Agencies Release COVID-19 Guidance for Construction
Editor’s note: Information about the novel coronavirus outbreak is rapidly developing. The articles on these pages were current at time of printing. Visit The Synergist's COVID-19 News Center for the latest news and AIHA's Coronavirus Outbreak Resource Center for links to authoritative resources. 
Separate guidance released in May by CDC and OSHA provides recommendations for protecting workers at construction sites during the COVID-19 pandemic. The guidance acknowledges that construction workers, who were generally considered essential and therefore not subject to state stay-at-home orders, may encounter additional exposure to the disease as other businesses open and communities become more active.  OSHA stresses that its guidance is non-binding and creates no new legal obligations. The guidance associates specific construction work tasks with the four levels of the agency’s “exposure risk pyramid,” which categorizes tasks as lower risk, medium risk, high risk, or very high risk. In the context of COVID-19, lower-risk tasks include those that allow employees to remain at least six feet apart and involve little contact with others. High-risk tasks require entering an indoor work site occupied by people suspected or known to have COVID-19. The agency does not identify tasks that have a “very high” exposure risk for the disease. According to OSHA, this category is not applicable for most construction work. OSHA’s guidance recommends the use of engineering controls, such as plastic barriers to separate workers when working indoors, and administrative controls, such as the use of screening questions to assess the risk of work assignments in indoor environments where others may be present. The guidance also addresses training topics and includes a lengthy section on the use of cloth face coverings. CDC’s guidance includes recommendations for employers on reducing disease transmission among workers, maintaining a healthy work environment, and maintaining healthy business operations. Like OSHA, CDC recommends staggering work shifts, physically separating workers, restricting access to limit the number of workers in an area, reducing the number of people at meetings, and maintaining social distancing at choke points such as hallways. 
CDC’s recommendations for maintaining healthy business operations include designating a “safety and health officer” at every job site with responsibility for responding to COVID-19 concerns and implementing sick leave policies. These recommendations do not appear in the OSHA guidance. The prevalence of COVID-19 among construction workers in the U.S. is unknown, according to CPWR—The Center for Construction Research and Training. In May, CPWR published data on COVID-19 risk factors among construction workers. According to CPWR, nearly 60 percent of construction workers in the U.S. are either over 65 or have medical conditions or other risk factors that make them susceptible to COVID-19. Nearly 20 percent of construction workers had a respiratory disease in 2019, and 25 percent had cancer, diabetes, or heart, kidney, or liver disease. In 2018, more than 20 percent of construction workers smoked cigarettes, compared to 14 percent of workers in all U.S. industries (PDF). Earlier in May, through the website, AIHA released several guidance documents that address return-to-work considerations for specific industries. The AIHA guidance for construction (PDF) identifies a number of potential actions that are not mentioned in either the CDC or OSHA documents, such as maintaining daily “approved visitor” logs, considering four-day work weeks, and using color-coded access stickers on work helmets to indicate which employees can access certain areas of a job site. CDC’s guidance for construction workers is available on the agency's website. OSHA’s can be found on its website.

CDC’s recommendations for maintaining healthy business operations include designating a “safety and health officer” at every job site.