Under the California state and local orders, construction is considered an essential occupation and workers are allowed to continue to work during the pandemic. While that may sound like good news, the flip side is that construction workers are at greater risk on the job than those who are laid off, furloughed, or working from home.
Eric Garcetti, the Los Angeles Mayor, has issued detailed orders regarding steps to ensure the health of construction workers during this time. This order provides detailed requirements of construction companies to protect their workers from infection and provides compliance reviews and penalties for failure to implement the standards.
The order, as revised on April 15th , provides 19 standards each company must meet in order to continue to work. Many workers, speaking anonymously, report that the reality on construction sites is that these rules are impossible to implement even by construction supervisors who attempt to do so.
The flow of workers, deliveries, and multi-person tasks compromise the social distancing standard. Staggered arrival and departure schedules are difficult to implement. Disinfecting tools and surfaces is unrealistic as a full safety measure.
A local NBC affiliate filed a report of observations of a number of construction sites and found that social distancing was not observed at any of them. At the SoFi Stadium construction site, two cases of Covid-19 were identified as the 3,000 workers continued work on the “essential site.”
While the order by Mayor Garcetti is an attempt to provide safe working conditions for construction workers caught between the need to work and unemployment, the reality is that workers remain at risk without effective testing protocols.
Workers in the construction industry deserve the same protection as workers in other industries whose functions place them at risk of exposure.