As of May 1st, Governor Tom Wolf is allowing all Pennsylvania businesses in the construction industry (including those that perform new construction, renovation, and repair) to reopen so long as they comply with certain health and safety guidelines to keep both employees and residents safe. The guidelines will also help limit the spread of the Coronavirus, which is a highly contagious respiratory illness that is sometimes accompanied by fatal complications.
Governor Wolf’s order sets forth specific rules and guidelines that all residential and commercial construction firms must follow in order to be up and running. Because COVID-19 is a major public health concern, strict accordance with the Governor’s rules is critical to ensure safety. The statewide order also allows room for cities and local government to establish additional, stricter guidelines for areas that fall under their jurisdiction.
• Require social distancing, or a minimum 6-feet distance between workers, unless public safety or safety of the workers requires deviation from this rule (e.g. while installing drywall or during team lifting),
• Provide hand washing stations throughout the site, such as at building entrances, break areas, food truck areas, offices, and trailers,
• Limit gatherings to no more than 10 people (who simultaneously maintain social distancing) when required to meet, and even when conducted outside,
• Ensure workers travel to and from job sites separately, prohibiting sharing vehicles whenever possible,
• Implement strict sanitizing and cleaning protocols, which includes identifying and regularly disinfecting areas that are considered high risk for transmission (such as common areas),
• Use virtual meetings whenever possible,
• Limit tool sharing and sanitize any tool that must be shared,
• Employ jobsite screening as based on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) guidelines, which prohibit employees with COVID-19 symptoms from working and encouraging sick employees to stay home, and:
• Identify a “Pandemic Safety Officer” at every jobsite or project. A Pandemic Safety Officer should convey, implement, and enforce social distancing and other guidelines from the Governor’s order.
No more than four persons are allowed in enclosed areas for non-residential and commercial projects that are 2,000 square feet or less. For every additional 500 square feet of an enclosed area that is greater than 2,000 square feet, one additional person is allowed. As job sites begin reopening, it is crucial that employers and employees know the warning signs and symptoms of COVID-19 to watch out for. According to the CDC’s most recent update, individuals experiencing cough, fever, and shortness of breath or difficulty breathing may have the virus, as well as people experiencing at least two of the following six symptoms:
• Muscle pain,
• Sore throat,
• New loss of taste or smell,
• Repeated shaking accompanied by chills, and:
Even people who are not exhibiting symptoms may be sick and can still transmit the virus to others, which is why wearing a mask or face covering is so important (so long as you do not have breathing problems or another medical conditions that prohibits you from safely wearing one). In some cases, symptoms do not appear for 2 to 14 days. If you suspect you may be ill, it is essential to stay at home. If you are struggling to breath or think you need emergency medical care, call 9-1-1.
The rules and guidelines for conducting residential construction are quite similar to those set forth for non-residential and commercial sites. No matter the size of the residence, no more than four persons (employees) are to be allowed on the job site at any time. The four person rule applies to employees of both prime and sub contractors, but does not include code inspectors, delivery persons, or anyone of similar standing who requires only temporary access to the jobsite but is not directly involved in the construction activities.
Philly Mayor Jim Kenney is launching his own set of rules that construction firms in the city must abide by in order to be operational. Mayor Kenney’s executive order requires companies to observe the following guidelines:
• No work may be performed in occupied dwellings, except for in the case of an emergency,
• Every company must have a certified Pandemic Safety Officer and formulate an effective safety plan, and:
• All work must occur Monday through Friday between the hours of 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. (except for emergencies).
The Governor and Mayor’s rules cannot just be an expectation; they must be a reality. Deviating from these guidelines could increase the spread of the Coronavirus and endanger the 12.8 million residents living in Pennsylvania – but far too often, companies value paychecks over people’s health and safety. The city and state are both considering what penalties and fines to enact against firms that fail to comply with the safety standards, but companies that cut corners must be held responsible. If you or a loved one sustains injuries because of a construction firm’s negligence, someone at our firm can help. Contact a representative online now.
With offices located in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, Galfand Berger serves clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. To schedule a consultation, call us at 800-222-8792 or complete our online contact form.