With COVID-19 cases surging, independent construction contractors continue to face challenges and obstacles in adapting to COVID-19 regulations in the workforce.
The construction industry was excluded from the shutdown of non-essential businesses in California, that Governor Newsom issued. When the regulations of The California Department of Industrial Relations came into effect, construction sites had to immediately implement safety and health guidelines to specifically combat COVID-19.
“When modifying work stations for my 15 employees, it was difficult to come up with a plan that would reduce the amount of workers in enclosed and confined areas. At the moment, only about three workers can be in the same area which projects are taking longer than expected,” said Gomez.
Eduardo Gomez, an independent cement contractor in Muscoy, explained how COVID-19 has created conflict on restricting access to reduce the number of workers in enclosed and confined areas at one time, and the decrease in hours due to disinfecting frequently touched surfaces.
“We have to cut our work days shorter because we have to follow CDC protocols, such as taking time to disinfect frequently touched surfaces such as tools, machines, equipment, etc. Not only does this cut our work hours shorter, but having to provide disinfecting supplies to clean our tools for all workers has been challenging to find,” said Gomez.
Gomez explained how these two modifications have created contract conflicts with customers because the projected dates have been extended by two to three months more to complete.
Julio Magaña, an independent welder in Fontana, said that COVID-19 has forced him to change the way he operates at job sites.
“Depending on how many people are working at the construction sites, it can take hours before getting to work because of the required temperature checks for all on-site employees. As a welder, I have to wear gloves and a mask throughout the day. However, now, I have to wear it at all times,” said Magaña.
Magaña also described protocol for positive COVID-19 cases. He told a story about how a worker at his job site tested positive for COVID-19. Once the results came back to the supervisors, all on-site employees were sent home and required to get tested for the virus.
Magaña explained workers were allowed to return to work once they tested negative for the virus, but depending on the facility they got tested, results could vary from hours to days.
“The process of finding a facility that provides results right away was a bit challenging for myself and co-workers. Most facilities roughly take about two to three days to receive results,” said Magaña.
Magaña was able to find a location that provided results by the hour and able to return to work the following week.
Juan Rodriguez, an independent welder in training from Rialto, explained how the new health regulations have made it tougher for him to learn the profession.
“As a welding apprentice, I am required to shadow, be supervised, and taught by a senior welder. Now with the social distancing guidelines, I have to stop welding multiple times on the same project and step away to have my work inspected,” said Rodriguez. “This is something that would not happen if the supervisor was right behind me inspecting my weld in live time.”
Rodriguez explained how site managers are reluctant to bring in apprentices to job sites because of the tedious steps taken to supervise their work. Since the COVID-19 lockdown, Rodriguez said, “My job has only been hired to half the amount of jobs in the same time span when compared to the previous year before COVID-19.”
Juan Garcia, a construction site manager in San Bernardino, explains how COVID-19 health guidelines have made his job tougher.
“With the new health regulations, I have to implement the safety guidelines on top of managing the construction. Our projects are already on a clock, so now I have something else to worry about,” said Garcia.
Garcia explained how managing 60 to 80 employees is difficult enough at a construction site but has been able to make sure they are socially distancing, sanitizing when moving locations, and wearing masks.
“Nobody wants to wear a mask when you’re working under the sun for 8 to 10 hours but it’s the requirement,” said Garcia.
“It has been challenging to keep up with all CDC guidelines at my job sites and, by the looks of it, it does not look like it will get any easier as this pandemic continues,” said Gomez.