The state's Reopening Advisory Board is inviting public comment on four key questions here.
"On April 28, Governor Baker announced the creation of the Reopening Advisory Board. This group is charged with advising the administration on strategies to reopen the economy in phases based on health and safety metrics," according to the Executive Office of Housing and Community Development.
On behalf of merit shop contractors in Massachusetts, MCA provided the following answers to the board's questions:
Once public health guidelines are released, what do you anticipate to be the greatest barriers for businesses to reopen and employees to return to work in the Commonwealth?
In the construction industry, the confidence of employees to return to work will be critical. Employees will need to be carefully trained on safety protocols to ensure complete understanding and adherence.
Has your business, industry or group already developed a playbook for returning to work when the public health response permits a phased reopening to ensure the safety of the workplace, employees, and the general public?
Construction-safety organizations have developed COVID-19 worksite safety protocols to prevent the spread of the virus. In addition, the Commonwealth has published the “COVID-19 Guidelines and Procedures for All Construction Sites and Workers at All Public Work.” The COVID-19-related protocols have been successfully applied at those construction worksites that were deemed essential. These procedures are widely available to the industry and ready for application on all construction worksites.
The construction industry is adept at instituting and following safety protocols as part of the regular course of operations. Requiring the use of personal protection equipment, checking temperature of employees and implementing social distancing guidelines is compatible with construction worksites which routinely restrict access to essential personnel, adapt shifts and schedules to meet project needs.
What are the most critical enablers for your industry / stakeholder group to reopen in the near term (supplies like masks and gloves, transportation, childcare, consumer confidence, etc.)?
The availability of masks, gloves and touchless thermometers. Masks are routinely used in construction, and many construction companies donated their supply of N95 and other masks to healthcare organizations. Also, the availability of childcare and public transportation in urban areas is critical for employees on jobsites and support staff.
Should a phased reopening begin in the near term, how much advanced notice would your industry or group need to reopen effectively in the near term?
The construction industry is ready and able to return to work immediately. Construction should be fully reopened as soon as possible. Public construction and housing construction have been allowed to continue and the risks inherent in that work is the same as private, commercial construction.
What other factors should be considered when planning for a phased reopening outside of public health guidelines and industry specific needs?
The workforce shortages in construction prior to the statewide shutdown are expected after a reopening. Immediately opening construction presents an opportunity to provide job opportunities to the unemployed and jumpstart the economy.
The shutdown has negatively impacted construction companies, even those who have some public jobs that have continued as “essential.” The Commonwealth could assist construction companies at no additional cost to the taxpayers. The state can closely monitor and ensure the prompt payment of invoices and reduce or suspend retainages for six months to a year, all of which would help improve the cash-flow and financial stability of companies.
Construction activity is critical to moving the economy forward. All construction activity should immediately resume because it can be done safely, observing health protocols, and is not a commercial or retail activity that interacts with the general public.