The Coronavirus outbreak has caused many states to shut down schools and suspend all non-essential activities as they encourage people to self-quarantine to help mitigate the spread of the virus.
There had been little talk of how the virus would impact the construction industry until now as the Pennsylvania DOT (PennDOT) has suspended all road construction work until further notice.
The measures follow Gov. Tom Wolf's announcement suspending non-essential business activity and services throughout the Commonwealth for the next two weeks. All district and county maintenance offices are closed until further notice which includes road construction but the announcement says crews will still perform critical functions and emergency maintenance.
33 Cases in Boston Force Construction Shutdown
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh has ordered the suspension of all construction work in the city due to concerns about the coronavirus outbreak.
"We want to make sure those workers are safe," Walsh said as there are now 33 known cases of the Coronavirus in the city. "Construction is at the core of our economy here in Boston," Walsh said.
But the construction boom is no match for the pandemic, and the city wants to make sure thousands of workers are protected by not being in close quarters.
Walsh added that there are tens of thousands of construction projects going on in the city, saying that "We're in the middle of a boom right now."
These are the first known shutdowns for road construction activities but experts say it probably won't be the last. But contractors, of course, are used to these uncertain times. From labor shortages and escalating tariffs to the upcoming presidential election, the industry entered 2020 facing many unknowns, and experts say the fallout from the COVID-19 virus is one more factor poised to affect construction firms.
More Government Stop-Work Orders
Keeping Crews Safe
As crews continue their work each day, there are some things the U.S. Chamber of Commerce say that employees can do to help keep their workers safe. Consider having a Toolbox Talk each morning to discuss what can be done to help keep everyone safe and encourage distancing and good hygiene. They also released this graphic. Consider printing it out and giving it to your employees:
On March 14th 2020, the House approved 363 to 40 emergency legislation to provide relief to businesses and individuals directly impacted by the spread of COVID-19, or Coronavirus.
Of interest to construction contractors, the bill would require employers with fewer than 500 employees, and all federal and state employers, to provide 10 days (80 hours) of paid sick time to employees who need the leave for reasons connected to the public health emergency. The bill would also require employers to offer the paid sick time within 15 days after enactment of the law.
The two weeks must be provided in addition to whatever paid sick time or PTO the employer was offering prior to the enactment of the law. Full time and part-time employees would be eligible for sick leave. Private sector employers would receive a tax credit equal to 100% of the money they spend on paid sick time wages.
If an employee needs sick leave to care for a family member under the circumstances provided in the bill, the employer would pay the employee 2/3 of those wages.
We most likely have not seen the worst of this outbreak, but now is the time for the commercial construction industry to prepare for the virus’ impact, even though much still remains to be seen. Be safe.