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Working construction in the era of COVID-19

Philadelphia workers' compensation

Businesses in the construction industry were allowed to resume operations in Pennsylvania beginning May 1, and projects have been progressing, even as the state continues to manage the coronavirus pandemic.

What steps are employers taking to protect workers from becoming infected?

Pennsylvania issues guidance

When Governor Tom Wolf made his announcement, he issued guidance for the construction industry created in conjunction with the General Contractors Association of Pennsylvania. Among their recommendations, as reported by

  • All businesses and employees in the construction industry must adhere to the Secretary of Health’s order providing business safety measures, including wearing masks/face coverings unless unable to for medical or safety reasons.
  • All construction projects must maintain proper social distancing, and provide hand washing and sanitizing stations for workers.
  • Cleaning and sanitizing protocols must be in place for high-risk transmission areas.
  • Protocols must be established should a business learn it has been exposed to a person who is a probable or confirmed case of COVID-19.
  • Businesses must identify a “pandemic safety officer” for each project or work site, or, for large scale construction projects, for each contractor at the site.
  • For residential construction projects, no more than four people will be permitted on job sites at any time, not including people who require temporary access to the site and are not directly engaged with the construction activity.
  • For non-residential or commercial projects, the number of people permitted on enclosed portions of a project varies by the size of the enclosed site. Commercial construction firms should “strongly consider” establishing a written safety plan for each work location containing site-specific details for the implementation of the guidance that is shared with all employees and enforced by the pandemic safety officer.
  • Contractors performing work on behalf of the state, municipalities or school district should refer to those entities to determine what projects may continue.

OSHA guidelines on controlling and preventing COVID-19

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has also issued guidance for construction employers and workers, “such as those engaged in carpentry, ironworking, plumbing, electrical, heating/ ventilation/air conditioning/ventilation, masonry and concrete work, utility construction work, and earthmoving activities.”

OSHA recommends following federal, state and local guidelines to prevent the spread of disease. It also advises employers to asses risk levels for different construction work tasks and to use physical barriers, such as plastic sheeting, if someone on a work site is suspected of having or known to have COVID-19.

The agency calls on employers to provide training for workers on:

  • The signs and symptoms of COVID-19
  • Policies and procedures for avoiding infection
  • How to implement appropriate social distancing and hygiene practices
  • The types and proper use of PPE
  • Staying home if they are sick
  • Wearing masks over the nose and mouth to prevent the spread of the virus

What if I become infected with the coronavirus at work?

If you are a construction worker who contracted COVID-19 on the job, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. Under Pennsylvania law, any illness contracted on the job is considered to be an injury or occupational disease.

If you would like to learn more about your rights, get in touch with the Law Offices of Richard A. Jaffe, LLC. One of our attorneys can meet with you for a free consultation. Contact us online or call our Philadelphia office at (877) 377-8046.

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