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Protecting Yourself and Your Crew From COVID-19

11 May, 2020

The COVID Comeback Tip of the Week is made possible by Benjamin Moore

“The eyes, the respiratory system and your hands, those are the three things you have to focus on,”  says Peter Lawton founder and principal trainer at LEADSmart Training. Whether you’re working with lead or latex paint, whether you’re just returning to work or you’ve worked all along, until we can conquer COVID-19, we’re faced with a new reality on getting through the day safely. By being realistic and pragmatic, we can get the job done and protect our co-workers and clients from contagion.

How easy is that? It depends largely on what safety practices you’re implementing already, says Lawton. “Safety plans are only as good as the supervisor’s enforcement,” he continued. It’s no secret, he observed, that a lot of site supervisors allow their painters to ignore safety precautions, and for those operations there will be some significant changes in store. A lot of this can be boiled down to “keep your germs to yourself.” Let’s take a typical day and see how this works.


Before Work
Everyone on the team needs to understand potential symptoms of COVID-19 and stay home if they feel sick. Make sure your crew calls to let you know they’re sick.

Are you carpooling with someone? If you can get to the job site on your own, do that, but if not, wear protection on the trip over. Leave your lunch in your car when you get to work – don’t bring food into the jobsite. Be cool and get a cooler.

If you’re a supervisor or crew leader you may need to take the temperature of employees coming onto the jobsite, and do the same at lunch, and before they go home. If someone is running a fever they can get tested, this will also help the government in contact tracing, which can significantly slow the spread of the disease.


When you get there
Time to open the paint. “According to the CDC. this virus can live on hard surfaces for up to 72 hours,” says Lawton. You might have product delivered 72 hours early, but if you need five more gallons right now, you have to handle them appropriately. Your goal is to keep C-19 particulates from getting into your face, so you’ll need gloves, a half mask or respirator, and goggles or sealed safety glasses just to get to the new can of paint. Don’t rub your eyes until you wash your hands. Unless you choose to wash your paint cans.

In the best of all worlds, each crew member has their own space and can work six feet or more apart – separate rooms or separate sides of the house. “That sounds so nice and easy, but what the government doesn’t understand is that there are times when two or three people have to help each other do a task to remain safe and to comply to the other OSHA standards,” said Lawton. “When that happens, it doesn’t mean to be unsafe, it means you need to be wearing the proper PPE. Those are the kind of rules that have to be written into your daily program. If you take a practical approach, it almost starts to carve its own way.”


Look who’s here!
Someone wants to drop in to see how things are going – the interior designer, the nosy neighbor, even the homeowner bringing some friends by to see the progress. Whoever it is, they need to also have proper PPE. In a lead job, it’s already like this, and COVID adds to that necessity. “This is not about worker security or job security. This is about their germs coming to you,” says Lawton. “So tell them if they come in like that, you have to leave. Customers want their jobs done, so they will adhere to that.”


Time for lunch!

Finally, and some fellas like to hop in the truck with a buddy and chow down. Unfortunately, the virus doesn’t disappear at lunch or break time, so everyone needs to be six feet apart, and if anyone’s used to sharing a water bottle or dipping out of a common bucket … well, no. Also you have the potential to contaminate the site by bringing lunch into the area, so don’t. “Keep it in your truck and at lunch you get back in your truck and wash your hands as if it’s the start of the day all over again. Nothing comes in,” says Lawton.Trading places

So you come back from lunch and now the carpenter or window guy comes in and he’s got to get the job done right now where you’re working. Maybe he does, but you need to stay away. Keep that six feet distance, you don’t know where he’s been before. This isn’t the time for trades to be working on top of each other.


Quittin’ time!

Remember, you might have your temperature taken before you go home. Then when you get to your door, your wife or husband, kids, dog and parakeet all come up to greet you. But not yet. “When you get home, do not go inside the home with those clothes on,” Lawton cautions, noting that lead-safe training teaches this same procedure. “You need to disrobe those clothes and keep them in a separate laundry system before entering the home. Don’t touch anybody. Don’t hug anybody. Don’t say hello to anybody,” he instructs. “Go right to the shower and take a shower so that nothing goes out.”


Fifteen famous minutes

It's a new way of living, says Lawton, but the good news is if you’re already on top of your safety protocol, it won’t be hard to teach your staff and crew how to proceed from here. “It should not take more than a tool talk time, 15 minutes to get these points across. It should not take a long time to teach people unless you were absolutely ignoring all of these OSHA standards a thousand percent to begin with.”

We all know that people don’t love wearing PPE. The mask covers your good looks and the safety glasses can be sweaty and it’s not comfortable and there are all kinds of negatives, but you want to live, so there ya go. Pros like Lawton with over three decades experience didn’t grow up in this world, and they don’t like it any more than you do. “We hate it,” he said. “But even old timers have realized that if we want to keep employed, we’ve had to turnaround. Thirty-five years ago, none of this was present. We all had to learn because we’re old guys and we had to break our old habits and that’s tough. But if you are working for legitimate companies and want to keep doing the craft you love, you’d better wake up, or your employer is going to be forced to not use you.”


About LeadSMART Solutions

Peter Lawton is the founder and principal trainer at New Hampshire-based, LeadSMART Training Solutions, which mainly serves the New England area and offers job site safety plans for the construction industry. He’s got 33 years in the construction industry and took his first lead training seminar 23 years ago, so he knows how to work under difficult and highly regulated conditions. For information about LeadSMART Solutions, visit or call 888-731-LEAD.

Sponsored by Benjamin Moore

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***The information contained on this page is intended for general informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Third party links are for the readers' convenience; APC does not endorse the contents of the third-party sites.

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