How does the coronavirus spread?
Coronavirus is typically transmitted as droplets by being in close contact with an infected person. The risk of infection is increased by coughing, sneezing and talking loud or shouting. Airborne infections are possible in indoor spaces with inadequate ventilation. The risk of airborne infection over two meters is considered to be lower compared with the risk of infection posed by close contact.
Coronavirus can also be transmitted through contact transmission, e.g. when an infected person coughs into their hands and touches another person.
See Transmission and incubation period of coronavirus (THL)
Risk assessment as part of risk management
- The Finnish Institute of Occupational Health’s guidelines for employers to prepare for the coronavirus epidemic also apply to construction industry workplaces.
- At a construction site, the main contractor is responsible for having a general risk assessment made and everyone working at the site must comply with the assessment-based measures. Other employers assess the risks of their operations.
- Employers must assess the personnel’s risk of being infected with coronavirus.
See the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health’s instructions for workplaces for assessing the risk of COVID-19 infections.
- The risk assessment must also account for other workplace situations than actual work, such as breaks. Employers must ensure that the occupational safety regulations issued by them are observed.
- When preparing construction site instructions, everyone working in the area of the construction site must be taken into account, as well as the different work situations that require attention regarding the impact of physical work on the use of protective equipment, for instance.
- It is important to use the expertise of the occupational health care service provider with considerations regarding employees that belong to a high-risk group. The employer must ensure that occupational health services are arranged appropriately.
- The continuation of the COVID-19 epidemic, variations in the epidemic situation and the possible risk of being infected with coronavirus increase the psychosocial workload of employees and supervisors. See the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health Guidelines for supporting mental well-being at workplaces.
- Work-related hazards and risk factors as well as the workplace’s instructions of how to be protected against them must be taken into account in the induction training. Good induction training allows for safe and efficient working and supports well-being at work.
- Management measures based on the risk assessment must take the regional infection rate into consideration. THL The COVID-19 epidemic: regional situation, recommendations and restrictions
See also the guidelines of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health and the Ministry of the Environment on the renovation of residential buildings during the coronavirus epidemic (available in Finnish and Swedish)
- The risk assessment and the actions based on this must be processed together with the employees regularly and whenever the situation changes.
- It is important to use the expertise of the workplace’s occupational safety and health co-ordinators in planning the risk management measures and the related communications.
Efficient and targeted communications
Operations in the construction industry
- Employees must be instructed to stay home if they are not well (see THL Symptom assessment). It is a good idea to use posters in addition to verbal instructions.
See the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health’s instructions and posters for preventing COVID-19 infections at workplaces (in Finnish)
See THL instructions on what to do if you think you might have COVID-19 (available in Finnish and Swedish)
- Construction sites should regularly assess the measures they have in place to prevent COVID-19 infections and their functionality, as well as the coverage of those instructions.
- The main contractor is required to consider, on the basis of a risk assessment, what measures or protective equipment to prevent COVID-19 infections should be used at the workplace. Employers operating at the construction site are required to acquire the required protective equipment and supervise and instruct the use of this equipment. Employees are required by law to follow the employer’s safety instructions and use the protective equipment according to the instructions.
- On the basis of the risk assessment, the main contractor may organize COVID-19 testing for people working on the construction site and require a certificate of a negative COVID-19 test result.
- If the employer organizes accommodation for employees, accommodation conditions must be organized safely and take COVID-19 risks into account.
Safe distances and work arrangements
- Maintain a safe distance of more than 2 meters to others whenever possible. If close contact (less than 1 m) is necessary when working, try to keep the situation as brief as possible.
- Do not shake hands.
- Prefer working practices that do not include spending time close to each other and allow maintaining safe distances.
- Clean all pieces of equipment used by more than one person every time they have been used and handle them with clean hands only.
- Employees should be divided into groups, if possible. Contacts between these groups should be as minimal as possible.
- Avoid the movement of employees between different construction sites whenever possible.
