The spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has drastically altered the construction industry. Construction companies have had to stagger schedules to promote social distancing. They’ve had to require workers to wear masks and personal protection equipment (PPE) at all times. And they’ve had to promote personal hygiene and hand washing. With the state of Florida beginning to ease stay-at-home orders, we ask: are these jobsite changes worth keeping?
Below, we discuss what jobsite changes should remain after the COVID-19 pandemic has passed. Some of these considerations will not be required on jobsites, while others will still be required by state, local, or federal law going forward. For assistance ensuring that your jobsite is safe and hazard-free, consult a Tallahassee construction lawyer with Cotney Construction Law.
Greater Focus on Sanitation
Throughout Florida, construction companies have generally been declared an essential business and allowed to remain in operation, so long as they comply with guidelines set by stay-at-home orders, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Guidelines can vary from county to county, but, for the most part, they require:
- Access to soap and water for handwashing
- Access to portable bathrooms that are sanitized regularly
- Regularly disinfected tools, equipment, and frequently touched surfaces
The unfortunate reality is that we are at the very minimum a year away from a COVID-19 vaccine. And just because COVID-19 is on the scene doesn’t mean other illnesses become less threatening. Keeping your workers safe from illness should remain your priority for the foreseeable future. Even as safety requirements wane in the coming months, the above precautions could have an incredible impact on reducing worker illness and absenteeism.
Increased Use of Personal Protective Equipment
More than any other county in Florida, Miami-Dade has been hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic. It only made sense when city officials released Executive Order 20-20 requiring persons working on construction sites to wear facial coverings, whether store-bought or homemade. It’s very fortunate that many workers in the industry already use masks and facial coverings. Other orders throughout the state also require workers to wear construction-grade gloves at all times.
In addition to protecting your workers from the spread of COVID-19, PPE like masks and gloves protect your workers from harmful dust, chemicals, and sharp objects. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, we recommend fostering a work environment where the use of PPE is not only accepted but encouraged. Consult a Miami contractor attorney with any questions concerning PPE requirements.
Emphasis on Flexible Work Schedules
Social distancing remains one of the top priorities for contractors, as COVID-19 is spread by close contact. Social distancing guidelines require workers to be at least six feet apart at all times. This creates a challenge for what is inherently a collaborative process among tight-knit construction workers. Construction sites have overcome this challenge by staggering work shifts and preventing multiple trades from working on a project at a single time.
Although you’ll need to balance work shifts with project demands, flexible work schedules should stay going forward. In addition to ensuring that your workers are better protected from illness, a flexible schedule will ensure that your workers have a better work-life balance, are more content, and are better rested. Measures like these can go a long way towards providing a safe work environment and keeping skilled workers with your company.
Putting HR Front and Center
Employers during the COVID-19 pandemic had to make difficult decisions to keep the operations running smoothly. Sometimes valued employees had to be furloughed. Other times an irreplaceable worker had to be sent home sick to recover and keep the jobsite safe. When faced with decisions that involve paid sick leave, wage and hour laws, or HR policies, employers often make the wrong choice even when they have the best intentions.
The COVID-19 has forced employers to refine their HR practices, and it’s this focus on running a company lawfully and efficiently that should remain long after the pandemic has passed. At Cotney Construction Law, we are offering HR training for a flat fee of $500. Training covers:
- Key wage and hour issues
- Necessary HR policies
- Paid time off
- Family Medical Leave Act issues
- Document keeping and record retention
- I-9 compliance.
If COVID-19 has revealed vulnerabilities in your company’s HR policies, it is in your best interest to address these issues as soon as possible.
Stronger Than Ever
The COVID-19 pandemic has likely put an incredible amount of pressure on your company. But like a diamond being formed under incredible pressure, your company can emerge from this stronger than ever. Take a look at your safety, work, and HR practices and see what has been and can be improved upon in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. And for any assistance ensuring that your policies are fair, effective, and lawful, consult the Tallahassee construction lawyers with 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.