Maryland, DC and Virginia Construction Sites Need Careful Monitoring to Stay Open
While residential and commercial construction is currently considered an essential business activity in Maryland, DC, and Virginia during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, developers and contractors with active construction projects must take precautions on jobsites to maintain social distancing and other safety requirements imposed by the applicable jurisdiction and recommended by state and national building organizations. Construction, initially deemed to be essential, has been shut down in other jurisdictions, including New York, Pennsylvania, Washington State, and Massachusetts (all with some exceptions), given the risks presented by the proximity of workers on construction sites.
Maryland Governor Larry Hogan has specifically granted authority to local health departments to enforce social distancing guidance on active construction sites, which may include shutting down a construction site determined to be unsafe. While no action has of yet been taken to grant similar specific shut-down authority to DC or Virginia agencies, it remains a possibility given the concern regarding transmission of the virus among people in close proximity.
In an effort to be proactive and keep construction jobsites open but also safe, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) as well as the Maryland Building Industry Association (MBIA) and Northern Virginia Building Industry Association (NVBIA) have issued recommended jobsite guidelines intended to help developers and contractors comply with social distancing and other safety requirements necessitated by the novel coronavirus risks. DC has also issued general guidelines applicable to essential businesses, which include construction activities consistent with the CDC recommendations that workers on a construction site wear face masks, as it is also recommended as part of jobsite safety considerations. As part of its promotion to encourage job safety, the NAHB suggested all job sites participate in a Stand Down for Safety event held on April 16, 2020, during which jobsites halted work for at least 10 minutes for a COVID-19 Jobsite Safety Stand Down intended to educate workers on what they should do to keep themselves safe from coronavirus and to help “flatten the curve” for everyone. Learn more about NAHB’s blueprint regarding the Jobsite Safety Stand Down.
Although not a specific governmental requirement or industry recommendation, developers and contractors should consider staffing an active construction project with designated monitors (clearly identified and strategically placed on the jobsite) to oversee compliance with social distancing and other safety precautions required by the jurisdiction or recommended by state and national building organizations. This type of monitoring may help enhance safety precautions and provide evidence to local health and building inspectors that the developer and contractor are being vigilant about compliance. Although such monitoring may increase project costs, it would be much less of an impact than an unplanned shutdown. At a minimum, compliance with the recommendations of the building industry organizations is essential for the protection of both the workers and the project.
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