While “Some” Construction Projects may Re-Open in Washington, Much Remains Unclear
Fri Apr 24, 2020
On April 24, 2020, Governor Jay Inslee announced the easing of restrictions on certain construction projects, namely those existing projects that are “low risk” and which permit social distancing protocols to be effectuated. Inslee has been working with various trade industry groups to attempt to allow construction to slowly resume after his March 27, 2020 Order deemed construction non-essential.
The resumption of work on “low risk” projects is subject to the Governor’s 30-Point Safety Plan. This plan expands on and clarifies the April 2, 2020 COVID-19 Construction Industry Emergency Requirements and the Residential Construction COVID-19 Job Site Requirements. This plan requires certain practical measures be implemented on every project that re-opens, including the requirement to have a COVID-19 site supervisor who is required to enforce the 30-point plan and the job site’s safety plan (a COVID-19 specific plan is a requirement), as well as monitor the health of the workers. All contractors are required to provide protective equipment and to enforce the 6-foot social distancing rule. Masks are to be worn at all times. To the extent practicable, a job site is to be limited to one trade at a time to limit interactions. (While the 30-Point Plan does not explicitly say it, it does presumably apply to public works and other projects that were permitted to continue during the Stay Home Order).
The 30-Point Plan provides that “existing” projects can resume (presumably keeping new projects on hold) as long as they can implement social distancing and meet the requirements of the 30 Point Plan can resume. While we know that all projects will be required to comply with the 30-Point Plan, a number of questions still remain as to whether any other Projects may be able to proceed, and if projects resume that are not “low risk” what penalties will be enforced? (The Governor’s Safety plan does note RCW 49.17.060 will be enforced for safety plan violations).
It is also unclear how this new guidance will be interpreted in light of separate guidance from local jurisdictions. For example, the City of Seattle has restricted inspections to “essential projects” only. While the 30-Point Safety Plan presumably covers projects previously deemed “non-essential,” it is unclear at this point how, or if, local jurisdictions will alter their separate guidance related to the Governor’s original Order.
While much remains unclear for the industry as a whole, what we do know is that this 30-Point Plan will likely be required for quite some time, so even if you are not sure if your project is a “low risk” project that can resume – all project teams would benefit from reviewing the requirements and beginning to put the processes in place to comply with the Plan such that work can resume quickly when the time does come.
Meghan Douris, Partner, 206.467.7452
Ryan Gilchrist, Attorney, 206.467.7479