The strict protocols to keep COVID-19 away from pipeline construction sites

Amid the hustle and bustle of pipeline construction sites, project owners, contractors and construction crews focus on five things… safety, environment, quality, schedule and efficiency. But every minute of every day, and especially in the current COVID-19 pandemic, safety is at the top of everyone’s mind.

This week, About Pipelines connected with Tyler Madigan, Vice President and Managing Director of SA Energy Group. He briefed us on the strict COVID-19 protocols everyone on their pipeline construction sites must follow. (SA Energy Group is one of the general contractors involved in major pipeline construction projects in Canada.)

 

What’s it like on a pipeline construction site?

 

Pipeline construction crews are skilled and experienced people,” says Madigan. “They work hard and camaraderie is generally high.” He notes that, “Although work sites can spread over tens of kilometres, sometimes they need to work shoulder-to-shoulder in small groups to get certain tasks done.”

Crews travel together to the work sites by bus or company vehicles. During work shifts, they take breaks and eat meals together on the buses. While convenient, these practices can pose a risk for virus transmission. So, during the current pandemic, physical distancing is a critical priority that pipeline construction companies need to address.

 

What have construction companies done to tackle the challenges?

 

Madigan notes they’re following all guidance and advice from government and health officials. “Aside from that, we’ve put protocols in place to keep everyone safe. Those protocols are mandatory, such as wearing face masks as standard personal protective equipment (PPE), if the two-metre physical distance cannot be maintained,” stresses Madigan.

And, the consequence for workers who don’t follow the protocols is removal from the work site.

 

Here are nine COVID-19 protocols that keep crews safe on pipeline construction sites

 

  1. Limit vehicle occupancy to facilitate physical distancing – on buses, everyone gets a designated seat the required distance apart from others. Crew members must use the same seat coming and going, and when they’re sitting on the bus at lunchtime. These changes necessitated hiring additional vehicles, crew busses and drivers.
  2. Staggered work shifts – to minimize the number of people on any given site at one time.
  3. Adequate PPE – for crew members who work in close contact.
  4. Increased cleaning and frequency of cleaning – for busses, project vehicles, facilities and tools.
  5. Mandatory screening questionnaire and temperature checks – before employment, and daily, on arrival at the site. A mandatory 14-day isolation kicks in for those with symptoms or exposures to infection.
  6. Additional medical personnel on site – this avoids sending people into emergency rooms and lessens the burden on health services in the community. They also assist with site temperature screenings.
  7. Keeping abreast of new information from health officials about COVID-19 – and using daily site meetings to update employees, so they’re fully aware of evolving developments and expectations.
  8. Educating and making sure there is adequate mental health support – leaders must be available when needed and additional resources are there to help get everyone through this challenging time.
  9. Mandatory restrictions for employees living or staying in the community – workers must minimize visits to local stores and establishments and use drive-through or delivery services, where possible, for food and essentials.

 

“We genuinely care about our employees and the community, and we will not proceed if we can’t do that safely,” says Madigan. “These measures have allowed us to ensure there’s a safe environment for all workers and no negative impacts to the communities.”

Please visit CEPA member company websites for more information about COVID-19 protocols on pipeline construction sites and at CEPA member companies.

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