COVID-19 and Construction: The Way Forward

COVID-19 and Construction: The Way ForwardLike the rest of the state, general contractors in New York have been on pause because of the COVID-19 crisis. As a result, the construction industry has been heavily impacted, and it will take some time to return to business as usual. In the early days of the virus’s outbreak, many small construction businesses had to lay people off, projects were canceled or delayed, and bottlenecks in the supply chain further strained deadlines. 

As construction sites start to reopen and new projects begin, it is vital for all of us to remember that this virus has not gone away. Perhaps one of the biggest challenges facing the industry now is moving projects forward while keeping people healthy at the same time.  

What the Law Requires

General contractors in New York have been provided with interim guidance from the state’s Department of Health to provide a minimum standard for protection against the spread of COVID-19. The guidance includes dozens of measures across the categories of people, places, and processes. 

Guidance related to people includes:

  • Allowing no more than one worker per 250 square feet of space
  • Attempting to maintain six feet between people at all times, and ensuring that face coverings are worn when work requires closer interactions
  • Spacing out workstations to maintain a distance of six feet or using physical barriers to separate workers
  • Limiting use of elevators and other tightly confined spaces 
  • Reducing bidirectional foot traffic, especially in narrow passages
  • Posting signage about face coverings, handwashing, social distancing, and reporting symptoms
  • Limiting in-person gatherings
  • Staggering schedules to reduce the number of people on-site
  • Prohibiting nonessential personnel from being on-site
  • Creating designated areas for deliveries and pickups to limit interactions

Guidance related to places includes:

  • Providing acceptable face coverings to employees
  • Limiting the sharing of tools, vehicles, and other objects and surfaces
  • Requiring gloves or handwashing when objects must be shared
  • Training employees on how to properly use personal protective equipment (PPE), including face coverings
  • Adhering to sanitation and hygiene requirements and using cleaning logs
  • Maintaining hand hygiene stations at construction sites
  • Providing appropriate cleaning and disinfection supplies
  • Implementing strict cleaning and disinfection protocols for restrooms, tools, and equipment
  • Following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines for disinfection if there is a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19
  • Prohibiting shared food and beverages
  • Developing a communication plan for employees, customers, and visitors

Guidance related to processes includes:

  • Mandatory daily health screening
  • Requiring employees to report any symptoms or interactions with people who have symptoms
  • Preventing employees with symptoms or suspected exposure from entering work sites
  • Designating a site safety monitor, who will be responsible for maintaining compliance with these guidelines
  • Maintaining a log of people who have come into close contact at the site
  • Notifying health authorities of any positive COVID-19 test and cooperating with subsequent guidance

What Detail Renovations Is Doing

Our top priority is to protect our employees, partners, and customers. To ensure that we do this, we are following all local, state, and federal guidelines for reopening construction sites and taking additional steps that go beyond these minimum requirements. Some of these steps include:

  • Requesting that anybody taking public transportation to work uses hand sanitizer as needed and wears a mask, gloves, and eye protection
  • Checking the temperature of all employees, visitors, and subcontractors on a daily basis
  • Providing every employee with a PPE safety supply bag that includes a mask, a respirator, gloves, safety glasses, and hand sanitizer
  • Limiting room occupancy to no more than two or three people and providing temporary partitions when needed
  • Sealing partition walls between working and nonworking areas
  • Cleaning and disinfecting bathrooms, large project areas, tools, materials, and supplies

General contractors in New York have a responsibility not only to provide exceptional service and craftsmanship but also to do it in a manner that is safe. The effects of the pandemic are constantly changing, and new information continues to emerge, which is why it is so important for general contractors to stay informed about the latest guidelines from state and national health officials. We continue to monitor the situation and will adapt as needed to protect the health of everybody we interact with, including our employees, partners, and customers.

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