Construction Deemed ‘Essential,’ Los Angeles Provides Guidance for Worksite Safety

A divisive local issue during the novel coronavirus outbreak has been ongoing home construction in Malibu, which has continued on despite growing concerns over the spread of COVID-19 across Southern California. 

According to Governor Gavin Newsom’s office, construction falls under the category of “essential business,” meaning work is continuing to build homes in Malibu, including the massive rebuilding effort following the 2018 Woolsey Fire.

Speaking to The Malibu Times last Tuesday, March 31, Mayor Karen Farrer said, “Right now, construction is still considered an essential activity,” though the mayor mentioned it could be up for discussion at council’s next meeting, which will be held virtually on April 13. As of Tuesday, April 7, the agenda for that meeting had not yet been posted.

“We are doing everything we can to keep fire rebuilds going,” Farrer continued. “If the state or county orders change on construction, of course we will comply, but, you know, we’re continuing to offer what are deemed essential services and construction falls in that category. Obviously, anybody working on a construction site, whether they’re indoors or outdoors, needs to be following … social distancing and safety practices.”

Soon after, further guidance came from the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety—a department in the City of Los Angeles but, due to the nature of the coronavirus emergency, one whose guidance is being taken by cities across the region.

“Construction industry employers shall develop a comprehensive COVID-19 exposure control plan, which includes control measures such as social distancing; symptom checking; hygiene; decontamination procedures; and training,” the guidelines described. “An exposure control plan and the following practices must be followed to prevent any onsite worker from contracting COVID-19, as many people with COVID-19 are asymptomatic and can potentially spread disease. Failure to comply with this guidance shall be deemed as creating unsafe conditions and may result in withheld inspections or shutting down the construction site until corrected.”

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In addition to maintaining a minimum of six feet of separation between each individual, the directive included that worksites must provide personal protective equipment to each worker, identify and control “high risk areas” where people may be forced close together (such as hallways or doorways), provide multiple wash stations and/or sanitizer stations, and maintain a daily attendance log, among other guidelines.

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