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Pennsylvania Construction Industry Goes Back to Work May 1, 2020

April 28, 2020

By Joseph H. Bucci, Esquire

By order of the Governor and the Secretary of Health, all Pennsylvania construction industry businesses are permitted to resume work, including all in-person operations, on May 1, 2020. All such businesses shall be required to adhere strictly to the COVID-19 prevention safety practices set forth in the Guidance prepared by the Governor’s office titled Guidance for Businesses in the Construction Industry Permitted to Operate during the COVID-19 Disaster Emergency.

It is our recommendation that all construction industry clients review the complete Guidance, including all the cited resources within the Guidance, as soon as possible,  and make at least 1 copy available at each work site to ensure compliance.

Construction industry businesses with questions regarding compliance with the Guidance or developing a written safety plan should contact me at (412) 338-1149 or email me at

The following is only meant to provide a high-level overview of some key elements of the Guidance.

Q. Does my business qualify as a construction industry business permitted to resume physical operations?

A. You should first refer to your industry sector drawn from the North American Industry Classification System and the Pennsylvania Governor’s Industry Operation Guidance, which contains a list of the construction industry sectors permitted to resume physical operations on May 1, 2020.

The Guidance also describes the businesses in the construction industry permitted to resume physical operations to include new construction, renovation, and repair, as well as land subdivision and design-related field activities. In-person inspection and appraisals related to construction financing loans are permitted as necessary for all construction projects. The Guidance also provides that UCC building code plan review and inspection services may be conducted as necessary for all construction projects.

Q. What are some of the safety practices to which the construction industry businesses will have to adhere?

A. Construction industry business should refer to the complete Guidance for the complete list, but the following is a small sample of the required practices:

  • Complying with the April 15, 2020 Order of the Secretary of Health containing safety practices including the wearing of face masks;
  • Handwashing stations and cleaning and sanitizing protocols must be implemented;
  • Limit tool sharing and provide sanitizing options if tools must be shared;
  • A “Pandemic Safety Officer” must be assigned for each project or work site, or, if a large-scale construction project, then for each contractor at the site;
  • Limit gatherings to no more than 10 people;
  • Maintain 6-foot Social Distancing, unless safety of the public or workers require deviation;
  • Use virtual meetings and disseminate information electronically to the extent feasible.

Q. Are there separate safety practices for residential construction and commercial construction?

A. Yes, the Guidance contains separate instructions for activities on residential construction sites and commercial construction sites, as well as instructions that apply to all construction activities.

There are some differences between the instructions for residential construction compared to commercial. For example, residential construction projects may not permit more than four persons on the job site at any time inclusive of employees of both prime and sub contractors. Instructions for commercial construction differ in that only enclosed projects or portions of enclosed projects are subject to a four persons limit on job sites of 2,000 square feet or less. One additional person is allowed for each additional 500 square feet of enclosed area on a commercial construction site over 2,000 square feet. These numbers are inclusive of employees of both prime and sub contractors. These limits for both residential and commercial construction activities do not include delivery persons, code inspectors, or similar persons who require temporary access to the site and are not directly engaged in the construction activity.

Q. What is the job of the Pandemic Safety Officer?

A. The primary responsibility of the Pandemic Safety Officer will be to convey, implement, and enforce the social distancing and other requirements of the Guidance for the protection of employees, suppliers, and other personnel at the site.
Commercial construction firms, including particularly those managing large-scale construction projects, are strongly encouraged to establish a written Safety Plan for each work location containing site specific details for the implementation of the Guidance to be shared with all employees and implemented and enforced by the designated Pandemic Safety Officer.

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