The Carpenters Union in Massachusetts is stopping all work on all construction projects, other than healthcare facilities, effective April 6, 2020. As set forth below, the Union’s Executive Secretary-Treasurer cites the increasing number of confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths, and the fact that construction sites in Massachusetts are “abnormally dangerous” and that “continuing to work on construction sites poses an immediate threat of harm to health and safety of [the] members and public.” The inability to meet social distancing appears to be the primary basis for the Union’s decision to cease work.
The coronavirus crisis has made life difficult for all Americans on both a personal and work-related level. While the concern about personal health is paramount, the health of the economy cannot be ignored. The recently enacted stimulus package brings short-term relief, but the long-term health of the economy will be dependent upon how quickly people can get back to work. Maintaining the “social distancing” and CDC healthcare requirements on a construction site is difficult. The safety measures reduce productivity, which will have major economic impacts on those construction projects operating during this pandemic.
Fortunately, for the legal industry, “social distancing” can be accommodated in our work. Most of our issues can be addressed remotely by email, conference calls and video conferencing. Many of the construction firm’s management personnel are working remotely. Government agencies are either open or working remotely. Our client files are available on our firm’s servers and legal research can be performed online. While it has been cumbersome to practice construction law in a virtual world, we are gradually acclimating to this new way of doing business. We have been providing advice to our clients and stand ready to counsel our clients during this difficult time.
Despite our best efforts to work through this COVID-19 crisis, if our construction clients are not able to work our ability to provide services and comply with social distancing is likely futile.