OSHA Issues New COVID-19 Guidance to Construction Industry
Florida’s construction industry remains open during the COVID-19 pandemic. But many contractors and subcontractors are still in a state of limbo when it comes to proceeding with individual projects. “Social distancing” is not always a practical alternative for a job site. And construction firms are understandably hesitant to resume work without clear guidance as to their legal responsibilities.
The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently issued revised “COVID-19 Guidance for the Construction Workforce.” These are not regulations as such. Rather, they are simply a series of tips that construction firms should consider following moving forward. Among OSHA’s advice:
- Construction firms should actively “encourage workers to stay home if they are sick.”
- Firms should continue to follow their “normal control measures” at job sites, including requiring workers to wear any necessary “personal protective equipment.” Where necessary, employees should receive appropriate training on how to “properly put on, use/wear, and take off” such equipment.
- Ideally, all workers should wear masks “over their nose and mouth” to prevent them from spreading the novel coronavirus that causes the COVID-19 illness.
- Management and supervisors should “advise” their workers to avoid physical contact with one another when possible. Current social distancing guidelines recommend keeping a distance of six feet at all times. While this may not be possible on active construction sites, it should be enforced inside any work trailers. Firms should also minimize the overall need for in-person meetings.
- Personal hygiene is crucial to preventing the spread of coronavirus. If it is impractical to make soap and water available to employees on-site, they should at least have access to alcohol-based hand rubs that contain “at least 60 percent alcohol.”
- If workers need to share tools, they should be instructed to clean them between uses with alcohol-based wipes.
- All portable job site toilets should be cleaned and disinfected on a regular basis.
OSHA further advised construction industry employers to use EPA-approved disinfectants when cleaning and sanitizing their job sites. The EPA maintains List N, which lists roughly 400 products that meet certain criteria “for use against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.” Keep in mind, however, that this list only covers disinfectants that are safe “for uses on surfaces, not humans.”
Consult with a Florida Construction Lawyer If You Have Additional Questions or Concerns
Workplace safety is always a priority when it comes to the construction industry. But it is even more crucial during a pandemic situation. And contractors and subcontractors who take unnecessary risks with worker safety could find themselves in serious legal trouble. OSHA has already said it will investigate any complaints that it receives “related to lack of personal protective equipment” or a “lack of training on appropriate standards and about possible COVID-19 illnesses in the workplace.”
As always, if you have specific questions regarding your legal obligations as a construction firm, it is best to seek qualified legal advice. The Florida construction law attorneys at Linkhorst & Hockin, P.A., remain available to help you with all current and future legal needs and to answer any questions or inquiries about a pending or prospective matter. Due to the ongoing emergency, we are happy to offer remote consultations and meetings. Call us today at 561-626-8880 to schedule a consultation.