May 31 , 2020

Construction owners should prepare temperature testing equipment, regularly disinfect the working area and shared equipment and let employees work in shifts, according to a draft protocol prepared by the Ministry of Urban Development & Construction.

The seven-page construction workplace protocol, which was sent to the COVID-19 National Ministerial Committee formed for the prevention of the potential spread of the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) earlier this month, also mandates that building owners prepare an emergency room, facilitate transportation services for the employees and supply employees with personal protective gear and sanitation materials.

The protocol was drafted to protect workers from COVID-19, assure the safety of the community at large, and keep the environment free from the impact of the virus, according to Lakew Abeje, public relations and communications head at the Ministry.

"It was drafted taking into consideration the Ethiopian Building Code Directive, which sets certain conditions guaranteeing the safety of employees and the overall standard of the workplace environment," said Lakew.

Contractors are also obligated to ensure the availability of water and sanitation stations for the workers while making sure to avoid or find alternate ways around congested working conditions. This is in addition to providing enough working materials and reducing crowding on the transportation services for workers.

Raising awareness of the virus is another important component of the protocol. Contractors are expected to prepare posters and audio-visual supported messages aimed at creating awareness about methods of protection and prevention against COVID-19. Designating a temporary quarantine area for keeping workers that exhibit symptoms while the health authorities are contacted is also among the duties given to contractors.

The draft of the new protocol, which took two weeks to be outlined, has been sent to the Ministerial Committee to ascertain whether it is in line with the state of emergency, according to Lakew.

"The Ministerial Committee is also expected to come up with fines for offenders of the Protocol," Lakew told Fortune.

The protocol’s implementation will be jointly monitored by the Construction Works Regulatory Authority and the Ministry, according to Lakew.

The responsibilities outlined in the protocol also apply for workers on the construction site.

Primarily, the protocol outlines basic health guidelines that need to be adhered to such as washing hands and abstaining from handshakes. While workers are expected to take the temperature tests, they are also expected to calmly follow instructions given by the project health officers in the case that a worker tests positive for the virus.

Safety officers, mandatory at every construction site, are tasked with monitoring employees that are absent and ensuring that those that have the virus are given enough support.

Their roles relate to collaborating with supervisors and health authorities and creating an information link regarding the health status of employees. Consultants participating in construction work are required to inform their employees of COVID-19, provide necessary materials like hand sanitiser and masks and supervise the work to ensure that the guidelines are updated and followed.

This will play a significant role for the sector in two particular ways, according to Bizuayehu Sitotaw, architect and president of the Ethiopian Consulting Engineers & Architects Association.

“It can boost the confidence of those engaged in this sector through a sense of safety," he said. "It'll also help retain jobs since employees can continue working with the knowledge that there are safety measures being taken where they work.”

Though protocols are not binding, this protocol can be mandatory if it is implemented alongside the state of emergency, which outlined laws about public gatherings and using personal protective gear, according to Zemichale Messay, a lawyer and legal adviser.

PUBLISHED ON May 31,2020 [ VOL 21 , NO 1049]

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