Construction During Covid-19

Workers wear protective face masks for safety in machine industrial factory.

As 2020 kicked off, the construction industry had high hopes of maintaining the industries boom.  Little did we know this would be upended in the first quarter of the year by Covid-19.  The state of Pennsylvania ordered all construction to cease operations on March 21, 2020, with New York following on March 27, and New Jersey on April 10th.  Maryland, DC, and Virginia elected to align with the federal guidelines and classify construction as an essential business that could remain open.  Over a month later as the pandemic plateaued in various sectors of our country, states begin to lift restrictions by placing regulations on construction sites for the foreseeable future.

On May 1st the state of Pennsylvania released the “Guidance For Businesses In The Construction Industry Permitted To Operate During The Covid-19 Disaster Emergency”.  The document outlined below identified who could commence construction and how daily operations were to operate.

  • Follow all applicable provisions of the Order of the Secretary of Health providing for business safety measures, issued April 15, 2020, including but not limited to provisions requiring that every person present at a work site wear masks/face coverings, and provisions requiring the establishment of protocols for execution upon discovery that the business has been exposed to a person who is a probable or confirmed case of COVID-19.
  • Follow all applicable provisions of the Order of the Secretary of Health providing for building safety measures, issued April 5, 2020.
  • Follow other applicable Department of Health (DOH) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance.
  • Require social distancing (6-feet minimum distance between workers) unless the safety of the public or workers require deviation (e.g. drywalling, team lifting).
  • Provide hand wash stations at appropriate locations on the site such as building entrances, break areas, food truck areas, offices, trailers, and job site egress areas.
  • Implement cleaning or sanitizing protocols at all construction sites and projects. Identify and regularly clean and disinfect areas that are at high risk for transmission (requirements to clean common areas and regularly trafficked spaces periodically).
  • Ensure all gatherings are limited to no more than 10 people, maintaining 6-foot social distancing, when required to meet, even when conducted outside.
  • Use virtual meetings and disseminate information electronically to the extent feasible.
  • Stagger shifts, breaks, work areas and/or stacking of trades where feasible to minimize workers on site.
  • Limit tool sharing and sanitize tools if they must be shared.
  • Employ jobsite screening based on CDC guidance to determine if employees should work. Prohibit from working any employees with any symptoms of COVID-19. Encourage sick employees to stay home.
  • Prohibit unnecessary visitors to any project or work site, and limit supplier deliveries.
  • Limit access to enclosed spaces to the extent feasible.
  • Ensure workers are traveling to and from the job site separately. Wherever possible employees should not share a vehicle.
  • Identify a “Pandemic Safety Officer” for each project or work site, or, if a large-scale construction project, then for each contractor at the site. The primary responsibility of the Pandemic Safety Officer will be to convey, implement, and enforce the social distancing and other requirements of this guidance for the protection of employees, suppliers, and other personnel at the site.

As of May 18th, the state of New Jersey permitted construction projects to resume.  Although similar to Pennsylvania’s regulations New Jersey regulations requirements vary slightly.  They can be found below or at this link New Jersey Guidelines.

  • Prohibit non-essential visitors from entering the worksite;
  • Engage in appropriate social distancing measures when picking up or delivering equipment or materials;
  • Limit worksite meetings, inductions, and workgroups to groups of fewer than ten individuals;
  • Require individuals to maintain six feet or more distance between them wherever possible;
  • Stagger work start and stop times where practicable to limit the number of individuals entering and leaving the worksite concurrently;
  • Identify congested and “high-risk areas,” including but not limited to lunchrooms, breakrooms, portable rest rooms, and elevators, and limit the number of individuals at those sites concurrently where practicable;
  • Stagger lunch breaks and work times where practicable to enable operations to safely continue while utilizing the least number of individuals possible at the site;
  • Require workers and visitors to wear cloth face coverings, in accordance with CDC recommendations, while on the premises, except where doing so would inhibit the individual’s health or the individual is under two years of age and require workers to wear gloves while on the premises. Businesses must provide, at their expense, such face coverings and gloves for their employees. If a visitor refuses to wear a cloth face covering for non-medical reasons and if such covering cannot be provided to the individual by the business at the point of entry, then businesses must decline entry to the individual. Nothing in the stated policy should prevent workers or visitors from wearing a surgical-grade mask or other more protective face covering if the individual is already in possession of such equipment, or if the businesses is otherwise required to provide such worker with more protective equipment due to the nature of the work involved. Where an individual decline to wear a face covering on the premises due to a medical condition that inhibits such usage, neither the business nor its staff shall require the individual to produce medical documentation verifying the stated condition.
  • Require infection control practices, such as regular hand washing, coughing and sneezing etiquette, and proper tissue usage and disposal;
  • Limit sharing of tools, equipment, and machinery;
  • Where running water is not available, provide portable washing stations with soap and/or alcohol-based hand sanitizers that have greater than 60% ethanol or 70% isopropanol;
  • Require frequent sanitization of high-touch areas like restrooms, breakrooms, equipment, and machinery;
  • When the worksite is an occupied residence, require workers to sanitize work areas and keep a distance of at least six feet from the occupants;
  • Place conspicuous signage at entrances and throughout the worksite detailing the above mandates;
  • Immediately separate and send home workers who appear to have symptoms consistent with COVID-19 illness upon arrival at work or who become sick during the day; and
  • Promptly notify workers of any known exposure to COVID-19 at the worksite, consistent with the confidentiality requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act and any other applicable laws;
  • Clean and disinfect the worksite in accordance with CDC guidelines when a worker at the site has been diagnosed with COVID-19 illness;
  • Continue to follow guidelines and directives issued by the New Jersey Department of Health, the CDC and the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, as applicable, for maintaining a clean, safe and healthy work environment.

On May 15th the state of New York has partially opened the state for construction beyond the transportation projects that were considered essential construction. The 5 regions that were permitted to start construction due to lower confirmed cases of covid-19 are North Country, Finger Lakes, Southern Tier, Mohawk Valley and Central New York.

Although different parts of our country have responded differently to the construction during the Covid-19 pandemic, JL Architects is actively involved with projects throughout the country.  We would love to assist in getting your project back on track.

Construction During Covid-2

-Nathan Houser, Architectural Project Manager

Photo Credits: ConstructionGlobal.com, FitchSolutions.com