Construction Workers’ Safety in the Age of Coronavirus

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The COVID-19 pandemic is impacting the way we live, the way we work, and our expectations for the future, and that is no different for New York City’s construction industry.

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While construction workers don’t have the ability to work from home, we do have the ability to ensure that worksites meet enhanced safety standards and that health precautions are taken seriously.

It’s with that foremost in mind that the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York has been working with the real estate industry and the city’s union contractors to institute protocols that prioritize the health, safety, and well-being of construction workers across the city.

We’ve implemented new measures that go above and beyond in protecting workers from common sources of infection. Worksites will now be mandated to limit the number of workers in confined areas, the sharing of equipment will no longer be common, all shared areas will be sanitized with the highest industry standards for infectious disease control, and any worker who shows signs of symptoms will be immediately identified and isolated.

We recognize the uncertain landscape this pandemic creates for the construction industry, and at the same time understand the heightened demand for our members’ proficiency and skills as well-functioning infrastructure becomes even more critical to first-responders during times of crisis – not to mention the overwhelming need for new hospitals, affordable housing, and safe places to work.

With the safety of our members being our utmost priority, the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York is prepared to ensure that these new protocols are strictly enforced and that our members have peace of mind in knowing that this changing situation will continue to be closely monitored.

Nevertheless, there’s no doubt that this pandemic will continue to create uncertainty and continued challenges for the tens of thousands of our members in the unionized building trades, and for millions of more New Yorkers.

The current crisis is unlike any enemy we’ve faced before, and it must be treated as such. Accordingly, we applaud Governor Cuomo for his continued leadership through these challenging times.

But our brothers and sisters in the Building Trades have been through the thick of it before. Time and again, our members have faced challenges, and in each instance, our members have always risen to the occasion.

As smoke and ash still hung in the air in the aftermath of an act of terror against this nation, Building Trades members joined hands with the NYPD, FDNY, and other first responders in the recovery efforts.

Nearly 10,000 of our members put everything on the line in the months following September 11, 2001—many of our members sacrificed their own well being, knowing very well that they could face lasting consequences for it. But for so many New Yorkers, the selfless acts of our members inspired so many others to persevere as well.

When the sweeping winds and rain of Hurricane Sandy gutted homes throughout the region, destroyed our beloved neighborhoods, and upended our way of life indefinitely, our members answered the call to duty, volunteering their skills and time to restore and rehabilitate New York’s neighborhoods.

We’re no stranger to difficult circumstances here in New York. In fact, I truly believe it’s our propensity to overcome these challenges that makes this city special and New Yorkers so resilient.

Like in crises past, the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York is ready to do all that is necessary to guide our great city through these difficult times.

Our members are patriots, and they stand ready to serve. We stand ready to use our skills to build new hospitals to ensure that all those who need testing receive it. We stand ready to retrofit buildings to increase hospital bed capacity so that those who become sick are treated immediately. We stand ready to support healthcare professionals, state and municipal workers, and the Army Corps of Engineers who will be working to put an end to this crisis.

Our capacity to overcome even the most difficult of circumstances is unique. As we wade into the unknown, we do so knowing that the actions we take today will define the events of tomorrow. The Building Trades will continue to do what’s right for its members, and our members will continue to use their skills and proficiency to build for the future of New York and the nation. God bless America!

Gary LaBarbera, President of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York.