A Contractor’s Guide for OSHA Compliance in the Coronavirus Era

As COVID-19, or the “coronavirus,” continues to dramatically impact the United States, employers across various industries continue to face new state-mandated rules and regulations aimed at protecting both employees and the general public. In addition, employers are facing increased scrutiny by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for failing to strictly provide employees with coronavirus-related protections.

OSHA inspections are generally prompted for various reasons, including, but not limited to, fatalities or “catastrophes”; referrals of hazards from other government agencies, individuals, organizations, or the media; employee complaints; or for routine inspection. Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic through November 26, 2020, OSHA has received more than 12,750 complaints and referrals, and has opened nearly 1,400 coronavirus-related workplace inspections. In that same time frame, state agencies have received nearly 42,000 complaints and referrals, and have opened approximately 4,200 coronavirus-related inspections. In response to those complaints, referrals, and inspections, OSHA has cited nearly 250 businesses for violations relating to the coronavirus, resulting in proposed penalties of at least $3,403,139.

Specifically, OSHA inspections have resulted in coronavirus-related citations to employers for failing to:

· Implement a written respiratory protection program.

· Provide a medical evaluation, respirator fit test, training on the proper use of a respirator and other personal protective equipment (PPE).

· Report an injury, illness, or fatality.

· Record an injury or illness on OSHA recordkeeping forms.

· Comply with the General Duty Clause of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970.

In addition to those more specific OSHA violations above, the General Duty Clause can generally serve as a basis for any citation. The General Duty Clause requires employers to furnish “a place of employment which [is] free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm” to employees, and to comply with all standards, rules, regulations, and orders promulgated under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. Accordingly, an employer could be in violation of the General Duty Clause when the hazard is COVID-19. Although the most common violations are linked to the PPE standards, recording requirements, and the General Duty Clause, employers should be aware that OSHA has the power to issue citations for any violation observed during an inspection, even if those violations are unrelated to COVID-19.

Violations for workplace safety could result in costly penalties. Specifically, as of January 15, 2020, the agency’s maximum per-violation monetary penalties are $134,937 for willful or repeated violations, $13,494 for serious, other-than-serious, or posting requirements violations, and $13,494 for failure to abate existing violations. These are maximum fines, so the actual fine levied by OSHA could be, and in most coronavirus-related cases has been, less.

Avoiding Coronavirus-Related OSHA Violations

Notably, the highest number of complaints have originated from the healthcare, retail, restaurant, and construction industries, in that order. As of the date of this article, however, there are no OSHA regulations or standards specific to the coronavirus.

So, how can contractors avoid coronavirus-related OSHA violations?

In an effort to assist employers, OSHA points to its general standards and directives that may be most applicable to reduce worker exposure to the coronavirus. In addition to those general standards and directives, on April 22, 2020, OSHA issued safety guidance aimed at reducing construction workers’ risk of exposure to the coronavirus. The substance of the guidance presents no new regulations but provides contractors with a clear and concise list of practical advice regarding areas such as enhanced workplace cleaning, social distancing in the workplace or at the construction site, and face coverings and other protective equipment.

More specifically, when working in the construction industry, OSHA recommends that the following actions be taken to reduce the risk of exposure to the coronavirus:

· Encourage workers to stay home if they are sick.

· Allow workers to wear masks over their nose and mouth to prevent them from spreading the virus.

· Continue to use other normal control measures, including PPE, necessary to protect workers from other job hazards associated with construction activities.

· Advise workers to avoid physical contact with others and direct employees/contractors/visitors to increase personal space to at least six feet where possible. Where work trailers are used, all workers should maintain social distancing while in the trailers;

· Train workers how to properly put on, use/wear, and take off protective clothing and equipment.

· Encourage respiratory etiquette, including covering coughs and sneezes.

· Promote personal hygiene. If workers do not have immediate access to soap and water for handwashing, provide alcohol-based hand rubs containing at least 60 percent alcohol;

· Use Environmental Protection Agency-approved cleaning chemicals from List N (www.epa.gov/pesticide-registration/list-n-disinfectants-use-against-sars-cov-2) or that have label claims against the coronavirus.

· To the extent tools or equipment must be shared, provide and instruct workers to use alcohol-based wipes to clean tools before and after use. When cleaning tools and equipment, workers should consult manufacturer recommendations for proper cleaning techniques and restrictions.

