Although construction projects are generally allowed to proceed under most COVID-19 stay at home orders, owners and contractors need to know how to proceed safely on their construction sites. Not only do workers and others on site need to be protected, but implementation of these protocols is also critical to avoid potential liabilities. Last week, the California Department of Industrial Relations – Division of Occupational Safety & Health (CAL/OSHA) released guidance regarding safety and health procedures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at construction sites. A link to the CAL/OSHA Safety and Health Guidance is provided here.
While the guidance states that it is not imposing any new legal obligations, it is imperative for businesses to not only be aware of these safety practices, but to incorporate these practices as appropriate on each construction site to protect its employees as well as subcontractors, suppliers and others who may be present on site. Otherwise, owners and contractors face potential exposure to regulatory action, including potential penalties and other liabilities, if they fail to properly incorporate these guidelines into the Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP) at each construction site. Now is the time to update your current Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP) to include recommended protocols for preventing the spread of the Coronavirus.
Here’s What Businesses Can Do Now
In addition to updating your IIPP, key takeaways for consideration from the guidance include the following:
- Increase frequency of safety training meetings or tailgate meetings of employees as well as subcontractors and others working on site to address these procedures. These meetings should become scheduled on a regular basis;
- Add training information to job site rules or other signage on the job site;
- Work with construction superintendents or other supervisors to ensure that they understand this guidance and how to advocate compliance with the same;
- Require subcontractors and suppliers to acknowledge these procedures in writing; and
- Modify existing contract documents with subcontractors, suppliers and any other parties working on site to require them to comply with specific procedures adopted by your business for the job site.
Navigating the pandemic is challenging, however, this guidance can be used as a blueprint for construction businesses to develop a strategy for each construction site that will provide for the protection of its employees at the workplace as well as prevent the spread of the COVID-19 in the community. Keep in mind that the CAL/OSHA guidance should also be reviewed with any health order in effect for the site as it may contain additional safety procedures or more stringent requirements.