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State outlines social distancing for construction sites

State guidelines for construction sites will require daily worker health screenings, face coverings and limits on how many people may be inside an enclosed space at once. 

Construction is part of the first phase of the economic reopening envisioned by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. His administration published guidelines Wednesday night for how construction sites should operate. The rules apply to active essential projects—such as for affordable housing or health care sites—and the nonessential work that will be permitted to return to parts of upstate New York on Friday.

New York City is much farther behind in reopening, but there are still roughly 7,800 active essential construction sites within the five boroughs, according to the Department of Buildings.

  • Employers must provide a cloth face covering for all workers.

  • Employees must keep at least 6 feet apart at all times and wear a face covering in any situation that requires close contact.

  • Sites should have no more than one worker per 250 square feet at all times on site. 

  • Only one employee at a time may enter an elevator or hoist.

  • Keep a log of everyone on the jobsite and with whom each person come in contact.

  • There must be hand-washing stations or hand sanitizer.

Gary LaBarbera, president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, said the guidelines fit with practices already in place on the union construction projects that are still active. He said the rules mark an important step in getting construction back on track.

"We all want to get back to work," LaBarbera said, "but it is clear we have to do this in a way that is appropriate and ensures the virus does not spread on our jobsites."

The Trades Council, an umbrella group representing more than 100,000 union construction workers, has been negotiating since April with the real estate industry on a set of workplace standards specific to New York. Those talks include the Real Estate Board of New York and the Building Trades Employers’ Association.

The industry-wide agreement could include standards more stringent than Cuomo's guidance. The state, for instance, mandates health screenings only through surveying employees for potential symptoms. The union agreement could include a requirement for temperature scanning on jobsites—which LaBarbera said is already common on essential work sites.

The union plan also would stagger shifts of employees throughout the day, to keep fewer people on each jobsite.

(By Ryan Deffenbaug, CRAIN'S NY)

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