Make the cranes wear masks.
Make the cranes wear masks. SERGEI DUBROVSKII / GETTY IMAGES

At a press conference this morning Gov. Inslee said public and private contractors can resume construction work today so long as they follow certain safety measures designed to protect workers from contracting COVID-19.

Before the conference, the Seattle Times released a copy of the governor's 30-point plan to restart existing construction projects, which was developed over the course of the last three weeks alongside "building industry representatives and construction unions," as well as city and county associations.

The plan calls for bosses to select "a site-specific COVID-19 Supervisor" to monitor the health of employees, weekly COVID training sessions, employer-provided personal protective equipment and sanitation stations, six feet of separation between workers at all times, incident reporting, and a directive to create policies encouraging workers to "stay home or leave the worksite when feeling sick." That last point is particularly important. Without explicitly and constantly creating permission structures and financial protection structures for workers to stay home, those workers will hide illness in order to stay on the job, which doesn't do anybody any favors.

These are the guys chomping at the bit for this.
These are the guys chomping at the bit for this. Screenshot

The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries’ Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) will enforce this order, carry out inspections of work sites, and shut down sites that don't comply.

Representatives from labor and the building industry praised the Governor's decision. Mark Riker, who directs the building trades, warned bosses and workers to treat the plan seriously or else get ready to shut back down again. "It’s our job to do it right," he said. "If we do it right we move to the next step. If we do it wrong, we’ll be shutting it down ourselves through him.”

Greg Lane, who represents the building companies, said the industry is "very eager to get back to work, but we’re also extremely committed to all of the requirements in this plan."

Construction workers themselves have been divided on the issue of working during a pandemic. Some expressed trepidation about working in residential buildings, where "multiple workers are typically crowded into unventilated rooms as small as 600 square feet," according to the Times.

Inslee said the construction plan and its development process will serve as a template for opening "other industries." He did not mention which other industries he was thinking of opening up next.

"We can’t state unequivocally when businesses will be open...We can’t make decisions based on arbitrary dates, we need to make it on real data," he said, warning that opening the rest of the economy too soon risks allowing the virus to "return with a vengeance."