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Emerging Guidelines for the Construction Industry Returning to Work With COVID-19

Dylan Kleintop

ARCHITECTURE 6/22/2020

As many states begin to reopen from the novel COVID-19 pandemic, many in the architecture, engineering, and construction industries are wondering what the post-COVID-19 future holds. 

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) recently released a set of guidelines for the construction industry, addressing some of the unanswered questions many people might have about what the post-pandemic future might hold.  State governing bodies have also released varying sets of guidelines to follow, aiming to help maintain the health and safety of everyone on or near job sites. 

Here's a quick look at some of the COVID-19 guidelines released by the AIA and state governing bodies that can help firms plan for what the next few months have in store for construction. 

COVID-19 Safety Guidelines from the American Institute of Architects (AIA)

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The American Institute of Architects (AIA) recently released a set of guidelines to the architectural community addressing some of the best practices and guidelines for architects designing for the future in a world post-pandemic. Here's a quick summary of the recommendations:

  • – Given the unusual conditions presented by COVID-19, the best course of action is to openly communicate with the other project participants about the situation, identify the challenges presented, and work toward a mutually acceptable resolution, such as putting a limit on the number of people onsite during observations, adoption methods for virtual observation, and other solutions. 
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  • – One alternative the architect and its consultants might consider and discuss with the owner and the contractor is the feasibility of using technology to do site inspections if they feel in-person site inspections will not work.  Development of protocols for "virtual site inspections" would depend on many factors, including the working relationship and levels of trust among the various parties. 
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  • – In general, an owner and contractor have contractual and common law obligations to follow all the laws.  A party to a contract also cannot force another party to perform an illegal act.  Though it may violate CDC guidelines, it remains unknown whether the requested action or jobsite visits would be illegal.  
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  • – It is crucial that architects broadly communicate how their holistic, problem-solving, and design-thinking skills can assist clients through this time of COVID-19 and help them emerge more strongly positioned. 
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  • – General guidance by the AIA should be weighed against specific facts at hand and the needs of the parties involved, including whether site visits are permissible under the state and local mandates.  

 

COVID-19 Safety Guidelines from State Governments

Different states have issued varying guidelines for construction to return to work this summer. Below are a few key examples of how state governments are handling the risks posed by construction during the pandemic.

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1. California COVID-19 Guidelines for Construction

The California state government has mandated a number of restrictions on construction activity throughout the indefinite remainder of the COVID-19 crisis.

According to state order, all construction projects must practice social distancing by maintaining a minimum 6-foot distance from others.  The owner/contractor must designate a site-specific COVID-19 supervisor to enforce guidance, and a designated COVID-19 supervisor should always be present on the construction site during construction activities. 

Workers should be discouraged from using other workers' phones, desks, offices, work tools, and equipment.  If necessary, they should be cleaned and disinfected before and after use.  A daily attendance log of all workers and visitors must be maintained, and employees must inform their supervisor if they have a sick family member at home with COVID-19.

 

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2. New York COVID-19 Guidelines for Construction

The following guidance has been issued by the New York State Department of Economic Development as it relates to the state's response to COVID-19:

At every construction site, it is required that the personnel working on the site maintain an appropriate social distance, including for purposes of elevators/meals/entries and exits.  Sites that cannot maintain appropriate social distancing, as well as cleaning/disinfecting protocols, must close.  Enforcement will be conducted by state and local governments, including fines up to $10,000 per violation.  

It will be important to conduct the following: 

– Regularly clean, sanitize, and/or disinfect work areas

– Establish new and multiple entrances/exits to control the movement of personnel and allow for health screening, including temperature taking

– Install hand hygiene/wash stations or retrofit existing ones with touchless faucets and dispensers

– Install health screening stations or devices at entrances

 

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3. Pennsylvania COVID-19 Guidelines for Construction

The guidance developed and created by the General Contractors Association of Pennsylvania provides universal protocols for all construction activity, as well as specific guidance for residence, commercial, and public construction projects. 

All construction projects must maintain proper social distancing and provide hand washing and sanitizing stations for workers, as well as cleaning and sanitizing protocols for high risk transmission areas.  

Residential construction projects may not permit more than four individuals on the job site at any time, not including individuals who require temporary access to the site and are not directly engaged in the construction activity. 

 

Stepping Into the New Normal

Many other states' guidelines for post-COVID-19 construction are sure to be similar in form, from social distancing to disinfecting protocols.  Generally, it is most important to follow your own state's guidelines, supplementing them with additional cautions and procedures where warranted by individual situations.

There will certainly be a "new normal" in the construction industry now that the world has begun to deal with COVID-19 as a lasting affair of public health.  However, effectively sanitizing, socially distancing, and following the recommended guidelines not only will help protect you and your employees, but also protect the safety and peace of mind of your clients.

For more information on the guidelines set forth to provide safety to you and your employees, you can find the Center for Disease Control guidelines here.

 

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Dylan Kleintop

 

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