Construction is Open for Business in PA – Are You Ready?

Beginning May 1, 2020, all businesses in the construction industry in Pennsylvania are permitted to maintain in-person operations pursuant to amendments to the business closure orders originating from the COVID-19 pandemic.  However, contractors must now adhere to strict guidelines published by the state.  Construction projects previously granted an exemption to continue in-person operations also must adhere to this new guidance, which includes many safety protocols that were unheard of on job sites before the pandemic. 

The new requirements are as follows:

  • Follow all applicable provisions of the Order of the Secretary of Health providing for business safety measures, issued April 15, 2020
  • Establish protocols for execution upon discovery that the business has been exposed to a person who is a probable or confirmed case of COVID-19
  • Every person present at a work site must wear a mask/face covering
  • Require social distancing (6-feet minimum distance between workers) unless the safety of the public or workers require deviation (e.g. drywalling, team lifting). 
  • Provide hand wash stations at appropriate locations on the site such as building entrances, break areas, food truck areas, offices, trailers, and job site egress areas. 
  • Implement cleaning or sanitizing protocols such as regularly clean and disinfect areas that are at high risk for transmission (common areas and regularly trafficked spaces)
  • Ensure all gatherings are limited to no more than 10 people, maintaining 6-foot social distancing, when required to meet, even when conducted outside
  • Use virtual meetings, and disseminate information electronically to the extent feasible
  • Stagger shifts, breaks, work areas and/or stacking of trades where feasible
  • Limit tool sharing and sanitize tools if they must be shared
  • Employ jobsite screening based on CDC guidance to determine if employees should work
  • Prohibit from working any employees with any symptoms of COVID-19
  • Encourage sick employees to stay home. 
  • Prohibit unnecessary visitors to any project or work site, and limit supplier deliveries 
  • Limit access to enclosed spaces to the extent feasible 
  • Workers travel to and from the job site separately - where possible no vehicle sharing 
  • Identify a “Pandemic Safety Officer” for each project or work site, or, if a large-scale construction project, then for each contractor at the site. The primary responsibility of the Pandemic Safety Officer will be to convey, implement, and enforce the social distancing and other requirements of the guidance for the protection of employees, suppliers, and other personnel at the site. 

The new guidance also limits the number of workers allowed in enclosed projects or spaces, including residential construction, to no more than four people on job sites of 2,000 square feet or less.  One additional person is allowed for each additional 500 square feet of enclosed area over 2,000 square feet. These numbers include employees of both general and subcontractors, but do not include delivery persons, code inspectors or others who require temporary access to the site and are not directly engaged in construction activity.

In addition, local jurisdictions in the state may elect to impose more stringent requirements.  In such instances, businesses must adhere to the more stringent requirements.  Finally, local political units and public entities should officially communicate to contractors whether their specific project will be resumed.  Notwithstanding the general authorization to resume construction activities, contractors should not resume work on public construction projects until directed to do so by the applicable governmental unit.

Certain commonwealth agencies and independent commissions have previously issued guidance for critical or essential projects that are continuing.  Those specific directives should be followed unless there is a direct conflict with the new guidelines, in which case the new guidelines control.  Contractors working on public construction projects must follow construction restart or resumption plans established by that agency or commission.

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Material discussed is meant for informational purposes only, and it is not to be construed as investment, tax, or legal advice. Please note that individual situations can vary. Therefore, this information should be relied upon when coordinated with individual professional advice.

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