On May 6 Procore held its “Best Practices for Keeping Field Teams Safe During COVID-19” webinar featuring representatives from the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC). Participants shared their insights into the regulatory and compliance side of the pandemic.
Sasha Reed, director of industry advancement for Procore, hosted the discussion and covered recent news about how the pandemic is affecting the industry.
According to recent Engineering News Record maps and Dodge data timelines, most construction was unrestricted across the country, Reed said. She added that many construction companies previously impacted by stricter shelter-in-place orders were going back to work. That included more than 5,200 projects across states hit hard by the pandemic.
While Reed noted that most office personnel were working from home, those with jobs in the field were changing schedules to stagger trade populations and allow social distancing. A top priority for managers beyond simply keeping projects on schedule was providing sanitation options for workers like hand washing stations. Contractors were also focused on devising ways to regularly sanitize heavily-trafficked areas. Reed said some contractors were health-screening people as they entered jobsites.
OSHA Compliance Concerns
Kevin Cannon, senior director for AGC’s Safety and Health Services Department, talked about the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) enforcement and guidance. Employers were concerned, he said, about annual or periodic compliance obligations, such as annual respirator fit-testing, crane operator recertification, and medical evaluations when falling within the silica standard.
In its guidance, OSHA emphasized “good faith compliance efforts” that are logical and well documented as one way to avoid citations.
Employers were also concerned about the enforcement response plan for coronavirus. Cannon said employers wondered if OSHA would enforce social distancing or whether there were enough hand-washing stations.
OSHA released detailed guidelines on that topic while also covering workplace risk levels, inspection procedures, and recording work-related cases.
Cannon recommended OSHA’s document “Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19” to learn about workplace risk levels and the types of controls recommended by the agency. The “COVID-19 Guidance for Construction Workforce” document, on the other hand, provides general guidelines for keeping the workforce safe during the pandemic.
Cannon emphasized that employers operating in multiple jurisdictions must practice due diligence in complying with local requirements as well.
“It’s not necessarily just an OSHA requirement,” said Cannon. “For instance, I’ve heard from some of our members in Ohio where the health department has the authority to shut job sites down. So OSHA is not your only concern in implementing these measures to protect against the spread of disease.”
Paid Leave and the FFCRA
Claiborne Guy, liaison to AGC members on employment policy and practices, talked about the history of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) which includes the requirements about the new sick leave benefits.
He urged people to be meticulous with their own paperwork and that for the DOL. Guy said employers will have to prove the employees were on the books, and they should be ready to work with the Treasury Department due to its own guidelines.
“I can’t stress this enough,” Guy said. “Documentation and record-keeping will be key.”