The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has altered business operations worldwide and brought the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries to the forefront of international focus.
Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York are moving to allow stalled construction projects to restart. For employers on job sites, be they owners, construction managers, general contractors, trade contractors or suppliers, the risks posed by coronavirus on reopened construction sites are concerning.
CDC developed draft guidance to assist employers in reopening while making reasonable and effective efforts to contain the corona virus that spreads COVID-19. See infra While the draft guidelines are targeted to services that attract groups of people in close contact, there are some general principles that will help many commercial offices and businesses to reopen safely.
As workers return to jobsites, construction companies, like all employers have a responsibility to provide a safe work environment. If workers (including the trades, construction managers, project managers, bank inspectors, superintendents or design professionals) are exposed to the virus or contract COVID-19, employers may face liability under the OSHA General Duty Clause.
On April 24, 2020, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (“NJDEP”) issued a Notice of Rule Waiver/Modification/Suspension under Executive Order No. 103 (dated March 9, 2020 – “EO 103”), regarding the extension of certain timeframes for remediation activities.
Last week, we reported that Executive Order 122, carved out environmental remediation at a site as essential construction that can continue as long as consultants and contractors can abide by social distancing requirements.
On April 9, 2020, the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve announced the Main Street Lending Program (“Program”) to expand upon emergency loans otherwise provided by the CARES Act and to provide additional funding opportunities for small to mid-size businesses. Access to these funds through the Program is intended to be available from May 2020 through September, 2020. In the interim, it is prudent to understand the Program and be prepared to access as much as $600 billion in loans by working with your participating lender.
The time is now to anticipate and prepare for the fall-out of COVID-19. One of the anticipated consequences is the possible lawsuits that may be the result of this pandemic. Plaintiffs’ lawyers will not miss this opportunity, just as they have missed no other opportunity to blame employers for injuries to their employees and customers.
Generally, project owners, construction managers and some general contractors have been investigating ways to maintain progress on their project in face of ‘social distancing’ and ‘stay at home’ orders from governmental authorities. Many workers and subcontractors have joined in the clamor to continue working. However, financially stable trade contractors may see this issue differently. Many trade contractors perceive significant risk in working during the pandemic.
On April 10, 2020, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) issued interim guidance to its regional offices to evaluate ongoing cleanup activities while maintaining the health and safety of the public during the COVID-19 crisis. The interim guidance “focuses on decision making at emergency response and longer term cleanups sites where EPA is the lead agency or has direct oversight of, or responsibility for, the cleanup work,” including, but not limited to, Superfund cleanups, Resource Conservation Recovery Act corrective actions, Toxic Substances and Control Act PCB cleanups, Oil Pollution Act spill responses, and Underground Storage Tank Program actions.