· Keep in-person meetings (including toolbox talks and safety meetings) as short as possible, limit the number of workers in attendance, and use social distancing practices.

· Clean and disinfect portable jobsite toilets regularly. Hand sanitizer dispensers should be filled regularly. Frequently-touched items (i.e., door pulls and toilet seats) should be disinfected.

· Encourage workers to report and safety and health concerns.

While many of these recommendations are standard operating guidelines with respect to jobsites, it is increasingly important to ensure that these guidelines are closely followed to prevent any unanticipated effects of the coronavirus, complaints or referrals, and to be better prepared in the event of an OSHA inspection.

Steps to Follow After a Citation

My company has been cited by OSHA. Now what?

Should OSHA determine that a contractor is in violation of OSHA standards warranting a citation and notification of penalty, there are several steps that contractors should take.

First, contractors must keep track of the 15 business days in which to contest the citation and penalties and the few exceptions which apply to that time frame. Occasionally, contractors lose track of the deadline during informal settlement negotiations in hopes of reaching an agreement. However, if that settlement cannot be finalized within those first 15 business days, then the contractor must file a formal contest even if its only reason for doing so is to preserve its rights.

During those first 15 business days, contractors should also determine whether they are seeking a complete reversal of the citation and fine, a reclassification of the citation to a lesser penalty or a change in the description of the offense, or if they are better suited to simply pay the fine. Contractors are encouraged to consult with an attorney when making these determinations, particularly in the event of a death or serious injury, whether coronavirus-related or otherwise.

A contractor has three grounds for contesting an OSHA citation: the citation itself, the proposed penalty, and/or the abatement date. Once a contractor has filed a notice of intent to contest, the citations, including the proposed penalties and abatement dates, are put on hold pending a final resolution, either through settlement or trial. In most cases, the dispute will end in settlement. However, barring a settlement, the area office forwards the notice of contest to the OSHA Review Commission, which assigns the case to an administrative law judge, who schedules a hearing. During the review, contractors are given an opportunity to serve discovery, conduct depositions and cross examination of witnesses, and may also appeal the decision of the administrative law judge for a review by the full commission.

Because the contractor will be defending itself in a court-like setting, it is important that the contractor maintain detailed records about the company’s safety procedures, including how the company has addressed and corrected any issues identified by the initial inspection and, if the contractor does decide to contest a citation, contractors are strongly encouraged to consult an attorney.

About the author: Keith A. Boyette is an attorney with Anderson Jones, PLLC in Raleigh, North Carolina, a law firm with attorneys licensed in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. For more information or questions about this article, please email him at kboyette@andersonandjones.com.

Author’s note: This article is intended only for informational purposes and should not be construed as legal advice.

U.S. Department 0f Labor Issues Stronger Workplace Guidance on Coronavirus

The U.S. Department of Labor announced that its Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued stronger worker safety guidance to help employers and workers implement a coronavirus protection program and better identify risks which could lead to exposure and contraction. Last week, President Biden directed OSHA to release clear guidance for employers to help keep workers safe from COVID-19 exposure.

Protecting Workers: Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace” provides updated guidance and recommendations, and outlines existing safety and health standards. OSHA is providing the recommendations to assist employers in providing a safe and healthful workplace.

“More than 400,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 and millions of people are out of work as a result of this crisis. Employers and workers can help our nation fight and overcome this deadly pandemic by committing themselves to making their workplaces as safe as possible,” said Senior Counselor to the Secretary of Labor M. Patricia Smith. “The recommendations in OSHA’s updated guidance will help us defeat the virus, strengthen our economy and bring an end to the staggering human and economic toll that the coronavirus has taken on our nation.”

Implementing a coronavirus protection program is the most effective way to reduce the spread of the virus. The guidance announced today recommends several essential elements in a prevention program:

  • Conduct a hazard assessment.
  • Identify control measures to limit the spread of the virus.
  • Adopt policies for employee absences that don’t punish workers as a way to encourage potentially infected workers to remain home.
  • Ensure that coronavirus policies and procedures are communicated to both English and non-English speaking workers.
  • Implement protections from retaliation for workers who raise coronavirus-related concerns.

