A new COVID-19 Shelter In Place (SIP) order was issued on April 29th, 2020 for Bay Area counties; this article will examine the new provisions of that order that focus on the construction industry; specifically on Alameda County, as that is where many CSI East Bay-Oakland Chapter members are centrally located. It does appear that most Bay Area Counties are following similar regulations as the ones in Alameda County. The new SIP order goes into effect on May 4th, 2020, and lasts until June 1st, 2020, or until it is modified by the County Health Officer.
What does this mean?
Starting May 4th, 2020, all construction is allowed in the Bay Area, as long as precautions are put in place to protect workers and members of the public.
Specifically, the Alameda County SIP order states on pages 9-10 that construction is considered an essential activity or business:
For the purposes of this Order, “Essential Businesses” are:
Construction, but only as permitted under the State Shelter Order and only
pursuant to the Construction Safety Protocols listed in Appendix B and
incorporated into this Order by this reference. Public works projects shall
also be subject to Appendix B, except if other protocols are specified by
the Health Officer;
What you need to know?
As listed above, construction may resume with Construction Safety Protocols in place. Those Protocols vary depending depending on the size of the project. The SIP for Alameda County divides construction projects into two categories, with two separate sets of detailed safety protocols:
- Small Construction Project Safety Protocol
- Large Construction Project Safety Protocol
A Small Construction Project is defined as:
1. Any construction project meeting any of the following specifications is subject to this Small Construction Project Safety Protocol (“SCP Protocol”), including public works projects unless otherwise specified by the Health Officer:
a. For residential projects, any single-family, multi-family, senior, student, or other residential construction, renovation, or remodel project consisting of 10 units or less. This SCP Protocol does not apply to construction projects where a person is performing construction on their current residence either alone or solely with members of their own household.
b. For commercial projects, any construction, renovation, or tenant improvement project consisting of 20,000 square feet of floor area or less.
c. For mixed-use projects, any project that meets both of the specifications in subsection 1.a and 1.b.
d. All other construction projects not subject to the Large Construction Project Safety Protocol set forth in Appendix B-2.
A Large Construction Project is defined as:
1. Any construction project meeting any of the following specifications is subject to this
Large Construction Project Safety Protocol (“LCP Protocol”), including public works
projects unless otherwise specified by the Health Officer:
a. For residential construction projects, any single-family, multi-family, senior,
student, or other residential construction, renovation, or remodel project consisting
of more than 10 units.
b. For commercial construction projects, any construction, renovation, or tenant
improvement project consisting of more than 20,000 square feet of floor area.
c. For construction of Essential Infrastructure, as defined in section 16.c of the Order,
any project that requires five or more workers at the jobsite at any one time.
The safety protocols themselves are detailed and too long to copy and paste verbatim here. However, you can find the complete protocols at this link, or in the complete Alameda County SIP order starting on page 19. In general, the protocols are much more stringent and detailed on Large Construction Projects. In an effort to quickly summarize, some of the notable parts of the protocols common to both small and large projects are listed below:
- Social distancing of six feet or more among all site workers, members of the public, and any person present at the job site. An exception is granted when it is not possible to maintain this distance due to the nature of certain construction tasks.
- Designate a site-specific COVID-19 supervisor or supervisors.
- The COVID-19 supervisor must review Protocol with all workers and visitors to the construction site.
- Establish a daily screening protocol for arriving staff to ensure that potentially infected staff do not enter the construction site.
- Provide personal protective equipment (PPE) specifically for use in construction,
including gloves, goggles, face shields, and face coverings as appropriate for the activity being performed. At no time may a contractor secure or use medical-grade PPE, unless required due to the medical nature of a job site.
- Where construction work occurs within common areas of an occupied residential or commercial building or a mixed-use building in use by on-site employees or residents, separate work areas must be sealed off from the rest of the common areas with physical barriers such as plastic sheeting or closed doors sealed with tape to the extent feasible.
- If hand washing facilities are not available at the jobsite, place portable wash stations or hand sanitizers that are effective against COVID-19 at entrances to the jobsite.
- Stagger trades as necessary to reduce density and allow for easy maintenance of minimum six-foot separation.
Again, these are not the complete protocols. Please read the source document linked above for the complete details.
The inspection and permit process is not mentioned specifically in the updated SIP order; more details will certainly be emerging on this aspect of the construction process soon. However, the City of Menlo Park has an outline detailing how the inspection/permit system will be resumed in that city, and it may offer a hint of how government agencies throughout the Bay Area may proceed:
While construction may resume immediately, necessary inspections will be handled in a phased approach that is based on prioritized criteria identified in the emergency order. In order, these include:
- Projects that were already scheduled for an inspection the first week of the shutdown (March 16–20).
- Existing project that have been granted emergency status.
- Any project that affects the livability of the house (water heater, furnace, plumbing repair, sewer main, water piping, etc.).
- Other single-family residential projects and public works projects.
Then assuming the City has adequate staff capacity and personal protective equipment supplies, inspections would be scheduled for multifamily and commercial projects. Inspection times for these projects will be confirmed by staff during the week of May 4, for inspections that may begin as early as the week of May 11.
While building inspectors work to clear inspections based on the prioritization criteria above, the Building Division will begin scheduling 30-minute appointments for those projects that have received signoffs and a permit is ready to be issued. Staff will contact these applicants directly to schedule their appointment time. During the first week, May 4–7, staff expects to complete approximately 25-30 appointments.
New application submittals are not being accepted at this time, but may resume within the next 1-2 weeks.
What comes next
The health order indicated that further loosening of precautions are planned in a gradual, gated process if favorable conditions continue.