Features, Health and Safety, New York

Getting Ready

May 27, 2020

By Ben Kimmel

The City is moving closer to its plans of reopening. Aside from creating a safe environment for our community, there is also the need to ensure a clean work environment. One topic of importance is the need to resume construction, which has been shutdown or limited to essential projects. However, the move to resume work has led to important discussions between construction and real estate groups.

Longtime builder and construction manager, Lon Lieberman, expressed his ideas. “There is a lot to think about,” said Lieberman, “We are trying to understand how this works. Who is responsible for the body counts, making sure the protocols are followed, and will sites need a life/safety specialist in addition to a superintendent?”

“For example, if a subcontractor violates the protocols, what exactly happens? Are there violations? If so, who gets the violation? Does a violation shut down the job?” Lieberman questioned, “What happens if there is an obvious breakout on the job?” “These are the things general contractors will have to contend with.” Lieberman advised, “There are other considerations too. How do you stop people from standing too close to each other? And what about lunch? How can they eat lunch with a mask on?”

Local 94 Assistant Chief Engineer, Robert Jurman explained the importance of the protocol. “We cannot afford to be frivolous with the rules. Not now.” “This is too dangerous,” said Jurman. “But I get it. People want to get back to work.”

“We have to be smart,” said Jurman. “And there needs to be zero tolerance.”

Local 28 Sheet Metal Worker Chris Gulotta says he wants safety for everyone. “The problem is,” said Gulotta. “We have open shops that either don’t care or they’re not properly trained. They are not held to the same standards as a union shop and that’s how people get hurt and sick.” Hoping for the best, Gulotta explained, “I have a family same as they have a family. I don’t want to get hurt or sick because someone doesn’t have the wherewithal or the proper training to keep a clean workspace.”

It has been proposed to stagger crews to control the inflow of the trades on the jobsite. Some commercial properties have hired nurses to check workers for fever before allowing them on the jobsite.

If the City meets the criteria set up by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which means a steady decline in hospitalizations of fewer than 15 per day as well as a steady drop in Covid-related deaths to fewer than five per day, the City will prepare for Phase 1 of reopening.

As a wellness advocate and fellow union employee as a stationary engineer, the concerns to address are safety first. The State has released mandatory rules for construction sites. This would require that all workers wear protective equipment and no more than one worker, per 250 square feet. The concerns I have are simple. Will people follow the rules?

Carelessness is not only dangerous. It is contagious as well. No one has the right to risk safety in the workplace because of their ignorance and lack of training. Nevertheless, it is time to get this city up and moving.

We have already proven to be essential. Site-safety is equally essential and as I said to brothers and sisters on our International’s home page, more than anything, our safety is essential.

Ben Kimmel is a proud member of IUOE Local 94, as well as a Mental Health First Aid Instructor, Certified Recovery Coach, Certified Professional Life Coach and Peer & Wellness Advocate. Ben can be reached at bennyk1972@gmail.com.

May 27, 2020

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