By: Jonathan Landesman and Christopher C. Reese
As of April 13, 2020, Pennsylvania has over 24,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases. With a wide variety of executive orders and related guidance in place to slow the transmission of this illness, determining what work, if any, your construction business may perform is a daunting task. The summary provided below streamlines that process by setting forth a concise explanation of what work construction companies may perform in this “new norm.”
Permitted Construction Work
Governor Wolf’s initial executive order prohibits businesses not considered “life-sustaining,” including construction, from operating. Guidance related to Governor Wolf’s initial executive order carves out exceptions for the following:
- Emergency repairs;
- Construction of health care facilities;
- School construction where the school district itself determines that the project constitutes “critical construction” that must continue;
- Residential construction projects where a final occupancy permit has already been issued. For residential projects where no such permit has been issued, only work necessary to stabilize the site, temporarily prevent weather damage, or make emergency repairs may be performed.
Though Pennsylvania previously operated an exemption request program to review and approve requests to continue construction work where the project in question does not fit one of the exceptions, the submission period for that program closed on April 3, 2020.
Getting to Work
On April 1, 2020, Governor Wolf expanded his initial “stay-at-home” order to all 67 counties in Pennsylvania through April 30, 2020. The updated order states that the revised restrictions apply to neither employees of essential businesses nor individuals taking part in essential personal activities. As such, construction workers employed on projects not required to shut down may travel to and from their homes and worksites without issue provided they use the “social distancing practices as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”
As of today, no construction can take place in Pennsylvania without either an exemption from the state or the project fitting one of the express exceptions discussed above. Throughout this crisis, our attorneys have become very familiar with the nuances of the executive authority and related guidance requiring the closure of businesses across the board. If an owner or general contractor instructs you to work and you are not sure whether you may do so under the new rules, or if you have any other questions about how these new rules relate to your business, please contact us for guidance.
Jonathan Landesman is Co-Chair of the Labor & Employment Group at Cohen Seglias. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 267.238.4726. Christopher Reese is an associate in the Construction Group and can be reached at email@example.com or 267.238.4752.