Facing an Invisible Threat on the Jobsite

“When I heard about the spread of COVID-19, my first thoughts were about my kids. I’ve got 6 of them, and I was concerned about how I would keep supporting my family if construction projects in Colorado had to stop. But luckily, we were all designated as essential workers and allowed to keep projects going which kept food on the table for my family.”

Dan Lonski is a Senior Superintendent at Nunn Construction. Over the course of his 28 year career in the construction industry, he’s never seen anything like this pandemic its effects on the economy and this community. “There were so many people on site who I know were initially really worried about getting sick. For a few weeks it felt as if every day we would come to work, having to face this invisible threat. There was conflicting information and confusion about how it spreads, who’s at risk and how to stay safe. It was scary for a lot of us. But, I felt confident with the procedures our leadership team put immediately into place. Nunn has a strong culture of safety which has helped us to weather all the uncertainty.”

Dan’s story isn’t that unique in our company or industry, especially among our jobsite crews. Over the last few months, many of us had to balance feelings of gratitude to be working with the fear that continuing to work may put us at a higher risk of getting sick.  Staying open was also uncertain- producing anxiety over what would happen if a project was shut down, putting the livelihood of dozens of workers in jeopardy.

Dan, who leads the crews on the new Ed Robson Arena at Colorado College, feels fortunate on many levels that such a game-changing project for the economy of Colorado Springs hasn’t seen any delays or shut-downs. This City for Champions project is proposed to stimulate the economy of Colorado Springs, so maintaining its schedule is a critical component to our community’s recovery. We give Dan and his team a lot of thanks for their rapid on-the-ground efforts in implementing protocols to keep the jobsite safe, both for his crews and the neighboring community.

Steel beams and masonry work in progress at the Colorado College Ed Robson Arena in early June 2020.

The Ed Robson Arena is a large active project, which is now in the stage of flying up steel beams and masonry work with the foundation work mostly complete. Due to the arena being a new ground-up building, the open-air and spread out site made it slightly easier to socially distance crews than it would have been in a close-quartered renovation project. Even so, Dan and Vinnie Mattivi, Nunn’s Senior Project Manager on the project, worked with Colorado College and the trades on site to make adjustments to some of the timing and sequencing of activities so that crews could be more spread out and not working on top of each other. Daily health checks are carried out for every person who walks on site. Crew team leaders have a checklist of questions and infrared thermometers are used for daily temperature checks. We have established protocols which comply with CDC guidelines and OSHA best-practices.

Everyone on the Nunn crew though from carpenters to foremen, to our superintendents have an eye out for people working safely and wearing a mask. Ryan Reed & Tim Spaude, two of Nunn’s Assistant Superintendents on site are the main ‘mask enforcers’. They are constantly walking the site making sure that crews are wearing masks and doing tasks at a safe distance in addition to the other necessary aspects of their jobs. If a task requires workers to be closer than 6’, the crew team leader has to come to one of them or a Nunn Superintendent and make the case for why.

“A lot of times we’ve been able to brainstorm other ways of approaching the work to keep the crew safer. It’s required us to take a little more time and communication upfront, but so far everyone has been grateful for the extra attention spent on keeping them safe and still working.”

It may also be that more people are at home, or that we have a very visible and active site on Colorado College’s campus, but we’ve noticed the increased awareness from the community to check out how we are approaching safety and working with each other onsite. Luckily, construction has always had a deeply ingrained culture of adhering to safety protocols which made it easier for our industry to get buy-in for implementing new COVID-related safety guidelines.

“Everyone here knows safety is the difference between having a long career in the industry and a short one due to an accident. We take safety seriously. Everyone here does their part to wear masks, help remind others on site to stay safe and obeyed the rapidly changing COVID-19 safety protocols. We all are grateful to be considered as essential and allowed to work, but we also know that it’s only through the efforts of all of us that we can remain essential. That designation can easily be taken away if we aren’t staying safe, obeying executive orders around social distancing and health guidelines. My hope is that our industry, as one of a few allowed to work in-person, can share our hard-won lessons learned. We want to serve as a model for others to be safe and feel confident about getting back to work.”

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