Construction workers already face an overwhelming risk of injury on the job without worrying about contracting a deadly illness. Unfortunately, the 2020 outbreak of COVID-19 affected workers across all industries—including those on New York City building sites.
While employers and contractors cannot be blamed for the coronavirus epidemic, they may be liable for your suffering if they did not take adequate measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 infection on your construction site. Call (800) 362-9329 today and a construction injury attorney at Hofmann & Schweitzer will determine who may be responsible if you suffered coronavirus infection on the job.
An Employer May Be Liable If Construction Workers Contract COVID-19
On March 20, 2020, Governor Andrew Cuomo issued an Executive Order establishing a Public Health Emergency due to COVID-19 and suspending all non-essential work. In response, the New York City Department of Buildings prohibited any non-emergency construction projects—those where life, health, safety, or property was at significant risk. If you were ordered to continue working on a site that was not listed as an Essential Active Construction Site or were threatened with firing if you did not show up to work, you may have a claim against your employer.
New York state and local governments also issued safety regulations to protect employees who were permitted to work. Construction employees may have a claim if they contracted coronavirus during essential work, or during phased reopening, due to:
- Lack of distancing measures. Workers should maintain a distance of at least six feet at all times. If an activity requires a shorter distance (such as lifting or dry walling), workers must have appropriate face coverings. Employers should encourage “one-way” foot traffic in narrow spaces, and distance markers denoting spaces of six feet in all areas where lines are commonly formed.
- Failure to meet face-covering requirements. Face coverings must be worn any time employees must come within six feet of another person. Adequate face coverings must be provided to employees while at work at no cost to the employee, and must be cleaned or replaced after use and may not be shared. The face covering used in each case should not interfere with any personal protective equipment (PPE) required for the task to be performed.
- Lack of required signage. Signs warning of COVID-19 similar to those provided by the Department of Health must be posted throughout the site. Signs should remind employees to wear face coverings, how to store and discard PPE, to follow physical distancing measures, wash their hands, and report symptoms of or exposure to COVID-19.
- Staffing and scheduling oversights. Employees should implement practices to limit coworker contact, such as staggering shift arrival and departure times, limiting in-person presence to vital staff, and reducing on-site workforce to accommodate social distancing.
- Failure to follow employee hand washing guidelines. Employers must provide adequate hand washing and hygiene stations with soap, running warm water, and disposable paper towels. An alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol may be used in areas where hand washing facilities are impractical.
- Failed site cleaning and disinfection requirements. Employers have a duty to perform regular cleaning and disinfection of the work site and tools, and more frequent cleaning in high-risk areas (such as restrooms).
- Failure to perform health screening. Mandatory daily health screenings must be performed remotely or on site before work begins. Minimum screening requirements include a questionnaire to determine whether a worker has experienced symptoms of COVID-19 in the past 14 days, or has been in contact with anyone who has tested positive for, or who has or had symptoms of, COVID-19 in the past 14 days.
- Lack of positive testing protocol. If an employee has tested positive for COVID-19, the state and local health department must be notified immediately. Employers should perform cleaning and disinfection of tools, handrails, and shared areas in the event of a worker’s positive case of COVID-19 and only allow workers without close or proximate contact with the person who is sick to return to disinfected work areas.
Our attorneys will work to get you the compensation you are owed, and we do not collect any fees until after your case is won. Simply fill out our quick online contact form or call (800) 362-9329 to speak with a lawyer at Hofmann & Schweitzer today, or learn more about your rights in our FREE brochure, Hurt in a Construction Accident? You’re Not Alone.