply with health and safety procedures.

He points out that in 2019, the construction industry contributed approximately R32 billion to the Western Cape’s total gross value and in order to boost economic growth and to protect jobs, it is important to continue to attract fixed capital investment which oud country desperately needs.

Bester has compiled a list of pointers for construction companies to mitigate the risks on site as far as possible:

Risk assessment and compliance

It is essential that contractors carry out a risk assessment on site. He advises that companies assign an employee with the task of being the dedicated Covid-18 protocol monitor to ensure continuous compliance particularly relating to access control, eating areas and toilet or washing facilities.

Transportation of workers

Transport provided by the employer must be well-ventilated and have space to sit well apart. Masks should be worn in both employer transport and public transport with employees ensuring that their hands are sanitised before getting into the vehicle and after getting out of the vehicle.

Access to site

Ideally, there should be only one access point to a site, and everyone entering must be screened and socially distanced on entering. There should also be a separate exit point from the site to prevent crowding.

Drivers and assistants in delivery vehicles must be screened and sanitised as well, and drivers should stay in their vehicles where possible. 

Working on site

Social distancing is not always possible during all construction tasks, so all workers must always wear masks. Hand washing stations should be available in strategic areas. All commonly used tools must be sanitised before and after use.

All workers must receive all PPE (personal protective equipment) free of charge, including two reusable cloth masks. They must be trained in how to use them properly. Workers doing hard physical labour can use a clear face shield instead of a mask.

We must convince people to practice the same work-level protocols when they are not at work,” Bester said. “We have to educate, educate and then educate some more.”