Recommencing work at construction sites - risk based approach | Sunday Observer

Recommencing work at construction sites - risk based approach

17 May, 2020
File picture of a construction site. Courtesy
File picture of a construction site. Courtesy

Project Managers and Activity Centre managers of construction companies who plan to recommence work, need to fully understand the risks involved while operating a site. 

All managers should also realise the fact that in case a person within his work location is found to be infected while the site is in operation after recommencement of work, the project site will be closed by the government and will be identified as a new Covid-19 cluster. No manager would like to face that situation. 

This article tries to explain the importance of identifying various risk groups when work recommences at work sites and activity centres, so that the managers can differentiate their approach in dealing with various risk groups in their efforts to avoid their staff and workers getting infected during the initial period following the recommencement of work. The initial two-four weeks will be the most critical time period to manage if the country is to avoid going into Stage 3 and 4. 

Identifying risk clusters and defining rules for each risk cluster will be solely under the control and discretion of the manager. What is explained in this article is only one such example and how the writer has approached managing different clusters. 

Risk periods after recommencement of work by government institutions and the private sector: 

We can approximately demarcate two risk periods after work recommencement on  May 11. 


- The government has given opportunity for people to adjust them to recommence work in a completely  new environment that has been created after the pandemic.

- This will be an observation period for the health authorities to determine whether stage-2 of the pandemic has been managed well and it has not reached stage-3. - If it is confirmed after recommencement of work that the country has satisfactorily contained the spread within stage-2, then in 2-4 weeks’ time, the government may relax control measures further, for the country to restore normalcy to a higher degree.

- Very limited public transport will be available.

- This period will end if new clusters are not identified after a reasonable time period of the last cluster. 

- People and Companies should be cautious and observant during this time period. Should only embark on limited activities with the engagement of limited people. 

- Need to understand that this is only an observation period


- Companies can restore their operations to previous levels before the pandemic. 

- Schools and universities will be reopened.

- All the identified cases have been treated and discharged from the hospitals. - No further risks to spread the pandemic through local cases.

- Inward airport arrivals will still be sent for quarantine until the global situation is restored to normalcy. 

Virus spread cluster analysis: 

The example taken is a building site where workers stay inside the site premises and staff accommodations are within 1 km radius. 

Cluster 1: 

This is a low medium risk group comprising the company’s and labour subcontractors’ staff and workers. 

Higher percentage of staff and workers, after they report to work, will stay in company provided accommodations. Only very few staff and workers will travel daily from home. Majority will be from distant locations and usually go home only once a month during the site shut down period. 

If they report to work free from contracting virus, risk of contracting virus within the site will be moderate. If they can be isolated from other high risk clusters and can be kept within the site and their accommodation under controlled conditions, this group will pose a low to moderate risk of spreading the virus. Eighty-five percent of the site population belongs to this group.

 Cluster 2:

This is a high risk group which can be managed to convert to a medium risk group. 

This group mainly comprises security personnel and canteen workers who frequently change roster and can be in and out of site frequently. However, managers can put controls and negotiate with them to contain their workers within the site premises through negotiations with the security company and canteen service provider. 

There may be shift changes of the security staff. If they go out of site during when they are not on duty that can increase the risk of exposure to the virus. Hence special arrangements need to be made to limit the security personnel to a selected number of people who will remain within the site and change their duties rotationally. If this group can be contained within the site, their risk levels can be reduced. However, security personnel will be in contact with unknown people who will come to site for various reasons. They will be the first contact with such people, who are in the high risk category. Hence, special rules should be set up to mitigate such risks. 

People who run the worker canteen are those who may be from the same area or daily visit their homes after work is over at the site. Such people may not be very reliable and might not work under high discipline and trust. Specific restrictions need to be imposed on them to avoid this group of people becoming a very high risk category.

As they cook and serve food to most of the workers, if they become infected, they can infect many people in one separate instance. 

Cluster  3: 

This group comprises company staff who visit the site from the head office and central workshop and the company drivers who will deliver finished products and raw materials in company vehicles. 

These people are company employees who come to site in company vehicles. They are expected to follow company guidelines strictly in the control of the pandemic. However, they come from other locations and may visit other places during their journey to the site. Hence they fall under medium risk category where certain controls need to be adhered to. 

Cluster 4: 

This cluster comprises Consultants, their resident staff, specialist subcontractor staff and their workers. 

This is a controllable high risk cluster which has higher chances of bringing the virus to the site. They may visit the site, but people who will travel to other locations during Period-01 and can get exposed to infected people in other places.

Consultant’s representative staff who daily travel to site from other locations have to be isolated in their separate site office. When they visit the site with the company’s project staff for inspections, necessary distancing requirements should be followed.If the specialist subcontractors’ workers do not stay within site accommodations, if they travel daily to site, such persons will become high risk people.

Cluster 5:

This cluster comprises people from various material suppliers and service providers who come to site using their own vehicles to deliver materials and services to the site. Delivery of reinforcement is one such example. This is a very high risk cluster as their behaviour is beyond the manager’s control. People who come to deliver materials to the site such as drivers and cleaners cannot be expected to have discipline and knowledge to avoid contracting the virus. The documents which they bring to site with the deliveries can be contaminated.

Hence a high level of control needs to be planned for this cluster.

Cluster 6: 

This group comprises people who visit the site for various inquiries, people from regulatory authorities and prospective customers.

People of this cluster pose higher risks of virus spread due to their unknown nature. When they initially report to the security point, the Admin Officer will attend to their needs promptly and briefly without prolonging contact with them. Prospective customers will only be handled by client’s staff without any possible contact with company staff.

Prospective suppliers will not be entertained unless it will be very essential during Period-01. 

The approach given in this document is only a concept and not a guideline. Adopting such systematic approach to identifying and differentiating various risk groups involved during Period-1 will enable companies to manage virus contracting and spreading risks better and will be able to cut down unnecessary expenditure if they follow a uniform procedure in dealing with groups belonging to low, medium and high risks. This will also enable the Manager to focus more on smaller high risk groups with higher intensity and higher effort of control, and use standard hygienic procedures for the low to medium risk groups which comprise the majority population in a project site or an activity centre.