Letter: Construction and COVID-19
Construction has been deemed essential, during the COVID 19 pandemic, without considering what kind of construction is essential. As of April 1, only a few state or local governments have taken the initiative to stop construction, for the sake of public safety. Across the country, governors and mayors have urged roughly half of the United States to stay home. Yet, construction workers are still being asked to continue working, leaving them to be “essential” for spreading the virus. This is potentially putting construction workers’ lives and the lives of others in jeopardy. Leaving it to individuals to make decisions to choose between their jobs and their health. These workers are feeling left behind and disregarded.
Let’s face it, construction sites are dirty and it’s not common to find running water. Portable toilets typically aren’t clean and rarely have soap or hand sanitizer. Recent safety protocols recommended by public health officials are not practical at job sites. Workers in some trades often need to work closely with each other, handle common materials and, for safety reasons, need to be watching over each other. Parking on-site is usually limited. To compensate for the shortage, workers are carpooling. There is no way to carpool and maintain social distancing. Personal protective equipment is in short supply for the construction industry also. Our finishers need protective masks while sanding. We could be substituting one problem with another.
Construction is losing labor to quarantines. Even before quarantines, there was a shortage of labor, causing a need to bring in workers from different locations. It is difficult to contain the spread and shorten the duration of this threat if we have a revolving door of new people coming in. Different trades are coming and going all the time. All of which, increases the risk of worker’s exposure.
Workers have been told, “If they have concerns about working on the job site, they can remove themselves from the job.” Even though we try to communicate that working through these troubled times, is a personal decision, some workers may not remove themselves from projects, in fear of losing their income. Don’t be in denial, the government is not going to provide for a significant percentage of construction workers.
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We are asking for leadership from our general contractors and local government to protect the lives of our workers and their loved ones. We are asking that Eagle and Summit County, at a minimum, follow the guidelines that were set forth on March 29 by the Routt County Commissioners that have stated “should any construction that is not essential to public health, safety, or infrastructure, that can feasibly be put on hold, for the time being, should be” put on hold. As long as there is one general contractor that continues work on non-essential to public health, safety, or infrastructure projects, their competitors will also. Trickling down through the subcontractors and their employees and independent contractors.
Randy Reiter, President, Peak Interiors, Inc.
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