What Can the Construction Industry Learn from the 1918 Influenza Pandemic?
Posted on April 27, 2020
As surreal as the COVID-19 pandemic feels, it is not the first pandemic. It is not even the first time that modern construction sites had to find ways to deal with pandemics. In the middle of World War I, the 1918 influenza pandemic spread quickly and resulted in more than half a million deaths in the United States alone.
While times have changed, did construction companies in those days find ways to help their workers stay safe? Let us take a closer look at what happened then and what we can learn from it.
Rules from 1919 Are Quite Different Than Ours
One article from 1919 discussed what the reporter considered “rigorous practices” to help prevent the spread of this disease. This includes requirements that men who handled food in any way were required to bathe at least twice each week, brush their teeth each day, and wash their hands “frequently.” If bathing twice per week was considered “rigorous” then one must wonder what they mean by “frequently” washing hands.
Those in charge of caring for bunkhouses were required to air out their buildings every day and all bedding in them was hung daily as well. Cots, wall surfaces, and floors were sprayed daily with cleaning solution. Floors were also scrubbed at least twice per week. Garbage was collected twice each day and was burned.
Some of these ideas have been implemented but others have not. For example, we know of no community that is collecting trash twice each day. That said, we now know that this disease is spread through respiration droplets and not through the trash. In 1919, it likely made a lot of sense to improve all sanitation, including trash pickup.
What We Can Learn from the Steps They Took
Construction sites that followed these steps had impressive results as they remained on schedule. Projects that did not require workers to abide by the rules ended up riddled with disease and had workers deserting due to unsafe working conditions. Following the rules helped protect the lives of the workers and kept work on schedule.
The important thing to take from this is that they did not add unusual or challenging sanitary measures – they simply made sure that they followed essential hygienic precautions. They inspected sites to make sure they were in compliance. These are all things that today’s worksites can follow.
The bottom line is this: Following the advice of scientists and disease experts is the best way to not only help your company continue on and of protecting your workers. At Fund Control we have unique communication tools that help various parties to the construction industry get real-time updates on what is happening with their portfolio of projects. Contact us at 800-625-5972 or firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.