By Angela Sisco, RCAC rural development specialist

Owner/builder self help build UT
Community Rebuild, Moab, Utah

More than 85 percent of the self-help grantees RCAC works with are still in construction with modified construction processes, this is no small feat. U.S. Department of Agriculture – Rural Development has been an admirable partner and shown great flexibility, allowing grantees to change the way they work while still adhering to the program’s intent. Grantees have adopted new procedures to promote social distancing, keep jobsites as safe as possible and keep families building their homes. Some grantees are taking the participants’ temperatures when they arrive on the jobsite, others are having families not work together and many are vigorously cleaning before and after the workday ends and subcontractors leave. How each grantee is approaching these new on-site conditions is purely individual to the organization and depends greatly on where they are in the construction process. Here are some guidelines that grantees give to participants to adapt during these unprecedented times.

  • All families, volunteers, subcontractors and employees must take their temperature prior to arrival on-site. The state recommends that you take your temperature with a thermometer two times a day and monitor for fever. Also, watch for cough or trouble breathing. If you have a fever of 99.5 or greater, STAY HOME. If you are not feeling well, STAY HOME. Contact the construction supervisor and inform them if you are not well. You will not be penalized for missed hours.
Owner/builder self help build UT
Community Rebuilds, Moab, Utah
  • Team members are required to have a face covering handy at all times. A bandana or buff worn around the neck can easily be pulled up when working in proximity to others. If you can touch each other with arms outstretched, wear your mask.
  • If you are concerned about working with others, you may ask to be given jobs that limit your exposure to others. Speak to the construction supervisor for further guidance.
  • If you feel that being on the construction site puts your health at risk, please discuss this with staff. If you are unable to be on the construction site due to underlying health issues, you will not be penalized.
  • All families should carry hand sanitizer with them at all times. Hand sanitizer should be used prior to entering into any home or the connex/job shack and before leaving the construction site. The Center for Disease Control recommends using products with 60 to 95 percent alcohol, covering all surfaces of your hands and rubbing them together until they feel dry.
  • Homes with access to water should have hand soap on-hand for participants to use while working in the home.
  • Maintain six feet of separation at all times between unrelated household members.
  • If possible, communicate with other participants or staff via electronic means rather than face-to-face.
    Owner/builder self help housing build
    Self-Help Enterprises, Visalia, California
  • Have spray bottles with a bleach water blend on jobsites to clean off tools after use. When possible, tools will only have one user throughout the day. All tools will be wiped down with a solution and returned to the trailer at the end of the day.
  • Be conscious of your personal bubble and minimize working closely with other people. If possible, work on the other side of something, do not crowd each other.
  • Each home will have a sanitizing checklist that must be used at the end of the day any time the home is worked on. The last person leaving the home for the evening must complete the tasks on the checklist, sign, date and leave the checklist in the home on the kitchen counter.
  • Suspend the volunteer program indefinitely including all volunteers recruited to build.
  • Sterilize the build site before and after building, and before and after trade contractors, grantee staff and owner/builders leave for the day.
  • Mandate social isolation among builders. Owner/builders will be confined to work only on their own homes, and with people with whom they reside. With this in place, grantee staff will line up owner/builders with work and give them a punch list of items to complete on their homes.
  • Practice good hygiene
    • Stop shaking hands—use other non-contact greeting methods.
    • Create habits and reminders to avoid touching your face and cover coughs and sneezes.
    • Disinfect surfaces like doorknobs, tables, desks and handrails regularly.
    • Open windows to increase ventilation when able.
    • Wash with soap and water allowing for frequent 20-second hand-washings to take place. Wash your hands after using the toilet, before eating or touching your face, and if you cough/sneeze into your hands (follow the 20-second hand-washing rule). You can also use hand sanitizers.
  • Work together (in whatever way that means), be kind to one another and be patient with everyone, including yourself.