Pennsylvania Issues Guidance for Construction Projects to Resume
By Colin McEvoy on April 27, 2020
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf has issued guidance for the state’s construction industry as it prepares to resume operation on Friday, with appropriate precautions to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.
Most construction projects in the state had been halted unless they were life-sustaining activities or had been granted an exemption. But Wolf recently announced that in-person construction operations may resume on May 1, one week earlier than previously announced.
“My administration has taken measured, aggressive steps to protect public health and safety, including strictly limiting the types of businesses and projects that may continue to operate during this unprecedented time,” Wolf said.
“Thankfully, these actions are working, and we are flattening the curve,” he said. “As we start to take steps to reopen the state, we recognize that the construction industry is vital to Pennsylvania’s economy and may operate safely with stringent guidance in place that will protect employees and the public.”
The full list of guidance measures released by the governor’s office can be found here. It and other information can also be found on the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation’s (LVEDC) COVID-19 resources website at lehighvalley.org/covid19.
There had been just over 7 million square feet of industrial space under construction in the Lehigh Valley in the first quarter of 2020, according to the commercial real estate research organization CoStar. Although it is unlikely all of it will begin again immediately on May 1, the amount shows there is a high demand in the region for when construction resumes.
CoStar analysts last week said the Lehigh Valley industrial real estate market is well-positioned to weather the economic downturn expected to result from the pandemic due to its strong economic fundamentals, such as its central location and access to markets.
Distribution, shipping, and logistics are among the strengths of region’s industrial real estate market, and those sectors are expected to do particularly well when the national economy reopens, CoStar market analyst Ben Atwood said. He also expects a national growth in e-commerce due to the pandemic, which will also benefit the Lehigh Valley economy.
“The coronavirus is so big, and we’ll be talking about it for the rest of our lives, but it’s hard to imagine the type of disruption it would take to upend the market of Lehigh Valley, and I’m pretty optimistic of its future,” Atwood said.
The guidance released by Wolf provides universal protocols for all construction activity, as well as specific additional guidance for residential, commercial, and public construction projects, according to the governor’s office.
All businesses and employees in the construction industry must adhere to a Pennsylvania Department of Health order providing for business safety measures, which requires that every person present at a work site wear masks/face coverings unless they are unable for medical or safety reasons.
All construction projects must maintain proper social distancing and provide hand washing and sanitizing stations for workers, as well as cleaning and sanitizing protocols for high risk transmission areas, according to the governor’s office.
The order also requires that businesses establish protocols upon discovery that the business has been exposed to a person who is a probable or confirmed case of COVID-19. Businesses must identify a “pandemic safety officer” for each project or work site, or, for large scale construction projects, for each contractor at the site.
Residential construction projects may not permit more than four individuals on the job site at any time. For non-residential or commercial projects, the number of individuals permitted on enclosed portions of a project varies depending on the size of the enclosed site.
The state’s guidelines were developed from guidance created by the General Contractors Association of Pennsylvania. Businesses that have questions about whether this guidance applies to them may email the Department of Labor and Industry at [email protected].
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