“OSHA is updating its guidance to reduce the risk of transmission of the coronavirus and improve worker protections so businesses can operate safely and employees can stay safe and working,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Jim Frederick.

The guidance details key measures for limiting coronavirus’s spread, including ensuring infected or potentially infected people are not in the workplace, implementing and following physical distancing protocols and using surgical masks or cloth face coverings. It also provides guidance on use of personal protective equipment, improving ventilation, good hygiene and routine cleaning.

OSHA will update today’s guidance as developments in science, best practices and standards warrant.

This guidance is not a standard or regulation, and it creates no new legal obligations. It contains recommendations as well as descriptions of existing mandatory safety and health standards. The recommendations are advisory in nature, informational in content and are intended to assist employers in recognizing and abating hazards likely to cause death or serious physical harm as part of their obligation to provide a safe and healthful workplace.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to help ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. 

For more information, visit https://www.osha.gov

U.S. Department of Labor Issues FAQ Confirming N95 Respirators Protect Against the Coronavirus

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has published a set of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) on how N95 respirators effectively protect wearers from coronavirus exposure.

OSHA is aware of incorrect claims stating that N95 respirators filter does not capture particles as small as the virus that causes the coronavirus. OSHA’s new FAQ explains why an N95 respirator is effective at protecting users from the virus.

Visit OSHA’s COVID-19 webpage for further information and resources about the coronavirus.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to help ensure these conditions for America’s workers by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education, and assistance.

For more information, visit www.osha.gov.

SBA Relaxes PPP Loan Requirements for Coronavirus Relief

On March 27, 2020, Congress enacted an unprecedented $2 trillion stimulus package, called the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), aimed at assisting people, states, and businesses nationwide that have been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic.

As part of the CARES Act, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) was authorized to issue special loans to employers in need of financial assistance. Through two rounds of funding, approximately $659 billion has been allocated to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), intended to provide short-term financing to small businesses that would otherwise be forced to lay off employees, and in some cases close the doors, as workers continue to stay home as a result of the outbreak. As of the date of this article, approximately $100 billion is still available in the fund.

Under the PPP, eligible businesses include all businesses — including 501(c)(3) nonprofits, 501(c)(19) Veterans organizations, Tribal concerns, sole proprietorships, self-employed individuals, and independent contractors — with 500 or fewer employees, or no greater than the number of employees set by the SBA as the size standard for certain industries. As for the construction industry, now more than ever, cash flow is essential to short-term and long-term sustainability. However, in addition to the size requirements, construction companies seeking a PPP loan were also required to ensure that their annual revenue would stay within SBA-set limits that the agency typically uses to determine eligibility for other SBA loans.

Understandably, with unanticipated delays and ever-changing plans to “reopen” varying from state to state, construction companies have been faced with the difficult task of providing thorough and accurate information regarding anticipated annual revenue numbers when applying for PPP loans. On April 4, 2016, the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) recognized the difficulty construction companies faced to obtain much needed financial assistance and urged federal officials to revise the rules in order to encourage construction companies to seek assistance.

As discussed below, in response to the AGC, the U.S. Treasury Department issued new guidance that cleared the way for construction companies to apply for loans through the PPP, and in recognition of the growing need for additional funding and further expansion, Congress revised a number of PPP qualifiers and loan requirements.

The New “Either/Or” Standard

Initially, construction companies were required to meet both the workforce-size and annual revenue limits, which caused many construction companies to balk at PPP assistance. However, on April 6, 2020, the Treasury Department issued formal guidance stating that in order to be eligible for a PPP loan, construction companies must now meet either the 500-employee threshold or the annual revenue ceiling, but would no longer be required to meet both criteria.

The Payroll Percentage Reduced

When the PPP was first introduced, it required all borrowers to use 75 percent of the loan for payroll purposes and further required companies to retain and bring back furloughed or terminated employees in order to qualify for loan forgiveness. In many states around the country, however, construction crews were not permitted to work, making it difficult for companies to spend the required amount on payroll expenses.

Now, with revisions and expansions from Congress, the payroll percentage threshold to qualify for forgiveness is lower, at 60 percent, which allows construction companies to spend more of their PPP loan on other much needed business necessities. Additionally, under the new terms of the PPP, companies are only accountable for the percentage under 60 percent that is not used for payroll purposes at a 1 percent interest rate.

