On April 24, 2020, Governor Jay Inslee announced that non-essential, “low-risk” construction projects that were previously paused may resume operation if they follow 30 specific safety requirements to contain the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus). As we previously reported, residential and commercial construction was deemed non-essential unless it was related to providing other essential services, building public housing, or repairing or protecting businesses and homes. As a result, several Vigilant member companies suspended some or all of their operations. After reaching agreement with construction industry and union representatives on a comprehensive safety standard list, called the Phase 1 Construction Restart COVID-19 Job Site Requirements, the governor announced that non-essential construction projects able to maintain six-foot distancing (deemed “low risk”) could resume after fully implementing the 30-point safety list. Ongoing essential construction must also comply with the list by May 1, 2020.
However, in a clarification memo and FAQs released on April 29, 2020, the governor limited the scope of non-essential construction projects allowed to operate to only those that were in existence on March 23, 2020. “In existence” means the construction activity is needed to fulfill an obligation under a contract that took effect before March 23, or is authorized by a government-issued permit obtained before March 23. In other words, brand new construction projects aren’t allowed, even with six-foot distancing and adherence to the 30 job site requirements. For projects that are essential or authorized non-essential, here are some of the site safety requirements:
Develop and post at each job site a comprehensive COVID-19 exposure control, mitigation, and recovery plan;
Post at each job site written notice to employees, subcontractors, and government officials the work that will be performed at that job site and signed commitment to adhere to the requirements listed in the Phase 1 Construction Restart COVID-19 Job Site Requirements;
Designate a site-specific COVID-19 supervisor at every job site to monitor the health of employees and enforce the COVID-19 job site safety plan;
Conduct weekly safety stand-down/toolbox talk/tailgate trainings to explain the protective measures in place for all workers;
Ensure six-foot distancing with activities, material hand-off, breaks, and lunches;
Provide personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves, goggles, face shields, and face masks as appropriate or required;
Frequently clean and provide hand-washing stations and disinfectant for employees;
Screen all workers at the beginning of their shift by taking their temperature (with a “no touch” thermometer if possible) and asking them if they have a fever, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, muscle aches, or new loss of taste or smell; and
Keep a daily attendance log of all workers and visitors on site for at least four weeks.
Most of the 30 standards will be enforced by the Washington Department of Labor and Industries (L&I). Note: The governor’s requirement to ask about symptoms is missing some of the items from the CDC’s newly updated list of possible COVID-19 symptoms (specifically “difficulty breathing” as part of the “shortness of breath” symptom, plus the symptoms of chills, repeated shaking with chills, headache, and sore throat). It may be wise to expand your own questionnaire to incorporate the additional items on the CDC’s list.
Tips For Employers: If you want to resume your non-essential construction activity, confirm that the project is “low-risk,” meaning you can maintain six-foot distancing between your employees, and that it was started, permitted, or contracted prior to March 23, 2020. If you can’t satisfy both of these requirements, your construction project isn’t authorized to resume work under the governor’s Stay-Home Stay-Healthy proclamation. If your construction project has been operating as essential under the proclamation and the subsequent construction clarification, and you cannot maintain the six-foot physical distancing, then you must implement a hazard assessment and control plan identifying appropriate PPE use in accordance with L&I’s coronavirus prevention general requirements. If your project is essential (previously authorized) or non-essential but newly authorized, then closely review the Phase 1 Construction Restart COVID-19 Job Site Requirements so you can comply with them before commencing work (or by May 1 if your business was previously authorized). For questions about the 30-point safety standards, contact L&I’s Business Response Center or reach out to your Vigilant safety professional.