BY BRIAN JUNGINGER, CONSTRUCTION LITIGATION ATTORNEY
MCINERNEY & DILLON, AN AGC OF CALIFORNIA MEMBER
COVID-19 has led construction companies to adopt new digital check-in apps that keep employees safe and jobsites symptom-free from the virus. Employers are discovering additional benefits with the use of these apps – benefits that may protect them from potential lawsuits.
Today, employers need to make sure that every employee entering a jobsite is symptom free before they start work. If you haven’t been on a jobsite that uses one of these new digital check-in apps, it’s a simple process that can be beneficial to contractors. Workers point their smartphones at a poster with a QR code on it. They sign-in for their shift, privately answer health questions on their phone, and are immediately notified if they’re approved to enter the jobsite. If they’re denied, the alert goes to the employee and up the management chain to take the necessary next steps.
Since the health screening data is saved only on the employee’s phone, the answers to the questions are protected. Yet, the employer can still securely conduct private contact tracing without having access to the employee’s personal health information or any other data on the employee’s smartphone. Making contact tracing part of a business contract is key to making it work. This is more effective than a voluntary participation approach.
ADDITIONAL BENEFITS OF DIGITAL SIGN-IN RECORDS
These apps evolved because of the pandemic. Yet the benefits show that digital sign-in will be how construction companies do business moving forward. Some of the additional benefits include:
OSHA recordkeeping: If COVID-19 is traced to a jobsite, a construction company can be at risk of OSHA violations if the proper documentation and reporting requirements are not completed. A digital record of when an employee visits a site, how long they are on the site and that the person passed their health screening test prior to starting work will all be additional evidence that can be used in responding to an OSHA complaint.
Time savings and better recordkeeping: A digital sign-in only takes seconds. This can save time at the start of a shift, save administrative time and avoid employees having to manually enter the same information. That now outdated process of manual entry has always had a high potential for human error that sometimes isn’t discovered until after litigation begins.
Provide prevailing wage information to the Department of Industrial Relations (“DIR”): Working on public works projects requires that the contractors provide prevailing wage information during the project. In addition to providing certified payroll, employers will have a summary of the check-in data to confirm the hours worked by certain employees.
Added safety information: Digital sign-in will allow contractors to quickly determine who is on a jobsite, including visitors, in the event of an emergency.
CUSTOMIZED APPS DON’T REQUIRE IT INVOLVEMENT
Depending on the features of the check in app, you can customize the questions for state guidelines. Or you can get the app in different languages to ensure everybody understands the questions and answers accordingly.
As the technology evolves, you can potentially use these apps to issue alerts to employees and site visitors before they go on site. For example, alerting a crew through the digital app to an open trench provides just one more way to convey potential dangers to employees. Reading the alert may be the notice that prevents a catastrophic injury.
The digital check-in process has been a long-time coming for construction. Contractors that aren’t using an app should consider getting it now. It protects employees, subcontractors, visitors, and the construction company itself and may avoid lengthy and costly legal disputes.