The Time Frame for Spending

Under the initial PPP requirements, construction companies had eight weeks to spend their PPP funding on qualifying payroll expenses. However, for construction companies and materials suppliers, it was difficult to spend 75 percent of their loan on payroll expenses in the face of uncontrollable and unavoidable delays in such a short time frame. Under the relaxed PPP requirements, companies are now given 24 weeks for such spending, which provides much needed relief for small- to mid-sized construction companies. Construction companies who have already obtained PPP funding should contact their lender to request an extension under the new rules.

The Hire-Back Deadline

With the exception of employees that were unwilling to return to the jobsite, the PPP originally required businesses to re-hire furloughed or terminated employees by June 31, 2020. Under the new rules, the period to re-hire employees has been extended to December 31, 2020, and still allows a company to qualify for forgiveness even if it is unable to fill a vacated position due to specialization, such as licensed architects and engineers, or employee refusal.

The PPP Application and Repayment Deadlines

The original application deadline for the PPP was June 31, 2020. From the time the PPP was introduced, up until the recent revisions and expansions, nearly 5 million companies applied for relief. Such high demand, coupled with rumors that funding was severely limited, caused many construction companies to pass on applying for a loan. Today, however, approximately $100 billion is still available to qualifying companies and the application deadline has been extended to December 31, 2020.

In situations where a company could not qualify for loan forgiveness, the previous version of the PPP required loan repayment within two years of receipt. That repayment period has now been extended to five years, allowing greater relief to companies who may not be able to qualify for full forgiveness in the future. Construction companies in need of financial assistance should contact a local lender to learn about the application process and to ensure that all proper forms and agreements are in place to qualify for forgiveness or an extended payback period.

Payroll Tax Deferral or PPP Loan?

Under the original PPP requirements, construction businesses were faced with deciding whether to defer payroll taxes or apply for a PPP loan. The new rules, however, allow companies to apply for a PPP loan and file for a payroll tax deferral, providing significant relief for large construction companies and suppliers.

What Remains the Same?

The maximum amount available to each borrower is equal to the lesser of (a) $10 million or (b) 2.5 times its average total monthly payroll costs, as defined in the CARES Act. Unlike most typical SBA loans, these loans are unsecured loans requiring no collateral, no personal guarantee, and no showing that credit is unavailable elsewhere. To the extent not forgiven, the loan has a maximum 10-year term and the interest rate may not exceed 4 percent. The current interest rate, as stated above, is 1 percent if repayment is necessary.

Under the revised and expanded PPP rules, construction companies, contractors, and suppliers have been provided additional opportunities to obtain much needed financial support for essential business functions. Construction companies that have already obtained a loan through the PPP, or those that intend to seek assistance through the PPP in the future, are encouraged to contact an attorney and a local lender to take advantage of the relief offered under the CARES Act and to ensure that all PPP requirements are satisfied.

About the author: Keith A. Boyette is an attorney with Anderson Jones, PLLC in Raleigh, North Carolina, a law firm with attorneys licensed in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. For more information or questions about this article, please email him at kboyette@andersonandjones.com.

Author’s note: This article is intended only for informational purposes and should not be construed as legal advice.

Reusable Mask Inserts Designed to Improve the Comfort Level of Mask Wearers

HeartFormSF offers an innovative product designed to improve the comfort level of mask-wearers in the era of COVID-19. HeartForm’s lightweight, heart-shaped shields — called HeartForm — hold the mask fabric just a few millimeters away from the nose and mouth. According to the manufacturer, this simple action makes breathing easier, blocks the face mask from entering the mouth, making it easier to talk while keeping the face cool and its users comfortable. 

HeartForm works equally well with paper and fabric masks. Made of smooth, FDA approved medical-grade polypropylene, these shields are reusable and recyclable. You can easily 

wash or sanitize the product between uses. Each one weighs just 1/8 of an ounce. 

HeartFormSF is donating a portion of each order to the not for profit World Central Kitchen’s COVID-19 relief program to feed victims of the pandemic across the United States. In addition to fulfilling individual orders, the company also supplies the product in bulk to businesses and organizations. Bulk orders can include the choice of a variety of colors and branding with company names and slogans. 

