ABC and its chapters are reaching out to state and local lawmakers and asking them to treat construction activities conducted in a safe and responsible manner as essential services in order to permit critical infrastructure services to continue as states and localities draft stay-at-home orders and other policies allowing only movement of workers involved in essential businesses in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In an ABC National letter to National Governors Association leaders Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), ABC National said:
“Thank you for recognizing the essential nature of the construction industry in America’s response to this global health threat. We support your desire to continue construction activity in a safe manner that follows best practices and implements the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s guidelines in order to respond to this unprecedented crisis. ABC members remain committed to the health, safety and welfare of our workforce and the public.
“We write to you today to ask for your help in urging state and local governments to be mindful of the importance of the construction industry and its essential critical infrastructure workers as states and localities draft stay-at-home orders or policies allowing only movement of workers involved in essential businesses.”
According to ABC research, more than two dozen states and localities, from Alaska to Wisconsin, have issued policies affecting the construction industry, with Pennsylvania and four localities in Massachusetts issuing a moratorium on all construction activities.
In Pennsylvania, ABC issued an alert to members concerning an executive order issued by Gov. Tom Wolf closing all non-life sustaining business, including the construction industry, until further notice. Penalties for noncompliance, which went into effect on March 21, can include citations, fines and license suspensions. ABC is sharing resources and encouraging members to contact lawmakers to let them know construction of critical infrastructure is an essential service in Pennsylvania’s response to the COVID-19 crisis and should not be shut down.
In California, where it is unclear whether a state order supersedes Bay Area counties’ shutdown of commercial construction, a dozen building and contractors associations, including ABC, warned against a ban in a March 18 letter: “The drawbacks to public agencies potentially halting construction activities are many, first and foremost, the loss of income for 900,000 Californians working in the construction industry. A blanket shutdown would cause additional disruptions for residents already impacted by coronavirus while delaying critical infrastructure projects and desperately needed housing.”
The letter stressed the strong underpinnings of safe work practices already in place at California jobsites. “While there is risk of communicable diseases in every industry, construction sites are a unique workplace with their own levels of social distancing built in. They are also often tightly controlled, with required safety protocols and separation from the general public. Contractors and agencies have been taking additional steps to fortify workplaces against the spread of coronavirus and are prepared to modify construction activities further, at the direction of health experts.”
The Washington Construction Industry Council, which includes ABC Western Washington and Inland Pacific chapters, sent a letter to Gov. Jay Inslee and state legislators from both parties urging them to exempt the construction industry from shelter-in-place orders, saying, “The industry plays a vital role in helping expand capacity and safe access for medical assistance, shelter and vital resources during the COVID-19 outbreak.”
“Many states and localities appear to be aligning their policies with the Department of Homeland Security Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s March 19 Guidance on the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce: Ensuring Community and National Resilience in COVID-19 Response,” said Ben Brubeck, ABC Vice President of Regulatory, Labor and State Affairs.
“Governors across the country have so far recognized the important role construction will play in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and, to various capacities, most state executives have permitted certain essential construction activity to remain open thus far,” said Brubeck. “However, these evolving policies could change at any moment, and contractors should prepare by updating plans to ensure enhanced workforce safety and mitigate sudden jobsite shutdowns.”
ABC members can monitor developments and research guidance about the coronavirus pandemic at abc.org/coronavirus and access emergency preparedness and response resources, including COVID-19 safety materials, toolbox talks, sample project shutdown/startup procedures and sample small business continuity plans. To take action on critical legislative proposals, download the ABC Action app.