Amid Covid-19, the construction industry has been hit particularly hard. With projects being halted, delayed, and operations slowed, many builders are eager to get back to work, even if that means following new restrictions. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (“OSHA”) has released a new set of guidelines for operations on construction sites during the Coronavirus outbreak. These guidelines apply to all builders and construction site servicers, regardless of their role or size in a project. While the guidance creates no new legal obligations and are advisory in nature, adhering to the recommendations can help to avoid unwanted on-site visits from OSHA and other agencies, so owners and contractors can keep their projects moving.
OSHA recommends a multi-faceted approach to jobsite and project safety as it relates to the spread of the Coronavirus. Contractors and project managers should consider and implement administrative controls and engineering controls to reduce the spread of the virus amongst workers, visitors, and occupants on the jobsite.
Administrative controls are high-level policy decisions made to mitigate workers’ risk of contracting the virus on the jobsite and may not involve many additional hard costs. Examples of administrative controls include: determining training for workers on how the virus spreads, screening new project calls with regard to workers’ safety, setting policy for different jobsite challenges (including conducting a job hazard analysis, see below), worker standards (e.g., social distancing, one-way walkways, handwashing policies, etc.) and conducting jobsite visits to determine whether a job can be accepted or if safeguards can be implemented for the specific job. These types of controls should be continuously assessed as the project scope changes, work orders are executed, and construction advances.
Job Hazard Analysis
In setting administrative control policies for worksite behavior, contractors should set guidelines for when they need to conduct a job hazard analysis. The factors below were provided by OSHA and are important to consider when setting the criteria for the analysis. Before beginning any work, a contractor should compare the job’s characteristics to the table below and determine the risk to workers’ performing functions on the jobsite:
Once policy decisions have been made, contractors should supply and implement physical safeguards to the worksite. OSHA is recommending a variety of physical adjustments to make the worksite safer. Examples of adjustments include: plastic sheet barriers, temporary walls, implementing a closed-door policy when working on certain areas of the jobsite where social distancing isn’t possible, adding moisture to the air to lower dust movement, general enhancements to dust collection systems, or adding and maintaining sanitization stations throughout the worksite. By coupling the new guidelines with the existing OSHA Construction Workforce guidance, contractors can reduce the transmission rate on their jobsites. This will not only keep them in better compliance with government agencies but also reduce absenteeism amongst their workers and, in turn, keep the project moving.
While these new best practices from OSHA are not mandatory, they are strongly recommended. With the increasing complexity of the guidelines and regulations, either suggested or required by OSHA and other agencies, it can be difficult to navigate the myriad of best practices. Across the state, owners, contractors, and subcontractors alike are continuing to seek guidance from construction lawyers to ensure their worksites are in compliance and upholding best practices.
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This Legal Briefing is intended for general informational and educational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice or counsel. The substance of this Legal Briefing is not intended to cover all legal issues or developments regarding the matter. Please consult with an attorney to ascertain how these new developments may relate to you or your business. © 2020 Law Offices of Pullano & Farrow PLLC