For more information, visit www.heartformsf.com

Construction Contracts and Coronavirus Complications

As a result of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), many construction projects around the United States have been, and are being, significantly delayed or curtailed. In many instances, the delays have arisen from supply chain disruptions, state or local government stay-at-home orders, new safety protocols, and workforce disruptions on every level of the construction project — design, field construction, manufacturing, and inspection.

One thing certain to change in the post-COVID-19 world will be protection clauses in construction contracts. Boilerplate legal terms typically couched in fine print, such as “force majeure” and “frustration,” will be closely reviewed by contractors, owners, and their attorneys in the future.

Depending on the circumstances and the terms of the construction contract, the effects of COVID-19 may allow a party to invoke different rights to relief and compensation, or otherwise excuse delays or non-performance. Whether a party to a construction contract will be relieved, compensated, or excused from performance will depend on, among other factors, the language of the force majeure clause, the facts at issue, and the law governing the contract.

Construction businesses should consider the following with regard to current and future contracts:

  • Does the COVID-19 disruption constitute a force majeure event under the contract?
  • Is epidemic, pandemic, or illness specifically identified in the force majeure clause?
  • If not, does COVID-19 fall under some other event often referenced in force majeure clauses, such as an “act of God,” a “natural disaster,” or something beyond the contractors’ control?
  • Does the force majeure clause entitle parties to extensions, termination, or some other form of relief or modification?
  • Does the law that controls the contract — federal, state, or international — reinforce or limit how the force majeure clause is applied?
  • Are there alternate avenues for relief outside of the force majeure clause, such as commercial impracticability or impossibility?
  • How should parties impacted by COVID-19 reserve their rights or document their position?

Force Majeure Clauses: Events and Interpretation

Force majeure clauses set forth certain conditions under which a party is permitted to extend, suspend, or terminate a contract as a result of unexpected and unavoidable events. Under U.S. common and civil law, force majeure protection generally extends to natural and unavoidable catastrophes that impact the parties’ ability to perform their contractual obligations and allocates the risk in such events.

So, what constitutes a force majeure event? Generally, a force majeure event exists where said event is unforeseeable and outside of the contractor’s control. In addition to the specific facts at issue, determining whether a force majeure clause offers relief for such an event will likely depend on three factors: (1) whether the language in the force majeure clause specifically references the event as beyond the parties’ control; (2) whether the force majeure event was unforeseeable; and (3) whether the force majeure event caused the party’s non-performance.

In analyzing the contract language, look to see if the force majeure clause specifically references events like “epidemic,” “pandemic,” or “outbreak of disease.” If so, then COVID-19 is almost certainly covered by that cause. Courts will generally construe the precise language of the force majeure clause to exclude events that are not specifically identified. To that end, if the force majeure clause limits covered events to those involving nature, such as “severe floods,” “hurricanes,” or “earthquakes,” the court may be less likely to find that the parties intended to cover the COVID-19 pandemic.

Analysis of specific language used in construction contracts is critical. Standard form contracts, such as AIA and ConsensusDocs, do not have specific force majeure clauses but do, however, contain excusable delay clauses that could likely be applied to COVID-19 delays. For example, AIA forms generally contain language concerning excusable delays, termination, and suspension of work while ConsensusDocs expressly provide relief for “epidemics” as well as termination and suspension of work.

In some instances, the force majeure clause may contain both specific and broad forms of events and include a catchall provision intended to cover potential scenarios other than specific events. Some courts have deferred to common law principles such as unforeseeability to determine whether the event in question is covered by the contract. There, the determination would ultimately depend on what the parties contemplated and if the parties voluntarily assumed the risk of COVID-19, or, more likely, a general pandemic.

Finally, the force majeure clause may reference “acts of God” as an excusable delay or grounds for suspension or termination of the contract. Whether COVID-19 falls under the definition of “acts of God” is dependent on the state where the contract was entered into or where the contract will be performed. Where a state defines an “act of God” to include wars, riots, floods, epidemics, and natural disasters, COVID-19 would likely be covered. However, where a state more narrowly defines “acts of God” as something caused by nature, COVID-19 may not be covered and the court will likely defer to what the parties contemplated with regard to risk allocation.