- When good hand hygiene is observed, touching objects is safe even if someone else has touched them.
- Ensure that the ventilation of the working premises works efficiently, see THL instructions.
- Ensure that safe distances are kept and face masks or surgical masks are worn also during breaks. If it is not possible to keep safe distances, breaks should be taken in turns.
- Indicate clearly how many people may be in personnel rooms at the same time.
- Whenever possible, arrange all personnel meetings and training sessions online or use outdoors locations where it is possible to keep safe distances.
- Furniture should be placed and the passageways and directions should be indicated in a manner that allows for safe distances.
Good hand hygiene
- At a construction site, the main contractor must ensure the availability and correct placement of soap, hand sanitizer and disposable paper towels.
- Employees are instructed to wash their hands and use hand sanitizer
- when arriving at the workplace
- when entering a space that is used by more than one employee
- when using shared tools or equipment
- before and after going to the toilet
- before and after smoking.
Using surgical masks, respirators and personal protective equipment on the basis of a risk assessment
- The main contractor is obligated to define the level of protection required according to the risk assessment. Instructions provided by the main contractor must be complied with at the construction site.
- In addition, on the basis of the employer’s own task-specific risk assessment, the employer may require that surgical masks, respirators or other personal protective equipment are used. The employer must acquire the protective equipment needed at work and require that employees use it. This obligation is based on the Occupational Safety and Health Act.
Information on surgical masks and respirators
- If the work includes being in public spaces or using public transport, where a surgical mask is required, the employer has the obligation to procure the protective equipment.
- Regional State Administrative Agencies may decide on the use of face masks or other protective equipment at work in more detail: avi.fi.
- There must be a sufficient number of surgical masks available for employees to change the mask whenever they are removed, such as when eating or drinking, or if the mask becomes damp.
Correct use of surgical masks
- Adequate breaks from wearing surgical masks must be arranged so that employees can continue to do their work well and also eat and drink.
- It is recommended that disposable face masks or surgical masks are put into mixed waste always when taking a break.
- All employees must be instructed on the use of protective equipment and surgical masks. This also includes those employees who do not enter the premises regularly.
- In the risk assessment, any potential risk factors caused to the employees by the use of protective equipment must be considered. If an employee experiences any symptoms that make it difficult for them to use protective equipment, they should be instructed to consult the occupational health services. In occupational health care, the causes of symptoms can be studied, the symptoms can be alleviated or the employer can be advised to arrange other tasks for the employee.
Official information about protective equipment, the coronavirus and occupational safety and health is available on the website of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration of Finland.
Enhanced cleaning at construction industry workplaces
- At a construction site, the main contractor must ensure sufficient cleaning of shared facilities. The employer must ensure that personnel rooms are kept clean, and that they are cleaned daily or even more frequently when necessary due to the construction phase or circumstances on the construction site.
See Government Decree on the Safety of Construction Work (205/2009), Section 79: Personnel rooms at construction sites
- The possible need for enhanced cleaning in break and personnel rooms, for instance, is determined according to the risk assessment performed by the main contractor.
- Contact surfaces (e.g. table tops, door handles, railings, furniture, touch screens and keyboards and toilet facilities) must be cleaned carefully and as often as possible.
- A mildly alkaline all-purpose detergent should be used for basic cleaning purposes. Cleaning can be enhanced by using a disinfectant in sanitary facilities and other spaces, if necessary (such as when removing vomit or other excrement).
See the cleaning guidelines by the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health
- It is advisable to use leakproof and easily removable bags in waste containers. Waste containers should be checked frequently, and they should not be allowed to get more than three-quarters full. There must be a sufficient number of waste containers available and they must emptied daily.
- Every person eating a meal should be offered the opportunity to wash their hands or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer upon arriving in the area where they intend to eat their meal.
- It is advisable to have instructions regarding hand and coughing hygiene and safe distances displayed in the area where meals are eaten.
