After ongoing confusion by many over whether construction should be considered part of the “essential business,” during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) issued an updated Coronavirus Guidance for America on March 28, 2020 to clarify construction’s critical role in supporting essential infrastructure. CISA’s initial advisory list referenced construction in regard to some areas such as energy and wastewater treatment, but it was unclear as to the whole of the construction industry. CISA’s update clarified that construction activities are included in its list of essential critical infrastructure workers. This new federal guidance should remove the ambiguity that led to varying responses by state and local officials halting some construction. The guidance clarifies that construction and related activities – including the manufacture and supply/delivery of supplies and equipment, permitting, safety, and inspections of projects – are covered as part of the critical infrastructure and economic activities.
The ongoing challenge will be for construction activities to proceed in a way that protects workers and the general public from the spread of coronavirus. However, contractors are always resourceful and have been implementing safety measures effectively on projects with an unwavering commitment to safety and are ready to meet this challenge. In addition to following the guidance from the CDC, we recommend that contractors implement a comprehensive safety program for their employees as well as for all parties that come onto the jobsite. It is critical that contractors have clear a clear plan for communications with their teams to ensure compliance with the CDC recommendations. This should include what has recently become standard protocol or social distancing, not hosting large group meetings and conducting meetings online or via conference call, maintaining a six-foot distance between people, discouraging hand-shaking or other contact, not sharing tools, and sanitizing reusable PPE. Contractors also should also be sure to place safety posters about “How to Protect Yourself” where they can be readily seen and encourage staying home when sick, cough and sneeze etiquette, and hand hygiene at the entrance of a jobsite. We also recommend heightened site security including interviewing anyone coming to the jobsite.