Construction is Essential
Tuesday, April 7, 2020
Below is a letter that was formally sent to local elected officials on Monday, preceding Judge Hidalgo's "Stay at Home" order. This requested that construction be considered an essential service and be exempt from any possible shelter in place orders. Thankfully, Judge Hidalgo did exempt construction. HCA wanted to share the product of many local groups working together to advocate for the construction industry. Stay healthy.
March 23, 2020
Dear Elected Officials:
On behalf of the construction industry here in the Houston area, we want to share with you a letter that has been presented to the elected officials at the state level. Locally we all support this position and feel strongly that, in the event that your community should issue a “Shelter in Place” type order, that you designate all construction services to be deemed an essential service and exempt from such an order. Shutting down construction companies means shutting down a mobilized, skilled workforce with access to materials, equipment and supply chains that can respond to hospital systems, grocery stores, food production facilities, housing, critical infrastructure, and other essential operations that are absolutely necessary during this time. Additionally, our workforce must remain intact for us to continue natural disaster clean up areas and be ready to answer the call for help in the wake of any future natural disasters.
As counties and cities have issued orders, the construction industry has faced confusion around whether they are able to continue their important consistent with/or pursuant to CDC and OSHA guidance. Explicit exemptions for commercial and residential construction are needed to continue critical infrastructure projects. As you continue your work, we ask that you consider adopting specific language that allows our contractors to support their communities during these uncertain times. The suggested language is that used by Dallas County and substantially similar to that used by governors of Illinois, California, Ohio and New Jersey.
For the purposes of this order, individuals may leave their residence to provide any supplies, services, or perform any work necessary to the operations and maintenance of “Essential Critical Infrastructure”. Essential Critical Infrastructure work is work necessary to the operations and maintenance of the 16 critical infrastructure sectors as identified by the National Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency (CISA) including public works construction, residential and commercial construction, airport operations, water, sewer, gas, electrical, oil refining, roads and highways, public transportation, solid waste collection and removal, internet, and telecommunications systems (including the provision of essential global, national, and local infrastructure for computing services, business infrastructure, communications, and web-based services), financial institutions, defense and national security-related operations, essential manufacturing operations provided that they carry out those services or that work in compliance with social distancing requirements of six feet, to the extent possible. Essential Businesses providing essential infrastructure should implement screening precautions to protect employees and all activity shall be performed in compliance with social distancing guidelines.
Our associations have encouraged all of our members to implement strict measures for the safety of their workers and the public during this pandemic. We’ve distributed OSHA 3990-03 guidance on preparing the workplace in light of COVID-19 and encouraged worker education. With the low risk nature of construction jobsites contributing to the spread of the virus (jobsites are controlled environments and not open to the public) and the existing heavy emphasis on safety in our industry to implement protections for workers and the public, we urge you to recognize construction as essential services that should be continued during this time.
Jeffrey Nielsen, Executive Vice President
Houston Contractors Association
Jerry Nevlud, President/CEO
Associated General Contractors of Houston
Casey W. Morgan, Executive Vice President & CEO
Greater Houston Builders Association
Russell Hamley, President
Associated Builders and Contractors
Paul Puente, Executive Secretary
Bryan Edwards, President
Lacy Wolf, Vice-President
Wayne Lord, Secretary/Treasurer
Houston Gulf Coast Building & Construction Trades Council
Abel R. Garcia, Executive Director
National Association of Minority Contractors