UPDATE: Since publishing this post, numerous people have reached out to ask what to do if they see workers in unsafe conditions. Fred Perpall suggests a visit to the Dallas County COVID website. Go to the essential employee tab.
Construction companies will need to find thousands of thermometers to take their workers’ temperatures before they enter their work sites. It’s one of seven new rules announced by County Judge Clay Jenkins to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at job sites. Fred Perpall, CEO of the Beck Group and one of the local civic leaders advising Jenkins on safe building practices, said many of the policies were already in place. Still, he acknowledged that the thermometer shortage presents construction companies and builders with a challenge.
“It’s difficult, but this is a moral issue,” Perpall said, “Most sites already are following solid safety measures. Still, construction workers need extra protection. It would be a personal point of pain should any of our workforce suffer from poor safety conditions.”
Rounding up thousands of thermometers is going to take immense coordination, he said, and the Association of General Contributors of America, its Texas chapter, the Regional Black Contractors and Regional Hispanic Contractors are developing a strategy. They will join others to set up procurement and distribution. It won’t be easy.
Phil Crone, executive director of Dallas Builders Association, agrees it adds a layer to the whole process, but shares Perpall’s concern. “We’ve been taking this very seriously from the start. In fact, we’ve told the county that if they find a job site where no one cares about public health concerns we have no qualms about them shutting it down.”
The county’s official guidelines for public works, commercial, residential and school construction include running water and sinks on-site, limiting of subcontractors, and a ban on gatherings during breaks or meals. It is the cost of allowing the work to continue.
“Workers need access to soap and running water. The project managers can set up tables, or troughs – any makeshift arrangement will work as long as our workers can wash their hands,” Perpall said.
Some DBA members as early as two weeks ago were rigging fish cleaning sinks to hoses to provide a way for their teams to scrub up before, during and after work. The residential builder community is tight: one builder lines up at Costco in the morning to buy up disinfectants for his workers and to share supplies with other builders. As Perpall said, construction is one of the most stable forces in our local economy. “We will do everything we can to keep our workers safe and the industry strong.”