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Are NY Construction Workers on Job Sites During The COVID-19 Pandemic?

May 8, 2020

As most readers know, Governor Cuomo has shut down “non-essential” businesses as part of his “PAUSE” Executive Order signed in late March. But what about construction? Our city’s horizon is constantly evolving due to the endless stream of construction projects. Has all of it stopped due to the novel coronavirus pandemic?

Initially, all construction was considered essential, so workers remained on the job—much to the anger of some workers. However, the New York State Department of Economic Development quickly issued guidance that made most construction non-essential, which meant the projects had to shut down. Whether construction projects can stay open is clearly an area of confusion for many contractors, who do not know whether their project should be shuttered.

Certain Construction is Considered Essential

The Department of Economic Development created some exceptions to the general rule that construction is non-essential. Projects are deemed essential if they are the following:

  • Emergency construction projects that are necessary to protect the health and safety of occupants or that would be unsafe if construction was halted.
  • Construction of bridges, roads, utilities, hospitals, homeless shelters, and health care facilities.

If a construction project does not fall within one of the above carve-outs, then it is non-essential and cannot start up again until Governor Cuomo agrees.

Social Distancing Still Required

Even essential construction projects must employ social distancing techniques to reduce the risk of transmitting the novel coronavirus. Other safety protocols put in place will determine how workers can use elevators and eat meals.

If a construction site cannot follow the safety protocols, then it must shut down, even if it is deemed an “essential” construction project. These protocols do not apply to a worker who is the sole employee on the job site. But large construction projects will clearly be covered.

And violations can be costly. The state will issue a $10,000 fine for each violation.

Worker Safety Must Continue to Be a Priority

As reported in the Engineering News Record (ENR), job sites have been transformed over the past few weeks. Construction management firms have put in place safety awareness training, as well as additional bathrooms or stations, so that workers can regularly wash their hands. Other firms have hired vendors to spray antiviral solutions around a job site to kill any virus present.

To facilitate social distancing, many projects are limiting the number of people on hoists and have staggered start times for each shift. Although these measures have clearly protected workers from catching the novel coronavirus, contractors must also remain mindful of the workers’ safety. Getting hurt on a construction site is a greater likelihood than contracting COVID-19, which seems to have had little impact on people under age 50.

Contact an NYC Construction Accident Lawyer Today

If you were injured on a construction site, then you might be entitled to compensation for your injuries. This is a difficult time for everyone in New York, but Lipsig, Shapey, Manus & Moverman remains open to serve our community. Call 212-285-3300 or submit our contact form to schedule a consultation.


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