The Stand

Labor, business outline plan for limited restart of construction

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UPDATE (April 24, 2020) — Gov. Jay Inslee, in consultation with the state’s construction industry, announced a plan today to allow current construction projects to be completed.


OLYMPIA (April 16, 2020) — Labor and business leaders from the construction industry have outlined a plan for Gov. Jay Inslee’s consideration that would allow a limited number of residential and commercial construction projects to “be safely phased back into operation.”

The first phase of their plan would allow certain lower risk activities on projects that were already under way when the governor issued the stay-home order on March 23 to start up again as long as contractors abide by new safety requirements. They include maintaining workers’ social distancing on-site, requiring use of personal protective equipment and symptom monitoring, decontamination if a worker tests positive, and other precautions. The goal is to ensure work “is done safely so as to not take a step backward in this pandemic fight.”

But their recommendation notes that it is “solely focused on considerations surrounding restarting construction work. Should other non-construction considerations inform your decision making in a manner that goes against our recommendations, we will continue to work to alleviate all concerns regarding restarting construction work in Washington State in the safest manner possible.”

Plus, the labor and business leaders noted that they are just getting started and expect to have two more sets of recommendations soon for more risk-challenged construction activities.

On Wednesday, Inslee suggested that there may be an opportunity to resume commercial and residential construction before May 4 or shortly after. But he reminded all that restrictions must remain in place until the data demonstrates that Washington has succeeded in “bending the curve” and reducing the spread of the coronavirus.

The following letter was signed by representatives of the Washington State Building and Construction Trades Council, International Union of Operating Engineers Local 302, Pacific Northwest Regional Council of Carpenters, Association of General Contractors, Building Industry Association of Washington and Association of Washington Business:

Dear Governor Inslee,

The members of the Construction Roundtable would like to thank you for the opportunity to participate in this stakeholder process. We did our level best to be deliberate and thoughtful in developing recommendations for your consideration that we believe are consistent with the mission of combating the Covid-19 virus while allowing construction work to be safely phased back into operation.

We further appreciated the support that your office provided to facilitate these discussions with the various agency partners. There is a lot of interest in this effort and the appropriate staging and supply chain considerations in ensuring that restarting construction is done safely so as to not take a step backward in this pandemic fight. In addition to these meetings, the members of the Roundtable group had several separate conversations to develop the enclosed protocols and to formulate these recommendations for your consideration.

We, the undersigned members of the Construction Roundtable, believe that work classified under the Phase 1 category should be allowed to return to work provided that the protocols outlined in the Phase 1 document are posted on the jobsite and fully complied with. In our discussions, we recognized that there are several residential and commercial jobs that are able to achieve these safety conditions. For instance, residential structures that were well underway at the time that the Stay Home Stay Safe Order was implemented. In addition, WSDOT is currently engaged in a process, as are several other public owners, to systematically prioritize projects by risk level. These deliberations would work in concert for identifying projects that appropriately fit into Phase 1.

We are also working on a Phase 2 document that could be used if, based on the safe return of work under Phase 1, could be implemented for the next level of limited risk under the same strict adherence to the safety protocols. We believe that a Phase 3 document will also be necessary but, in the spirit to getting you these recommendations expeditiously, we limited our current recommendations to the lower risk construction activities.

It was important to us to create a framework that is flexible enough to adapt to changing conditions. Phase 1 projects have strict accountability measures and enforcement agencies will be the first line of compliance and have the authority to issue stop work, and civil penalties for any violations of these protocols. Further, if metrics determine construction work is adversely affecting progress of combating COVID-19,and/or if your enforcement agencies report significant noncompliance, work could be suspended, and the framework allows flexibility in amending criteria or delay in proceeding to Phases 2 and 3.

Finally, it is important that any restart of construction activities also include authorizing the work of material suppliers,state inspectors, and local planning officials to also begin, complying with the requirements listed for essential business in your “Stay Home, Stay Safe” proclamation 20-25. All of these groups are necessary for construction work to restart and progress.

In closing, the Construction Roundtable and our members stand with you as we work together to protect the health of Washington state citizens in these trying times. We understand that our directive, and efforts have been solely focused on considerations surrounding restarting construction work. Should other non-construction considerations inform your decision making in a manner that goes against our recommendations, we will continue to work to alleviate all concerns regarding restarting construction work in Washington State in the safest manner possible. We also appreciate your leadership on this matter and understand the difficult decisions you must make.

Sincerely,

Mark L. Riker
Washington State Building and Construction Trades Council

Josh Swanson
International Union of Operating Engineers Local 302

Matt Swanson
Pacific Northwest Regional Council of Carpenters

David D’Hondt
Associated General Contractors of Washington

Mike Ennis
Association of Washington Business

Greg Lane
Building Industry Association of Washington

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