Construction to Resume in Pennsylvania on May 1st Under Special Guidelines
April 27, 2020
By: Michael P. Leahey and Derrick L. Maultsby, Jr.
At a standstill since Governor Tom Wolf issued his order closing “nonessential” businesses, construction work, including new construction, renovation, and repair and land subdivision and design related field activities may resume on May 1 under Governor Wolf’s guidelines issued last week. In-person inspections and appraisals relating to construction loans and UCC building plan review necessary for the construction projects may also resume. Local political units may impose stricter regulations, and these local regulations must be followed.
Requirements for resuming operations are specifically listed:
All businesses and employees in the construction industry must do the following:
- Follow all applicable provisions of the Order of the Secretary of Health providing for business safety measures, issued April 15, 2020, including but not limited to provisions requiring that every person present at a work site wear masks/face coverings, and provisions requiring the establishment of protocols for execution upon discovery that the business has been exposed to a person who is a probable or confirmed case of COVID-19.
- Follow all applicable provisions of the Order of the Secretary of Health providing for building safety measures, issued April 5, 2020.
- Follow other applicable Department of Health (DOH) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance.
- Require social distancing (6-feet minimum distance between workers) unless the safety of the public or workers require deviation (e.g. drywalling, team lifting).
- Provide hand wash stations at appropriate locations on the site such as building entrances, break areas, food truck areas, offices, trailers, and job site egress areas.
- Implement cleaning or sanitizing protocols at all construction sites and projects. Identify and regularly clean and disinfect areas that are at high risk for transmission (requirements to clean common areas and regularly trafficked spaces periodically).
- Ensure all gatherings are limited to no more than 10 people, maintaining 6-foot social distancing, when required to meet, even when conducted outside.
- Use virtual meetings and disseminate information electronically to the extent feasible.
- Stagger shifts, breaks, work areas and/or stacking of trades where feasible to minimize workers on site.
- Limit tool sharing and sanitize tools if they must be shared.
- Employ jobsite screening based on CDC guidance to determine if employees should work. Prohibit from working any employees with any symptoms of COVID-19. Encourage sick employees to stay home.
- Prohibit unnecessary visitors to any project or work site, and limit supplier deliveries.
- Limit access to enclosed spaces to the extent feasible.
- Ensure workers are traveling to and from the job site separately. Wherever possible employees should not share a vehicle.
- Identify a “Pandemic Safety Officer” for each project or work site, or, if a large-scale construction project, then for each contractor at the site. The primary responsibility of the Pandemic Safety Officer will be to convey, implement, and enforce the social distancing and other requirements of this guidance for the protection of employees, suppliers, and other personnel at the site.
The guidelines further describe requirements by types of construction: residential; commercial; and public.
Residential: residential construction projects are authorized to conduct in-person operations; however, such projects may not permit more than four persons on the job site at any time inclusive of employees of both prime and sub-contractors, but not inclusive of delivery persons, code inspectors, or similar persons who require temporary access to the site and are not directly engaged in the construction activity.
- All commercial construction projects including new construction, renovation, and repair are authorized to conduct in-person operations; however, enclosed projects or portions of enclosed projects, may not permit more than four persons on job sites of 2,000 square feet or less, and
- One additional person is allowed for each additional 500 square feet of enclosed area over 2,000 square feet. These numbers are inclusive of employees of both prime and sub-contractors, but not inclusive of delivery persons, code inspectors, or similar persons who require temporary access to the site and are not directly engaged in the construction activity. Enclosed square footage shall include all areas under roof that are under active construction at the time.
- Commercial construction firms, including particularly those managing large-scale construction projects, should consider strongly establishing a written Safety Plan for each work location containing site specific details for the implementation of this guidance to be shared with all employees and implemented and enforced by the designated Pandemic Safety Officer.
Public: The Governor provides discretion to the local governments to determine the essential public construction to be resumed. The guidelines instruct local governments to communicate with the contractors regarding which projects shall resume. The local governments can issue directives for resumption, but in the event of a conflict with these guidelines, these guidelines control.
Additional Information for the Construction Industry:
Businesses that have questions may email the Department of Labor and Industry at RA-LIBOIS-BUILDINGS@pa.gov.
Answers to frequently asked questions involving application of the Employee Safety Order is available here.
PennDOT’s COVID-19 Guidance for Restarting Construction Projects provided a process for restarting construction projects that were suspended in response to COVID-19 mitigation is available here.