Construction Workers Risk Health, Keep Working Amidst Pandemic

By Allyssa Compton

Despite the growing severity of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States, construction workers and contractors continue to work on job sites with few precautions being taken to ensure the workers’ health and safety.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, construction workers are considered essential critical infrastructure workers and must continue to report to work despite the pandemic.

Gayle Conlon, owner of American Building Specialties Corp., continues to bid on new job sites, explaining that business has not slowed due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Conlon says that special safety requirements, such as the use of masks and gloves, are set by the job sites, and that some sites are taking workers’ safety more seriously than others.

HITT Contracting Inc. has set specific criteria and safety standards that its sites and workers must meet. These conditions include:

  • Regular cleaning of highly used surfaces and restrooms
  • Social distancing of six feet or more
  • Mandatory virus screening checkpoints for personnel

Despite the stated precautions of job sites, Conlon doubts that these rules are being followed, saying that is nearly impossible for construction workers to remain six feet away from each other while completing a project.

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Construction workers try to remain socially distance while working during coronavirus outbreak. Photo retrieved from businessinsider.com

Mark Messier, a construction worker for John C. Grimberg Co., explains that the main changes that occurred on job sites was social distancing measures and the presence of hand washing stations.

Even with these precautions, a worker at one of Messier’s jobs sites recently tested positive for the coronavirus, resulting in the site being shut down.

However, despite the health risks involved with working on job sites, Messier is grateful to still be able to receive a paycheck during these hard times, and Gayle Conlon feels the same way.

“From my business standpoint, it is good that we are essential because we’re working, and I don’t have to worry about money,” Conlon explains. However, Conlon believes that not all types of construction are as essential as others, saying that if the risk of death for her workers was greater, then her company should not be considered essential.

Do you think that all construction workers should be considered essential personnel?