The Wolf administration has authorized businesses in the construction industry to resume their physical operations starting May 1, 2020 – one week earlier than previously announced in the Administration’s April 20, 2020 Order. On April 23, 2020, the Administration issued guidelines directed to the construction industry, announcing the new start date and outlining various operational requirements and safety protocols designed to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
Prior restrictions prohibited businesses in the construction industry from continuing their physical operations unless they were supporting life-sustaining businesses or received an exemption. Governor Wolf’s relaxed restrictions permit all businesses in the construction industry, including those in new construction, renovation, repair, land subdivision, and design-related field activities, to resume in-person operations so long as they strictly adhere to the guidance.
In addition to the new guidelines, businesses in the construction industry must also comply with the Secretary of Health’s prior orders, including the April 5, 2020 Order addressing cleaning and disinfecting procedures, and the April 15, 2020 Order addressing other workplace safety measures, such as requirements for masks/face coverings and response protocols for when a business discovers it has been exposed to COVID-19. Construction industry businesses must also adhere to any applicable guidance issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Health and/or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (the “CDC”).
Governor Wolf’s April 23, 2020 guidelines require, inter alia, that all businesses in the construction industry:
- Require social distancing unless the safety of the public or workers require deviation.
- Provide handwashing stations for employees at appropriate locations (g. building entrances, break areas, offices, trailers, etc.).
- Implement cleaning and sanitizing protocols at all construction sites.
- Limit gatherings to no more than 10 people and enforce social distancing, even when outside.
- Use virtual meetings and share information electronically, when feasible.
- Limit tool sharing and sanitize any tools that must be shared.
- Implement jobsite screening of employees in accordance with CDC guidance.
- Prohibit unnecessary visitors.
- Identify a “Pandemic Safety Officer” for each project or work site who will be responsible for conveying, implementing and enforcing the guidelines.
Businesses engaged in residential construction are not permitted to have more than four persons on the job site at any time, including all employees of both prime and subcontractors. The restriction does not apply to delivery persons, code inspectors, or other similar individuals who are not directly engaged in construction and require only temporary access to the site.
Businesses engaged in non-residential or commercial construction in an enclosed area of 2,000 square feet or less must also adhere to the four-person restriction. One additional person is allowed for each additional 500 square feet. Again, the restriction does not apply to those individuals who are not directly engaged in the construction activity and who require only temporary access. Commercial construction firms are strongly encouraged to develop a written Safety Plan for each work site and share the plan with their employees.
The guidelines further permit local governments to impose stricter requirements than those included in Governor Wolf’s publication, in which case the business must comply with the stricter guidance. Therefore, it will be incumbent upon construction industry businesses to ensure they are following all appropriate procedures, as requirements may vary.
If you have any questions about Governor Wolf’s construction industry guidelines or need assistance with your compliance efforts, please contact your SGK attorney.