As New York construction workers are gradually heading back to work, OSHA only provided minimal “safety guidance” in regards to Covid-19 safety and it is mostly up to the construction companies to create their own Covid-19 safety rules to protect construction workers from contracting the Coronaivirus.
In a recent article, The New Yorker followed Putrelo Building Enterprises, a small family construction business in the Mohawk Valley, in their efforts to re-open their business while making sure their employees are safe. As they were looking at re-opening, the Putrelos realized that no Covid-19 related protocol was in place in regards to construction workers safety and that OSHA guidance was so minimal that it was mostly up to them to make sure that their employees were protected from Covid-19 as they restarted work.
The construction company created its own safety protocols
The Putrelos are a commercial construction company. While they were allowed to restart wok on their school and insurance projects in April, the family felt that they first needed to implement safety policies for their workers before asking them to return to work. They spent several weeks drafting their own protocols for their construction sites and shared them with all their workers before they started to re-open their construction sites.
Every worker returning to work has to answer a list of questions to find out if they or their entourage has been affected by the virus, if they have been travelling to the city, if they have a compromised immune system or other underlying condition or if they are above 70 year old. A worker who answers yes to any of these questions can not return to work immediately. However the family would keep paying the worker with their P.P.P loan that covers 8 weeks of payroll. So far all employees were eligible to return to work.
On each construction site the Putrelos rented a hand-washing station for workers to frequently wash their hands. Everybody is required to wear masks. Lifts are sanitized after every use and tools are cleaned every day. All these efforts put financial pressure on the family owned business. The family estimates that they lost a tenth of their annual earnings so far. They are also worried about the future.
While the Mohawk Valley didn’t record a high number of Covid-19 cases, the economy slowed down like everywhere else and small businesses that are already low in cash have to bear additional costs to comply with safety measures. Every business that reopens must self certify that they are compliant on the New York State website.
Too much self-compliance when it comes to construction worker safety can be detrimental to workers as not every contractor is as caring as the Putrelos family.
Read more in the New Yorker