Florida Construction Firms Under Scrutiny to Comply with Pandemic Restrictions
Construction firms are under increased public scrutiny due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Local authorities have implemented new procedures designed to keep worksites safe. At the same time, the media has become more aggressive in policing potential violations of safety standards.
To give an example of the latter, WFTS in Tampa Bay recently published images of what it describe as “construction workers in Tampa violating those rules at more than half a dozen work sites.” The pictures included “[t]wo men crowded into the same small construction elevator on a high-rise project” and workers not wearing gloves while handing items to one another. WFTS sais some of these pictures came directly from a “Sarasota County Construction site shared by a concerned worker.”
City of Tampa Issues Guidelines to Ensure “COVID-19 Compliance”
Like many other Florida municipalities, the City of Tampa has published guidelines for the construction industry as it continues to operate as an “essential service” during the COVID-19 pandemic. Among the guidelines construction sites are expected to follow:
- Contractors should designate a “COVID-19 compliance coordinator” who is present on-site during working hours. The coordinator should be accessible to both workers and city officials.
- Contractors need to maintain strict access controls to the job site–i.e., no visitors–and implement appropriate “staff screening protocols” for symptoms of COVID-19.
- The general “social distancing” rule remains in effect even on construction sites. This means all workers should maintain a minimum separation of 6 feet from one another at all times. The City’s guidance states that if there is a particular task that requires “closer contact,” it “must be postponed or redesigned” to comply with the 6-feet rule.
- All job sites must have portable hand-washing and/or hand sanitizer stations placed at “convenient locations.”
- All construction trailers must be limited to 50 percent or less of normal occupancy.
- All workers need to wear “construction-grade gloves” while on the site.
- No food service is allowed on job sites; food trucks may continue to operate “outside the perimeter.”
The City further emphasized it has the right to conduct “unannounced spot-check” inspections of any job site when “authorized by an occupational safety medical practitioner.” As of April 6, 2020, Tampa officials said they plan to have between 20 and 25 practitioners inspecting 52 job sites at least 2 or 3 times per week. Project developers are solely responsible for the costs of these inspections.
Get Advice from a Qualified Florida Construction Law Attorney
In response to the WFTS report, an official with the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) advised all developers and contractors to comply with the guidelines implemented by Tampa and other localities. The official cautioned, “It takes just a stroke of a pen for all construction activity in a region to be shut down if construction workers and the people who run firms are not taking this seriously.” To that end, AGC said it has “sent videos and other training to members to try to help keep them working safely.”
Indeed, all contractors need to be aware of, and abide by, all local regulations adopted in response to the current emergency. If you need additional legal guidance or advice in this area, please contact the Florida construction lawyers at Linkhorst & Hockin, P.A., to schedule a remote meeting or consultation.