As of 12:01am on April 3, 2020, residents of Florida have been issued a statewide, 30-day stay-at-home order for the state of Florida. Although many businesses will be closing their doors if they have not already done so, essential critical infrastructure workers will be permitted to continue working. Essentially, most construction work will be allowed to continue. While this is good news for the industry, it creates a new challenge for workforces: how to engage in social distancing while on the jobsite.
In this article, a coronavirus construction lawyer will discuss how you can better protect your workforce from the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Balancing the need for safety measures with the reality of construction work is essential for ensuring your company’s success during this crisis. For assistance abiding by federal and state law and keeping your workers safe, consult the Jacksonville construction lawyers from Cotney Construction Law.
The Basics of Social Distancing
As stated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), COVID-19 is thought to be spread “between people who are in close contact with one another (within about six feet).” Naturally, you are going to want your workers to maintain at least six feet of distance from each other at all times. But is this possible on a jobsite? Although it may seem impossible, the construction industry may be in a better position to practice social distancing than most other industries.
As reported by Construction Dive, open-space workplaces are relatively low risk for coronavirus. This is because construction sites are not as cramped as office spaces. In addition, construction workers are often supplied with personal protective equipment (PPE) that happens to be perfect for combating COVID-19, since the virus is also believed to be spread through droplets that land on surfaces. Workers who wear PPE, such as gloves and N95 masks, will be the most protected.
The Logistics of Keeping Workers Six Feet Apart
Construction is a collaborative effort that often involves dozens if not hundreds of workers. Although keeping your workers six feet apart will be a challenge, it’s not impossible. To begin, all personnel that can work remotely should do so. Second, you should stagger your work shifts to ensure that the bare minimum amount of workers needed is present. You can consider extending working hours to compensate for time lost from adhering to social distancing standards. Third, you should establish rules discouraging workers from gathering in groups — staggered break times can help in this regard. Finally, you must consider the option of downsizing your operations. Downsizing may be seen as a last resort, but it could be your best chance of protecting your workforce from COVID-19. Consult a Jacksonville contractor lawyer for help determining which precautions are best for your company.
Implement Basic Measures
You should implement basic infection prevention measures as recommended by OSHA. This includes providing handwashing sites with soap and running water. Most notably, you should send workers home if they are sick. Although you may be temporarily losing a valuable employee, it’s a better alternative to risking their safety and the safety of your workforce. Remember, it is your responsibility to provide your workers with a safe, hazard-free work environment.
All Part of an Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response Plan
Although OSHA does not have any regulations specifically for COVID-19, they are strongly pushing for social distancing and the above measures as part of an Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response Plan. Such a plan would incorporate recommendations made at the local, state, and federal levels. Abiding by recommendations and regulations at all levels of government would be difficult even without a global pandemic occurring. For help remaining lawful and keeping your workers safe, you can purchase our COVID-19 Protection Kit, which includes a jobsite preparedness and response plan. Alternatively, you can consult a Jacksonville construction attorney from Cotney Construction Law for assistance.
For Assistance Overcoming Any Challenge
At Cotney Construction Law, we understand that contractors are facing a growing number of challenges during the COVID-19 outbreak. In addition to keeping their businesses running and their workers safe, contractors must abide by laws and recommendations that are changing on a daily basis. To keep up to date with construction-related COVID-19 news, we recommend our COVID-19 Resources Page, which is being updated as the situation develops. We also recommend partnering with an affordable, on-demand attorney from our law firm who can protect your business now and in the future. If at any time you need legal assistance in the coming months, turn to the unwavering team of attorneys from Cotney Construction Law.
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.