The Covid-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic is still currently in its early stages in South Africa and its long-term impact may very well surpass anything we have seen in our lifetime. The truth is we do not yet know what this impact may be and that is why it is imperative that we take whatever steps we can at this stage to mitigate both the risks of contamination and the impact of the virus.
The renovation and construction industry by its very nature is a close-contact industry in the sense that contractors, crews and clients are often thrown together in confined areas of residential-, commercial- or industrial properties. This in itself may create a high-risk environment because even though we still have very little information about exactly how the virus is transferred, we at least know that human contact and person-to-person contamination are major factors.
What then can we do to manage the pandemic and its effects in our own small way in the renovation and broader construction industry?
1. For starters, we should be pro-active and not reactive and not respond to the overwhelming barrage of information thrown at us daily, much of which is based on the spreading of unverified news, over-reaction to anecdotes and re-hashing fake reports and misinformation in their various forms. We should take pro-active, well-informed and reasonable steps in minimising the risks of contamination in our industry because at this stage, this is the best we can do.
2. We can ensure that our crews are kept up to date with the latest information by having regular meetings and ad hoc training sessions with them. Let us start by emphasising the importance of personal hygiene and the importance of washing their hands regularly and correctly. Also, let's teach them to cover their noses and mouths when sneezing or coughing.
3. In our industry human contact is unavoidable. We can, however, make a significant difference by using plain common sense. If we or our crews are showing any symptoms of the virus such as fever, coughing or other flu-like signs, we have to stay at home and have ourselves tested as soon as possible. Similarly, if clients or suppliers show any signs of flu-like illness, they should inform us and keep their distance. We should also avoid physical contact. This means not shaking hands and maintaining safe personal spaces between us and our clients and suppliers.
4. We can invest a little money and time and provide the basic means to our employees to ensure that they are not contaminated or spread the disease themselves. This means at the very least providing them with soap and water or hand sanitizers and face masks for cases where they display flu-like symptoms.
The key to overcoming this pandemic lies in individuals taking responsibility and action. It entails each of us, across all walks of life and all industries, to step up and not look at governments and governing bodies alone to do the prevention for us. If we do this we may well be able to stop this virus in its tracks.