Construction Can Continue in Ohio, but Proceed with Caution

Governor Mike DeWine issued an order shutting down non-essential businesses, effective 11:59 p.m. on Monday March 23, 2020, through 11:59p.m. on Monday April 6, 2020 in response to the coronavirus epidemic (COVID-19). The order, linked here, provides a comprehensive list of the businesses that are deemed essential and will be permitted to stay open. Construction is not shutting down in Ohio. However, businesses remaining open have to take specified steps to ensure the safety of employees and others who will be on the premises. 

The order includes a number of exemptions to shutting down non-essential business operations; most construction is included in an exemption in one way or another, particularly as all of the exempted categories “shall be construed broadly to avoid any impacts” to operations. For example, one exempted category is “Essential Infrastructure,” which specifically permits construction generally, including but not limited to, construction required in response to COVID-19, hospital construction, long-term care facility construction, public works construction, school construction, essential business construction, and housing construction. Also, because utilities, sewer, water, solid waste, road, highway, rail and public transportation are all included in the definition of Essential Infrastructure, construction and other services related to those projects, including to operate, maintain, or repair them, are expressly exempt from the shutdown.

Also, construction necessary to support “Essential Businesses and Operations”—and all businesses in their supply chains—is permitted; this includes but is not limited to grocery stores; pharmacies; businesses in any way involved food, beverage, licensed marijuana and agriculture; organizations providing charitable and social services; religious organizations; media organizations; transportation services and gas stations (including auto repair and equipment and construction equipment); financial and insurance institutions; educational institutions; restaurants (for off-site consumption); any support for Essential Businesses and Operations; residential construction; professional services; hotels and motels, and more—the list of exemptions is quite extensive. Further, Critical Trades is a specific exemption permitting construction services by plumbers, electricians, exterminators, cleaning and janitorial staff, security staff, operating engineers, HVAC, painting, moving and relocation services, and anything necessary to maintaining safety, sanitation, and essential operations.

The order also requires individuals stay inside their homes unless engaging in specific activities that include, but are not limited to, exercise, going to work at essential businesses or businesses that are exempt from the order, caring for others, seeking medical attention, or getting necessary supplies and services.

All businesses remaining open should continue to take precautions, including maximizing all remote and virtual work and meeting capabilities where possible without compromising the company or individuals’ ability to perform the exempt or essential business functions and continuing to follow all federal, state, CDC, and Ohio Department of Health recommendations where possible including, at a minimum:
  • Maintaining 6 foot distances between individuals and workstations;
  • Disinfecting and cleaning all surfaces and equipment—particularly those in shared workspaces—at least daily if not more frequently and encouraging employees to do so on their own as well;
  • Providing soap, hand sanitizer, and disinfecting wipes to employees and encouraging proper use, including before any meals;
  • Keeping only the required staff necessary to perform the exempt and essential functions on any site, in any trailer, or in any work area;
  • Not holding toolbox talks or in-person meetings or gatherings at all and using video or web-conferencing, but when necessary, keeping such meetings to 10 people or less, holding them outside, and maintaining 6 ft distances between people;
  • Discontinuing use of community water, coffee, or food;
  • Encouraging employees to take temperatures at home each morning or take temperatures at each job site and require any employees exhibiting any symptoms to leave the job site;
  • Discouraging handshakes;
  • Reminding employees to avoid touching eyes, nose, mouth, and face;
  • Reminding employees to wash and disinfect all PPE and wash and disinfect their hands after handling it;
  • Reminding employees to wash clothing and reflective gear regularly; and
  • Prohibiting food delivery services on jobsites.
We are continuing to develop strategies and recommended practices for clients to ensure compliance with this order, safeguard the health and safety of their employees and work sites, and maximize the productivity of exempt and essential business activities. If you have specific questions or concerns, or want to speak with one of our thirteen Construction Practice Team Members, please see our Construction Practice Group Page.

Frantz Ward has established a Coronavirus Response Team to assist clients in navigating the multitude of issues presented by the current crisis. For assistance in addressing these issues or in developing other strategies to protect your business, please contact Frantz Ward Partners Brian Kelly or Chris Koehler and they will engage the appropriate members of the response team. 

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