COVID-19 construction impacts - April 24 update

April 24, 2020 update

On March 23, Gov. Jay Inslee signed a statewide proclamation for a Stay Home, Stay Healthy order to help flatten the curve and slow the spread of COVID-19. Our state has done a good job adhering to the proclamation and the numbers show that we have slowed the spread of the virus. Given our progress, the Governor has directed us to restart limited construction around the state for those activities that can be done with no worker within six feet of another. WSDOT will be simultaneously implementing similar protocols for our low risk maintenance and preconstruction field work.

Safety is our top priority as we slowly turn the dial to begin to phase in this low risk construction and maintenance work. For now, work that requires crew members to be within six feet of each other will not happen. Period.

To qualify for this initial phase, our contractor crews will need to demonstrate how they will adhere to a list of 30 safety protocols. Contractors will be required to have site specific safety plans and regular pre-activity meetings to ensure compliance with these standards. No jobsite may operate until the contractor can meet and maintain all requirements, including providing materials, schedules and equipment required to comply. WSDOT construction and maintenance crew members must also complete mandatory COVID -19 training and adhere to the same list of 30 safety protocols.   

We will not take these safety rules lightly - a site-specific COVID-19 Supervisor designated by the contractor will be at every job site to monitor the health of employees and enforce the COVID-19 job site safety plan. WSDOT field inspectors at construction sites and maintenance supervisors will be closely monitoring work activities and have the authority to shut down a job site or maintenance work if the safety protocols are not followed.   

Construction and maintenance work will look different in the months ahead. Workers will wear more PPE including eye protection, masks, and gloves and sites will be more sanitary with cleaning and disinfecting a priority. This initial stage will help us set guidelines for future phases, as we determine best practices for specific tasks. We’ll learn lessons along the way and have some setbacks, but we will get through this.

This plan is a result of a broad group of our labor and contractor partners coming together with WSDOT, Department of Health, Department of Labor & Industries, and others to find the safest path forward for workers and the public.

For WSDOT, this guidance is for onsite construction, maintenance work, and Washington State Ferry (WSF) vessel maintenance at Eagle Harbor. WSF vessel crew and terminal staff should maintain their current COVID-19 safety protocols. WSDOT non-field employees who are working from home please continue to do so; stay home and stay healthy for the foreseeable future. We will have more updates in the coming days and weeks.

April 6, 2020 update

Following the state Stay Home, Stay Healthy order, WSDOT suspended most state construction work. WSDOT asked our contractor partners to safely secure construction jobsites by the end of the day, Thursday, March 26. With the Stay Home, Stay Healthy order now extended through May 4, WSDOT will likewise continue the construction suspension and limiting maintenance work to all but essential duties through May 4.

WSDOT has been working closely with our contractor, labor and industry partners to develop COVID-19 response plans that would protect all of the people working on our projects by meeting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines. Unfortunately, despite these efforts, it is not possible to meet the guidelines while maintaining construction. There have also been difficulties sustaining sufficient staff levels. In some cases this week, between 25% and 40% of a given crew was not available to work on WSDOT construction projects.

We recognize the profound impact this decision has on thousands of individuals. However, we believe it is critical that we take every appropriate step available to protect the lives and health of our loved ones, families, our friends, coworkers and neighbors. These are important projects to Washington, and we remain committed to restarting them when safe to do so to ensure the transportation system continues to support our statewide economy and economic recovery.

WSDOT will use the intervening time to work closely with industry partners to ensure appropriate protective equipment, procedures and training are in place when projects restart.

State officials will be closely monitoring the trajectory of the virus over the next few weeks in close consultation with the Governor’s Office. Once the numbers start trending in a favorable direction and appropriate measures are place, WSDOT will look to begin restarting our projects.

While most state projects will halt, work to complete fish passage culvert work will continue in order to make progress on the federal court injunction deadlines and to comply with time-sensitive fish windows for in-water work. Work on the design portion of design-build projects will continue although fieldwork to support design will be suspended. Some details on that work are evolving in this rapidly changing situation and WSDOT will share more details when they are available.