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Construction Industry Council: Best Practices in Use to Protect Workers, Public from Virus Spread

The construction industry is taking essential safety measures to protect workers and the public from the spread of the coronavirus. Operating under the designation as an essential business as modified today by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, crews are pressing forward with infrastructure renewal and environmental protection projects in the downstate New York region.

While certain projects have been slowed or delayed due to staffing shortages, contracting employers and organized labor leaders are hopeful key personnel and crews can continue to deliver on public projects. Contractors continue to push ahead to protect and upgrade water resources and the utility sectors. Electrical workers are climbing into bucket trucks and onto lift equipment to ensure telecommunication service is uninterrupted. Heavy-construction highway crews are working on interstate, state and local projects to maintain and improve mobility in the region.

“Construction work is continuing and we’re taking every precaution to ensure everyone is safe, protected and productive,” said John Cooney, Jr., executive director of the Construction Industry Council of Westchester & Hudson Valley, Inc. “Crews are showing up fit for duty and public agencies are planning to continue with bid lettings for projects, even as work-arounds to accommodate social distancing are ironed out.”

Contractors are revising protocols to keep workers and the public safe and to mitigate coronavirus transmission. Cooney described the manner in which the industry is working as “uber-attentive” to changing conditions. “We have safety protocols on projects and in jobsite trailers like I’ve never witnessed in my 40 years of working in construction.”

Philip Benza, managing partner at the Arben Group LLC in Pleasantville, N.Y., said the company is practicing “vigilant enforcement” and sends daily reminders of personal hygiene requirements. “If the work requires the worker to be in a respirator, then we make sure the individual is fit tested for the respirator for the task at hand.”

Construction activity continues in the downstate region, with bucket trucks, cranes and crews showing up on projects. “The work is ongoing,” said Jeff Loughlin, business manager of Operating Engineers 137 of Briarcliff Manor, N.Y. “But it’s very serious, and on construction sites everyone is mindful of best practices to mitigate risk. We are taking extensive precautions to protect our crews and their families.”

At Argenio Brothers Inc., a major asphalt installer in New Windsor, N.Y., “The supply chain has been slightly interrupted and our ability to get materials has been hampered, but we’re trying to push forward,” said Principal Genaro Argenio.

Argenio said he has worked extensively with his professional advisers, OSHA and industry experts to ensure all the pronouncements required to inform and protect workers and the general public have been followed.

Argenio applauded Gov. Cuomo for making construction an essential work activity. “Construction being exempt from stoppage is the right thing to do. That’s where the money starts, and the economy starts – at the ground level. Good infrastructure is essential to maintain our quality of life.”

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