- In an American Society of Safety Professionals webinar, President of SafeTech Consultants Deborah Roy used the example of warehouses to explain that a workspace in which workers are regularly 6 feet apart or more, and already wearing gloves, is a relatively low-risk environment when it comes to the spread of the coronavirus, when compared to a tight office space.
- The virus is spread as a “droplet disease,” which means the 6 feet suggestion is important to understanding how to move ahead with work. But industries like construction, she said, won’t benefit from using masks, because they are mostly beneficial when workers are within close proximity to each other.
- Among the various sources providing information on how to react to the pandemic, Roy suggested turning to the CDC guidelines on technical aspects of how the virus spreads and OSHA’s guidelines for practical planning and evaluation of work continuation, which continue to evolve.
Roy said all workers capable of working remote should be doing so. Within the construction industry, however, there has been confusion over whether or not construction can or should be considered essential work or not.
New York-based construction superintendent James Lang urged all nonessential construction to stop in an opinion piece submitted to Construction Dive, and called for clearer guidelines from public officials on what merits “essential work.”
On March 17, Boston became the first U.S. city to stop all construction, followed by smaller towns in Massachusetts. Meanwhile, construction on the Las Vegas Raiders’ future home, Allegiant stadium, for example, continues despite an government order for all nonessential businesses to halt.
In response to the Boston closures, Associated General Contractors of America CEO Stephen E. Sandherr issued a statement arguing that shutdowns "will do more harm than good for construction workers, community residents and the economy."
Closures in the San Francisco area, Pennsylvania and Austin, Texas, are contributing to the confusion of if construction is essential and can continue, or if it needs to be shuttered for the safety of workers.
Roy compared the current state of the U.S. to that of China, South Korea and Italy, of which the former two have already seen the number of COVID-19 cases peak. The closing of hospitals specifically built for coronavirus care in China is a good sign, Roy said, but it could be weeks after the virus' peak before the U.S. gets to that point.