Is construction activity allowed in California or not? This vexing question is difficult to answer with certainty because different jurisdictions have different opinions. California Governor Gavin Newsom and the federal government have both issued guidance documents that affirm and allow construction to continue working as an “essential industry”; as long as proper social distancing and safety procedures are being followed by contractors and workers at the jobsite. 

Importantly, Governor Newsom qualified his order with the following statement “This is a statewide order. Depending on the conditions in their area, local officials may enforce stricter public health orders. But they may not loosen the state’s order.”

Construction Industry is Privileged.  The state and federal governments have given the construction industry a conditional privilege that other industries do not enjoy — BUT – the privilege of being able to continue work can be revoked if rules aren’t followed.

All politics are local.  The local county departments of public health have the final statutory authority to impose greater restrictions on construction within their jurisdictions unless specifically overruled by the state and federal governments. Governor Newsom specifically said he will NOT overrule their authority to enact stricter measures.

Public Pressure.  Construction jobsites disobeying proper COVID-19 related safety procedures will be noticed by members of the public and any outcry will compel local health officers to enact stricter measures or all out prohibitions for the construction industry. This is precisely what happened yesterday in the Bay Area.

Bay Area Health Departments Shut Down Most Construction.  Following multiple reports of improper distancing, congregating at lunch, workers carpooling etc., the six largest Bay Area Counties went against the state and federal guidelines and issued local enforceable orders that now prohibit all construction except for specified purposes. These new orders were driven largely by local reports and eyewitness accounts of construction workers not practicing safe distances and other established COVID-19 pandemic protocols.

Keep Construction Going in the Rest of CA.  CALSMACNA wants to advise its members that other local jurisdictions and even the state may follow the lead of the Bay Area Counties if contractors and workers continue to dismiss the seriousness of the current pandemic and the need to strictly follow pandemic policies and procedures at the jobsite.

What Can you Do?  Let’s extend the privilege of being able to work through this pandemic by: 1) being aware that continued construction work is a revocable privilege; 2) being aware of and communicating proper jobsite procedures; and 2) strictly enforcing a safe work environment. These successful efforts will benefit our employees, our customers, ourselves and our communities. See CAL SMACNA & Epic Insurance Best Practices for Construction Jobsites here: EPIC COVID-19 Best Practices.