- The instructions on safe distances must be taken into consideration when planning the locations of seats and the number of people admitted to the premises.
- Employees must be reminded of instructions related to hygiene whenever necessary.
- If there are any foods available on a self-service basis, utensils for this purpose must be made available.
- It is important to arrange meal breaks in turns in common areas.
- The employer should communicate the importance of complying with COVID-19 safety instructions also when eating meals outside the construction site (measures such as wearing a surgical mask when waiting for food, ensuring sufficient hand hygiene and keeping a safe distance).
In the event of exposure to coronavirus or a diagnosed coronavirus infection at a construction industry workplace
Exposure to coronavirus at work can be due to close contact with an infected person or handling a source that contains the virus without appropriate protective equipment. The physician responsible for infectious disease control in the municipality or hospital district is responsible for tracing the chains of transmission in co-operation with infection trackers and placing those exposed to coronavirus in quarantine according to the Communicable Diseases Act. See THL instructions regarding contacts and quarantine in social welfare and health care units (available in Finnish and Swedish)
It is advisable to prepare instructions for initiating the tracking of those exposed to coronavirus at the workplace. If there are any suspicions of an exposure at a construction industry workplace, they should be addressed to local or regional infectious disease authorities.
Employers must include the employees exposed to biological factors that pose the risk of a serious hazard or disease in their work (including, for example, the SARS-CoV-2 virus) in the list of biological factors.
See frequently asked questions regarding the list of exposed employees collected online by the occupational safety and health authorities (in Finnish).
The work of construction industry employees during quarantine
Whenever an employee is officially placed in quarantine by a communicable disease authority, the employee is entitled to sickness allowance on account of an infectious disease. During an official quarantine, the employee must not go to work. A quarantine mandated by an infectious disease authority is carried out in the person’s apartment or another location approved or appointed by the authority.
In certain situations, such as when waiting for the result of a coronavirus test, the authorities recommend a self-imposed quarantine (see THL instructions regarding quarantine and isolation) to prevent infections. A person in self-imposed quarantine is not entitled to sickness allowance on account of an infectious disease. When arriving in Finland, individuals must comply with THL’s recommendations regarding self-imposed quarantine. The quarantine period may be shortened by taking a COVID-19 test. (See THL instructions regarding travel and the coronavirus pandemic.) Official instructions regarding employees who have recovered from COVID-19 and been exposed again and vaccinated employees must be followed.
See Kela Sickness allowance on account of an infectious disease
See information about sickness allowance on account of an infectious disease (in 11 languages)
COVID-19 as an occupational disease
If an employee is exposed to coronavirus while working or in the workplace, the disease caused by coronavirus can be considered an occupational disease. In order for an employee to be entitled to allowance on account of an occupational disease, the criteria of the Workers’ Compensation Act must be fulfilled.
If an employee falls ill with a disease caused by coronavirus, they must contact a physician. If the physician determines that the employee has a coronavirus infection, the employee can turn to occupational health services, who will participate in resolving the matter of whether the disease is an occupational disease or not. If the physician suspects an occupational disease or other work-related disease as specified in the Workers’ Compensation Act, notwithstanding any confidentiality regulations, they must report the matter to the Regional State Administrative Agency’s Occupational Safety and Health Division without undue delay. The employer must submit an occupational disease report to the insurance company without delay.
See additional information on the Finnish Workers’ Compensation Center website (in Finnish).
Instructions prepared together with construction industry organizations
The instructions have been created by Finnish Institute of Occupational Health’s specialists together with the construction industry organizations and unions (the Confederation of Finnish Construction Industries RT, the Finnish Construction Trade Union, Trade Union Pro and RAKLI), the Regional State Administrative Agency and the Ministry of the Environment.
For more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
The guidelines of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health (FIOH) are drawn up together with the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health (SMAH) and the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare. We also follow the publications of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), COVID-19
World Health Organization (WHO), coronavirus