COVID-19 AND THE CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY

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Understanding OSHA Guidelines During a Pandemic

As an organization responsible for worksite safety, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is constantly looking for ways of helping companies improve their safety during the COVID-19 pandemic. While the world is still finding out new information about the pandemic, OSHA has updated its guidelines to help construction companies keep their workers safe while continuing their projects. These guidelines are continuously updating and evolving as new information becomes available, but your construction company can use them to try to improve worksite safety. In this article, a Colorado Springs construction lawyer with Cotney Construction Law helps you better understand OSHA guidelines during a pandemic.

Related: 3 Ways COVID-19 Is Impacting the Construction Industry

Social Distancing When Possible

OSHA’s guidelines largely follow the same principles as the CDC’s guidelines. While it may be difficult to do so, OSHA recommends social distancing on worksites as much as possible. This means reducing the number of areas where workers gather together in large numbers, spreading out work positions whenever possible, and keeping office staff to a minimum. The more you can keep your staff isolated from each other, the less likely they are to spread the disease to each other. This is even true in outdoor spaces where transmission rates are significantly lower.

If workers are completing projects in confined spaces, ventilation and PPE (personal protective equipment) may be an effective means of protection. Wearing a respirator or other type of mask that is suitable for protecting against a virus can lower transmission rates while working in these confined spaces. The ventilation of that space with windows and fans is another way to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. Since the air is being circulated out of the area quickly, it’s less likely to spread from person-to-person while stuck in confined spaces.

Related: Overcoming Social Distancing Challenges on Your Jobsite

Keep Sick Workers Out of Worksites

Another effective way to stop the spread of the disease is to keep sick workers out of construction sites. Being ill on the job not only puts other people at risk but also creates safety issues. Companies are encouraging sick workers to stay home to recover so that they cannot get anyone else sick.

Some construction companies are beginning to receive pushback from workers when they are told to stay home until they are no longer sick. This is understandable given the reduction in work within the construction industry and the increasing number of workers who need to maintain employment and collect a paycheck at all costs. However, few workers successfully petitioned their construction companies to come back to work despite the stakeholders. As a precaution, many construction companies are working with Colorado Springs contractor attorneys to make sure that they can legally follow through on this guideline.

Educate Staff

While there is a limited number of things that companies can do to stop the spread of COVID-19, they can effectively educate staff members about the virus. As new information becomes available, OSHA recommends that construction companies spread that information to their staff in order to efficiently and effectively disseminate important information. This includes training staff members in basic safety protocols, such as handwashing and proactively preventing the spread of illnesses.

In an effort to improve safety conditions, some companies have developed training programs specifically for teaching their staff members about how to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. Some companies have made this training mandatory, which raises questions on the validity and legality of requiring staff to complete it before returning to work. If your company is considering mandating training for disease control in the workplace, check with a Colorado Springs construction attorney to make sure that the training is legal and there are no other problems that can arise because of mandating training.

Related: Lockdown Part 2: OHSA Inspectors at your Work Site – What to Expect and How to React during COVID-19

Continue Other OSHA Procedures

Perhaps the most important guideline that OSHA has is that, despite there being a pandemic, you should continue to follow all of OSHA’s other guidelines related to safety. OSHA safety guidelines are designed to improve worksite safety regardless of the situation. Just because there is a pandemic doesn’t mean that you can avoid worksite safety concerns.

In actuality, companies may face a higher amount of liability in cases where they failed to meet safety standards. Regulators are still in place to enforce safety guidelines, and companies that fail to meet these guidelines may face stronger retaliation from regulators as they try to stop companies from taking advantage of the situation to cut costs and cut corners in unacceptable ways.

Workers are also more likely to take action against their employers if they feel that safety regulations have been violated. Many workers are in desperate situations and being able to win a lawsuit against an employer is an effective way of making sure that they get the funds that they need to cover their expenses. Make sure your company is fully protected by staying up-to-date with OSHA’s safety regulations. If you are unsure of how to maintain these regulations during a pandemic, you can discuss your operations with a Colorado Springs construction attorney who can guide you in finding appropriate ways to address OSHA guidelines.

Breakthroughs in how to fight the pandemic are happening every day, and the world is taking steps closer to returning to normal. However, it’s important for your company to proactively focus on safety so that you can avoid serious legal complications down the line. If you have questions about pandemic safety guidelines in the construction industry as well as how your company can reduce its overall liability for construction-related problems, contact a Colorado Springs contractor lawyer from Cotney Construction Law.

If you would like to speak with a Colorado Springs contractor lawyer, please contact us today.

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.