Governor Inslee’s Recent Vaccination Mandate Applies to Many Construction Contractors and their Workers

This month Governor Jay Inslee enacted COVID vaccination requirements that apply to certain construction contractors and their workers in Washington state. Inslee’s vaccine proclamation becomes effective October 18, 2021 and requires construction contractors, subcontractors, and their workers to be fully vaccinated to perform work onsite on certain covered projects.

The following are types of covered projects where the vaccine mandate applies:

  1. State agencies: All contractors working at projects for Washington state agencies (including WSDOT, DES, DNR, etc.) if the work is required to be performed in person and onsite, regardless of the frequency or whether other workers are present. The vaccine mandate applies to indoor and outdoor settings and there is no exemption even if social distancing requirements can be met.
  2. Education/Higher Education/Child Care: All contractors performing work onsite for K-12, higher education (community colleges, technical colleges, and 4-year universities), child care and other facilities where students or persons receiving services are present. New and unoccupied projects are exempt but it does apply to public and private projects.
  3. Medical facilities: All contractors performing work at a “healthcare setting” where patients receiving care are present. “Healthcare setting” is defined as any public or private setting that is primarily used for the delivery of in-person health care services to people. “Healthcare setting” includes portions of a multi-use facility, but only the areas that are primarily used for the delivery of health care, such as a pharmacy within a grocery store. Additional information is on the state’s Q&A page.

Fully vaccinated means it has been two weeks since the person has received the second dose in a two-dose series of the COVID vaccine (i.e., Pfizer or Moderna shots) or a single dose COVID vaccine (J&J). This means that workers getting the two-dose vaccine will need to get their first shot very soon if they will be fully vaccinated by the October 18 deadline.

Exemptions to the vaccine requirement are only available to workers who are unable to get the vaccine because of a disability or if the requirement to do so conflicts with their sincerely held religious beliefs, practice, or observance. Both exemptions require written documentation.

Proof of full vaccination requires the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card or documentation from a health care provider. The card itself or a photo of the card is sufficient. Some Government agencies have already told contractors that the enforcement of this requirement will be placed on the contractor and it will be their obligation to verify compliance of their employees and subcontractors.

Delivery drivers who are present at a site for only a short period of time are exempt. Examples include contractors delivering supplies by truck to a construction site where they remain physically distanced from others on the site, garbage pickup, or a driver for a contracted shipping and delivery service briefly entering a site to pick up parcels for shipping.

Comment: Governor Inslee’s vaccine rules are expected to be a problem for the construction industry. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the construction labor force (both union and non-union) are vaccinated at rates that are far below the state wide vaccination rates. There is already a labor shortage in the construction industry and this will make things worse for projects that are subject to the mandate. Industry stakeholders have attempted to exempt construction workers from the mandate—especially work that is outside or when masks and social distancing are maintained—but those efforts have been unsuccessful. This is an evolving issue and we will provide additional updates if the applicable rules change. Our next blog on this topic will address what to do if your project has been impacted by the vaccine mandate.

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