Unlike many of its neighboring states, Utah currently has no statewide “stay home” or “shelter in place” order. However, in response to COVID-19, Governor Gary Herbert has issued a “Stay Safe, Stay Home” directive on March 27, 2020. This is not a shelter in place order. It is a directive that tells individuals and businesses what they should do to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Utah. This directive may have an impact on construction projects in Utah as it relates to safety and health in the workplace, which includes construction sites. In addition to the directive, after seeing a surge of coronavirus cases, Summit County has issued two shelter in place orders (the first issued on March 23, 2020 and the second on March 25, 2020) that have a direct impact on construction projects in the county. Following suit, Salt Lake County has issued a stay at home order on March 29, 2020 and Davis County has issued a stay at home order on April 1, 2020.
The statewide directive, which will remain in effect through April 13, 2020, includes instructions for all individuals, as well as high-risk individuals (60 years and older and those with serious underlying medical conditions) and children, regarding hygiene, gatherings, travel, and outdoor recreation. Under the directive, businesses can remain open and are reminded to comply with all public health orders, offer telework options wherever possible, continue following strict hygiene policies, and implement enhanced social distancing measures in the workplace where telework is not an option.
Because this is a directive and not an order, businesses should, but are not required to, implement certain health and safety and social distancing policies and guidelines. However, due to the nature of COVID-19 and the potential for close contact on a construction site, contractors should strive to implement some kind of health and safety regulations or standards on their job sites. For example, the CDC and AGC of Utah have great resources, including detailed employer guidance, on how to implement and maintain sanitation and hygiene regimens and standards on construction sites.
The first Summit County shelter in place order went into effect Friday, March 26, 2020 and will be in place until May 1, 2020, and the second order went into effect Saturday, March 27, 2020 and will be in place until May 1, 2020. The second order expands on the first by providing clear descriptions of businesses that are allowed to operate in the county. If there is a conflict between the two, the latter order controls.
As applicable to the construction industry, the Summit County orders allow for the continuation of public works construction and residential and commercial construction as all three are deemed “Essential Infrastructure” and are included in the definition of “Essential Businesses” allowed to continue their business operations in the county. However, certain limitations and regulations apply to construction sites. The following is a non-exhaustive list of those limitations and regulations (for the complete list, consult the March 23, 2020 Summit County order):
- Management is required to instruct all employees to clean their hands often with sanitizer or wash their hands, and provide soap and water or sanitizer on the job site, and must ensure that adequate supplies are maintained.
- Employees are not allowed to congregate in lunch areas.
- Employees are not allowed to share tools and PPE.
- Employees must utilize shoe sanitation tubs before entering and leaving the job site.
- Management must on a daily basis ensure that no employee exhibiting symptoms associated with COVID-19 is permitted to work.
Shortly after the second Summit County order, Salt Lake County issued its stay at home order. The stay at home order went into effect Monday, March 30, 2020. Just like the Summit County orders, this order categorizes public works construction and residential and commercial construction as “Essential Infrastructure” included in the definition of “Essential Businesses” allowed to continue their business operations in the county. However, the order also states that appropriate social distancing guidelines must be followed in the operation of those businesses to the extent possible.
Unlike the Salt Lake County and Summit County orders, the Davis County order, which went into effect Wednesday, April 1, 2020, does not categorize businesses as essential or not. Rather, the Davis County order orders closure of certain businesses like salons and spas where social distancing is difficult to implement. All other businesses are allowed to operate so long as appropriate social distancing guidelines are followed.
Although the current state of affairs in Utah (which is changing daily) allows residential and commercial construction work to continue at both state and county levels, it is important for construction companies and owners to be aware of the guidelines and regulations that impact the day-to-day work on construction sites. Implementing and maintaining health and safety and social distancing standards not only complies with the current regulations in Utah, but it also protects employees during this uncertain time.
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