May 18, 2020

First Phase of State Reopening Includes All Construction Activity

Exemptions made for construction and remodeling in 1-3 family residences 

The Baker-Polito Administration today released its plan for the reopening of the state’s economy since the closing of all non-essential businesses on March 23 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Entitled “Reopening Massachusetts,” the plan sets forth a four-phased reopening of businesses and other activities in the Bay State. Under the first phase, all construction activity may resume effective today.
Although all construction had initially been allowed to continue to operate during the state of emergency, the Administration later revised the list of "COVID-19 Essential Services” to permit only “construction services related to housing (including mixed-use housing).” Today’s announcement is extremely helpful to the members of the HBRAMA who were experiencing conflicting interpretations by local building departments as to what type of construction constituted “housing.” For example, some communities were denying building permits for decks, garages, and additions to existing homes; banning teardowns and rebuilds; and halting remodeling projects already begun.

Sector-specific mandatory workplace safety standards and recommended best practices for construction sites were also issued with the reopening report. These standards and practices substantially follow the detailed “Residential Construction and Remodeling COVID-19 Exposure Prevention, Preparedness, and Response Plan” submitted by the HBRAMA to the Governor Baker’s Reopening Advisory Board.

The safety standards and practices issued today explicitly recognize that remodeling and single-family construction is different than other larger and more complicated construction projects. Accordingly, it exempts “construction and remodeling in 1-3 family residences” from certain mandatory requirements as follows:
  • A contractor does not need to designate a site-specific COVID-19 Officer (who may also be the Health and Safety Officer) for every site if there are 5 or fewer workers at the site at any given time. Instead, the contractor may designate a COVID-19 Officer for all such small sites in a given city or town who shall be in daily contact with each of the sites to ensure that the contractor and all subcontractors are in full compliance with the safety standards. This COVID-19 safety officer shall prepare a written daily report covering all the small sites in each city or town and make a copy of that report available to a municipal official and/or the owner of the residence upon request; and
  • If a project has restroom facilities /porta-potties they must be cleaned and hand washing stations must be provided with soap, hand sanitizer and paper towels. For outside construction sites without ready access to an indoor bathroom, contractors must either install Wash Stations with hot water, if possible, and soap at fire hydrants or other water sources to be used for frequent hand washing for all onsite employees or provide each employee and subcontractor with a sufficient quantity of hand sanitizer to allow for frequent hand washing.

The Home Builders and Remodelers Association of Massachusetts is grateful to Governor Baker, Lt. Gov. Polito and Housing and Economic Development Secretary Kennealy for their unwavering support for the residential construction industry and appreciate the communication and collaboration with the association’s staff and leadership throughout this unprecedented crisis.

The plan “Reopening Massachusetts” can be found here. The Sector Specific Workplace Safety Standards For Construction Sites To Address COVID-19 can be found here. Other documents required of all employers can be found here.

Complete information on all aspects of reopening businesses and activities in the Commonwealth can be found here.