The COVID-19 pandemic is ever-evolving, and the construction industry is not alone in feeling the impacts. What began with temporary shutdowns has evolved into an international medical and economic crisis. Because of these major issues, the construction industry may experience major shifts and changes in the coming months and even years. For that reason, it’s important to attempt to understand the various ways your business may be impacted.
If you have concerns about how COVID-19 is impacting your business, a Dade County contractor lawyer can help walk you through the best practices to keep your employee, yourself, and your business safe. Furthermore, it’s critical to listen to local health officials and their recommendations. However, you may notice these three impacts on the industry as a whole.
Additional Safety Measures are Required by OSHA
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set forth guidelines to keep construction teams safe on the job. In addition to following CDC guidelines for facial coverings and frequent handwashing, OSHA also recommends limiting in-person meetings and training seminars, providing hand washing and sanitizing stations, and enacting social distancing when possible. It’s also recommended that you stagger work schedules to prevent the spread of the virus.
Further, it’s important to note that Personal Protective Equipment, or PPE, for construction projects is different from traditional hospital PPE gear but may still include facial coverings, such as N95 masks, face shields, and disposable clothing coverings. Construction workers should adhere to traditional PPE requirements as well, such as steel-toed boots, snugly fitting gloves, earplugs, and hard hats.
OSHA also specifies that cloth face coverings are not a part of PPE and are not appropriate substitutes for PPE, such as respirators (like N95 respirators) or medical face masks (like surgical masks), in workplaces where respirators or face masks are recommended or required to protect the wearer.
Per OSHA: “While wearing cloth face coverings is a public health measure intended to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in communities, it may not be practical for workers to wear a single cloth face covering for the full duration of a work shift (e.g., eight or more hours) on a construction site if they become wet, soiled, or otherwise visibly contaminated during the work shift. If cloth face coverings are worn on construction sites, employers should provide readily available clean cloth face coverings (or disposable facemask options) for workers to use when the coverings become wet, soiled, or otherwise visibly contaminated.”
If you’re concerned that your team may be violating OSHA’s additional standards or would like clarification on potential new documentation from OSHA, our Dade County construction attorneys will ensure that you are kept up-to-date and informed on all OSHA changes.
Employee Quarantine May Impact Deadlines
Employees who are sick, may have been exposed to the virus, or show symptoms of an upper respiratory infection should stay home. But, as a business owner, this might cause you to worry about major setbacks and deadlines. For this reason, it’s important to allow for extra time in the schedule for sick leave and to include a clause in the contract that projects may be delayed due to COVID-19 disruptions.
In order to actively encourage workers to comply with the request to stay home, construction firms should review their employee handbook, including their sick leave policy. A Dade County construction attorney can advise you on ways to adjust the sick leave policy to accommodate their workforce and stay in compliance with the recently passed CARES Act, which requires 2 weeks of paid sick leave in many cases. In some cases, this could include allowing employees time away from work to care for their immediate family members.
Here are some other things construction firms should consider:
- Do not require employees to provide a note from their healthcare provider if they are sick with an acute respiratory illness. Medical offices are extremely busy, and your employee may not be able to obtain certification in a timely fashion.
- Sick individuals should call their healthcare provider to accurately diagnose their symptoms. The employee should self-isolate unless they are instructed to visit their healthcare provider or if the symptoms are severe.
- If an employee contracts coronavirus, they will most likely have mild symptoms and recover within weeks. Even though the symptoms may be mild, they need to understand that they are contagious and can spread the disease to other people.
- Reach out to your subcontractors and staffing agencies to ensure they have non-punitive policies in place to ensure that all workers can take time away from work if they need it. Just as you need to review your employee policies, so do the other professionals you work with.
Supply Chains May Be Disrupted
Of course, just as your projects may be impacted negatively, your suppliers may also experience the same issues and delays. For example, the suppliers of roofing materials may also have employees who are ill or are quarantined, which means that they are delayed getting the needed supplies to your project, which in turn causes major delays.
For this reason, as stated above, it’s crucial to pad in extra time wherever possible and to include a provision in every contract for COVID-19-related delays and deadline changes. Our Dade County contractor lawyers can discuss how to amend or add addendums to your existing contracts to allow for this provision.
Construction Attorneys Can Assist with Covid-Related Concerns
COVID-19-related concerns can be an extra burden on your already busy business. Fortunately, a construction attorney can help you create a plan to keep your business and your employees safe and discuss all of your employees’ rights with you before a dispute occurs.
The team at Cotney Construction Law can help you at every turn during the COVID-19 crisis. Our legal team will provide you with sound advice at every level and assist your firm with any construction needs. Not only do we advise our clients on legal matters, but we also provide a myriad of other valuable services for construction businesses, including contract review, employment law advice, and litigation and arbitration services. We also advocate for clients involved in licensing complaints, permitting issues, stop-work orders, business immigration, and more.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.