Other Force Majeure Considerations

A construction business seeking to invoke a force majeure clause must follow the contractual requirements for doing so. A party should pay particular attention to the form and substance of any required notice as well as time limits to provide such notice as required by the contract. Many states demand strict adherence and compliance with the notice requirements, and failure to adhere to even one aspect could render a claim or request for extension void or result in a waiver of entitlements to relief. Parties should keep in mind that a force majeure event that is continuing in nature, or otherwise evolving, such as COVID-19, the contract may require regular updates and reporting of extra costs in order to obtain relief.

COVID-19 will likely not be interpreted as an event that completely relieves a party from its contractual obligations. As such, the general principal of construction contracts that all parties to the contract must mitigate and minimize the impact of adverse events, will apply. Depending on the circumstances and the terms of the contract, the duty to mitigate could include incurring extra costs as the affected party or serve as a condition to relief.

Generally, a force majeure event will only temporarily excuse performance of those obligations impacted by the event, meaning both the affected party and unaffected party must continue to perform contractual obligation not impacted by the event. Upon the occurrence of a force majeure event, an affected party may, however, claim extension of time for performance based on the impact of the event or as long as the event prevents performance, provided that the contract permits such extension. In drastic situations, the contract may also permit termination of the contract should the event continue for a certain extended period of time. Such clauses may require that all or substantially all of a party’s obligations be affected for a specific period of time before termination is permitted. In these situations, parties generally agree to share the costs of the delay.

Planning for the Future

Contractors entering into construction contracts in the future should take necessary steps to minimize the likelihood of disputes, claims, and litigation resulting from the occurrence of force majeure events. When seeking to limit exposure, contractors must be specific and clear in their contract language when defining the scope and effect of a force majeure clause to protect themselves from unexpected liabilities. Moving forward, parties to a construction contract should address future concerns by drafting more precise force majeure definitions, develop flexibility in supply chains to reduce risk of disruption, maintain appropriate records of cost increases, and consider the inclusion of a well-drafted termination clause.

About the author: Keith A. Boyette is an attorney with Anderson Jones, PLLC in Raleigh, North Carolina, a law firm with attorneys licensed in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. For more information or questions about this article, please email him at kboyette@andersonandjones.com.

Author’s note: This article is intended only for informational purposes and should not be construed as legal advice.

Interesting Times

“Stay safe.”

“Take care.”

“Hope you are healthy and safe.”

Work correspondence has taken on a different tone in the last couple of months as events have been overshadowed by the coronavirus pandemic. It’s touching. People have been so kind in their responses. It puts me in mind of the gruff but friendly desk sergeant in the 1980s TV series “Hill Street Blues,” who would end every pre-shift meeting — no matter how chaotic — with this reminder: “Let’s be careful out there.”

When I emailed safety expert Richard Hawk to thank him for his column in our last issue, he responded, “There is a centuries old Asian saying that is both a blessing and a curse: ‘May you live in interesting times.’ It fits now, huh?” 

It does. The business landscape and most work environments are changing rapidly. In this issue you’ll see case studies and technical columns, as well as several articles geared specifically to coping with the coronavirus pandemic as the roofing industry continues to fulfill its indispensable role in maintaining our infrastructure.

This issue contains advice for employers coping with the fallout of COVID-19 from Benjamin Briggs and Elliot Haney at Cotney Construction Law. You’ll find tips from contractors like Ken Kelly of Kelly Roofing and Steve Little of KPost Roofing & Waterproofing, who had to come up with creative solutions to meet new jobsite regulations and keep business flowing. You’ll also see the story of a roofing manufacturer that found a way to help meet critical shortages of medical personal protective equipment.

Duro-Last CEO Tom Saeli told me how a team of employees at Duro-Last came up with the idea to use the company’s materials and equipment to make medical gowns and masks for area hospitals. He also assured me his company was doing all it could to ensure employees manufactured the equipment safely — including maintaining social distancing, cleaning and disinfecting the plant and equipment, providing masks and face shields, and taking everyone’s temperature.

At Roofing, we are committed to maintaining our role as “the industry’s voice” through our glossy print issue and digital edition, as well as our website and e-newsletter. Tom Saeli noted Duro-Last was sharing its story in the hopes that it would inspire others to help. If you have a story you’d like to share, please let us know.

And hey — let’s be careful out there.

OSHA Issues Guidance to Help Construction Workers During the Coronavirus Pandemic

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has launched a webpage with coronavirus-related guidance for construction employers and workers. The guidance includes recommended actions to reduce the risk of exposure to the coronavirus.

