– With more than 1.5 million unemployment compensation claims in Pennsylvania since March 15, the House today passed legislation to allow all public and private construction activities to be undertaken that adhere to mitigation measures set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to protect workers and mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus, Speaker of the House Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) said. This is a voluntary approach, not a mandate. Those who want to work safely can do so. Those who do not want to work don’t have to do so.
“As we deal with this COVID-19 health crisis, we must be safe,” Turzai said. “House Bill 2400
will allow public and private construction activities that adhere to social distancing practices and other mitigation measures defined by the CDC to protect their workers. The governor has already granted waivers to some construction projects. This is not fair.
“This is not about business. This is about employees and self-employed persons in construction who want to put food on their families’ tables and provide shelter for their families. People across Pennsylvania want the dignity of work, an opportunity to care for their families, and to be safe. Construction work is happening all across the country.”
The vast majority of states (the count stands at 47) allow such projects. That includes, among others, populous states like California, Illinois, Ohio, Maryland and Florida. Further, even New York and New Jersey allow some construction.
Turzai noted that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency issued its “Guidance on the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce: Ensuring Community and National Resilience in COVID-19 Response Version 2.0,” which cites under its “Public Works and Infrastructure Support Service” section, that “workers such as plumbers, electricians, exterminators, builders, contractors, HVAC technicians, landscapers, and other service providers who provide services that are necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences, businesses and buildings such as hospitals, senior living facilities, any temporary construction required to support COVID-19 response.”
Industries have already prepared CDC compliance protocols for members and employees, such as “Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 Plan for Construction: Recommended Safety and Health Response Plan for COVID-19 Exposure Mitigation - March 29, 2020.” Published by the General Contractors Association of Pennsylvania, with a lead role by the Master Builders’ Association of Western Pennsylvania, it aims to assist construction projects with implementing an effective COVID-19 response plan for job sites.
Halting partially completed construction projects poses risks to public health and safety of communities and residents.
“We are simply trying to allow economic activity that can be safely done following CDC protocols for mitigation to move forward. Construction projects started, small and large, can continue” Turzai added. “Our efforts are focused on giving people hope for the future. We need to let laborers, masons, dry wall finishers, roofers, insulators and other skilled trades persons use their craft to help improvements small and large for our communities and state.
House Bill 2400 passed the House by a vote of 111-91 and now heads to the Senate for consideration.
Speaker of the House Mike Turzai
Pennsylvania House of Representatives