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Boston Rolls Out Construction Safety Guidelines

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

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The first city in the United States to halt construction in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic is now releasing guidelines for when the industry reopens.

Boston Mayor Martin Walsh, along with city Chief Operations Officer Patrick Brophy, began rolling out the rules last week.

What Happened

On March 17, Walsh first banned all construction in the city for 14 days after reporting at the time that 33 people have been infected with the virus.

vichie81 / Getty Images

The first city in the United States to halt construction in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic is now releasing guidelines for when the industry reopens.

All projects—regardless of size—were stopped in the city except for what the Mayor called “emergency projects,” such as:

  • emergency utility, road or building work, such as gas leaks, water leaks and sinkholes;
  • new utility connections to occupied buildings;
  • mandated building or utility work;
  • work at public health facilities, healthcare facilities, shelters, including temporary shelters and other facilities that support vulnerable populations;
  • work which ensures the reliability of the transportation network; and
  • other work necessary to render occupied residential buildings fully habitable.

The city also said that it would evaluate projects on a case-by-case basis for exceptions, such as support for public health and safety.

Walsh, who at one point ran the Building Trades Unions organization (which supported the decision), acknowledged that there were more than 100 large projects ongoing in the city. Crews were directed to maintain the necessary people to secure sites, which needs to be completed by March 23. Afterward, skeleton crews were permitted to ensure safety.

“This is a worldwide pandemic and our public health community has made clear that social distancing is the only way to combat this virus,” said Brian Doherty, the head of the Building Trades, an umbrella organization for Boston.

“We will be working with our unions and with our contractor partners to make sure every worker is safe and secure, and we are confident that by working together as a community, we will get through this difficult time.”

By the end of the month, Walsh had extended the moratorium indefinitely.

"The safety and health of construction workers and all residents of Boston is my first priority, and I am not willing to put that at risk as the virus spreads throughout our communities," said Walsh at the time.

"Large gatherings such as those at construction sites have been proven to escalate the spread of the virus, and Boston must do everything in its power to flatten the curve and stop the spread of coronavirus."

What Now

The rules now include that all contractors need to create a “COVID-19 Safety Plan” that is to include how the contractor will enforce social distancing and provide the necessary sanitation. The contractors will have to sign affidavits swearing that they’ll follow the plans.

Officials said that the new guidelines will begin applying to essential construction starting April 27 and that they will expand to all construction “eventually.”

Walsh did not give a definitive date to when he would open up general construction, however, he did confirm that he would roll out the opening gradually by giving two weeks’ notice before opening some sites with another week before all construction was back up and running.

Last month, the U.S, Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration published guidance on preparing workplaces for COVID-19.

The document provides guidance for preventing the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace and contains information on safe work practices and appropriate protective equipment based on the risk level of exposure.

View all of PaintSquare Daily News' coverage on COVID-19, here.

   

Tagged categories: Construction; COVID-19; Good Technical Practice; Government; Health and safety; NA; North America; Regulations; Safety

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