Employers of workers engaged in construction (such as carpentry, ironworking, plumbing, electrical, heating/air conditioning/ventilation, utility construction work, and earth-moving activities) should remain alert to changing outbreak conditions, including as they relate to community spread of the virus and testing availability. In response to changing conditions, employers should implement coronavirus infection prevention measures accordingly.

The webpage includes information regarding:

  • Using physical barriers, such as walls, closed doors, or plastic sheeting, to separate workers from individuals experiencing signs or symptoms consistent with the coronavirus;
  • Keeping in-person meetings (including toolbox talks and safety meetings) as short as possible, limiting the number of workers in attendance, and using social distancing practices;
  • Screening calls when scheduling indoor construction work to assess potential exposures and circumstances in the work environment before worker entry;
  • Requesting that shared spaces in home environments where construction activities are being performed, or other construction areas in occupied buildings, have good air flow; and
  • Staggering work schedules, such as alternating workdays or extra shifts, to reduce the total number of employees on a job site at any given time and to ensure physical distancing.

Visit OSHA’s coronavirus webpage frequently for updates. For further information about the coronavirus, please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to help ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit www.osha.gov.

U.S. Department of Labor Adopts Revised Enforcement Policies For Coronavirus

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has adopted revised policies for enforcing OSHA’s requirements with respect to coronavirus as economies reopen in states throughout the country.

Throughout the course of the pandemic, understanding about the transmission and prevention of infection has improved. The government and the private sector have taken rapid and evolving measures to slow the virus’s spread, protect employees, and adapt to new ways of doing business.

Now, as states begin reopening their economies, OSHA has issued two revised enforcement policies to ensure employers are taking action to protect their employees.

First, OSHA is increasing in-person inspections at all types of workplaces. The new enforcement guidancereflects changing circumstances in which many non-critical businesses have begun to reopen in areas of lower community spread. The risk of transmission is lower in specific categories of workplaces, and personal protective equipment potentially needed for inspections is more widely available. OSHA staff will continue to prioritize COVID-19 inspections, and will utilize all enforcement tools as OSHA has historically done.

Second, OSHA is revising its previous enforcement policy for recording cases of coronavirus. Under OSHA’s recordkeeping requirements, coronavirus is a recordable illness, and employers are responsible for recording cases of the coronavirus, if the case:

Under the new policy issued today, OSHA will enforce the recordkeeping requirements of 29 CFR 1904for employee coronavirus illnesses for all employers. Given the nature of the disease and community spread, however, in many instances it remains difficult to determine whether a coronavirus illness is work-related, especially when an employee has experienced potential exposure both in and out of the workplace. OSHA’s guidance emphasizes that employers must make reasonable efforts, based on the evidence available to the employer, to ascertain whether a particular case of coronavirus is work-related.

Recording a coronavirus illness does not mean that the employer has violated any OSHA standard. Following existing regulations, employers with 10 or fewer employees and certain employers in low hazard industries have no recording obligations; they need only report work-related coronavirus illnesses that result in a fatality or an employee’s in-patient hospitalization, amputation, or loss of an eye. 

For further information and resources about the coronavirus disease, please visit OSHA’s coronavirus webpage.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to help ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit www.osha.gov.

RT3 Announces Webinar on Virtualizing Your Roofing Business in Light of Coronavirus

Roofing Technology Think Tank (RT3), a group of progressive roofing professionals focused on technology solutions for the roofing industry, announced a special webinar that is open to the industry. Virtualizing your Roofing Business in Light of the Coronavirus is scheduled for Wednesday, March 18 at 5:00 p.m. ET. 

During this worldwide epidemic, many owners of roofing companies have questions and concerns about their ability to thrive in this uncharted territory. Join the following experts to hear their insights on how a roofing company can virtualize their business to avoid the inevitable impact of the virus.

Presenters include: 

  • Host and Marketing Expert: Anna Anderson, Art Unlimited
  • Sales Expert: Ryan Groth, Sales Transformation Group
  • Commercial Roofing: Steve Little, KPost Roofing & Waterproofing
  • Residential Roofing: Ken Kelly, Kelly Roofing
  • Legal Ramification Expert: Trent Cotney, Cotney Construction Law

Register to attend the webinar

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