Social Distancing on Construction Jobsites
(Information shared from NESCA)
TO: NESCA Members
FROM: Michael Misenhimer, Executive Director
SUBJECT: Social Distancing on Construction Jobsites
"One of the most frequent questions we have been fielding lately regarding the “essential projects” guidance from Empire State Development (ESD) concerns social distancing on construction jobsites. Effectively, the question is whether workers must maintain 6’ separation at all times or are there instances where that distance can be reduced where necessary if other appropriate precautions are taken (such as the use of face masks). On the one hand, the guidance could be interpreted as requiring all construction sites to close if the 6’ social distancing cannot be maintained. On the other hand, however, there could be some flexibility for interpretation because the ESD guidance does not actually specify a 6’ social distancing, rather, it uses the term “appropriate social distancing”. Could the guidance, therefore, be interpreted to generally require a 6’ social distancing, but where that is impossible for a particular task, proper protections (face masks) must be utilized?
Apparently the Associated General Contractors of New York State was getting similar questions from their members, so they reached out to the Governor’s Office for clarification on this question, and at the end of last week received the following email reply which they have shared with NESCA:
“I think we are not going to give a construction site the same leeway as say a hospital. There is social distancing impossibilities in both, but I think the intention was to be a bit stronger on construction sites. The way we interpret this is that social distance is ‘appropriate’ if it can be demonstrated that either you have people working 6’apart, or to the extent say you’re working in a tunnel you have protective equipment (PPE) and disinfection protocols. There is not a blanket, well we really can’t be distanced because it isn’t convenient so we will wear masks instead. Masks and face coverings in a health setting mean really different things versus what it means on a construction site. So we don’t see it as anything other than ‘reducing’ the spread but not eliminating.”
While this reply is still confusing, it could be read to mean that construction workers must generally maintain the 6’ distancing but, when a strict 6’ distance for a particular task can’t possibly be maintained, proper protections (face masks and disinfection protocols) must be utilized.
Therefore, on construction sites that are still open (essential construction and some public projects), NESCA recommends all employees on a job site have face masks on at all times, regardless of activity. For those working in close proximity of one another, make sure they are also wearing gloves, in addition to the masks. Social distancing should be reinstated as soon as feasible once job conditions allow. It would also be wise to show that all close proximity activities are being monitored and adjusted where possible for restoration of the 6' minimum social distancing.
Local and state inspectors are stopping at jobsites and are shutting down projects that are not maintaining proper protocols. Process is prudence, so showing some method/plan of process to maintain a safe work site may go a long way to remaining open."
Shared from NESCA's email update. Thank you for sharing NESCA!