This afternoon, in response to what we are seeing in many states that are pursuing stay-at-home or shelter-in-place orders around the COVID-19 pandemic, MBI sent a letter to Gov. Reynolds respectfully requesting that construction be deemed an “essential service” if Iowa moves to issue such an order. That letter can be read here:
Dear Governor Reynolds:
We write today to thank you for your steadfast leadership and efforts to protect the health of Iowans during this unprecedented national crisis surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. We are confident in your approach to this crisis and the state’s ongoing efforts to protect the health, safety and well-being of Iowans.
As the voice of Iowa’s commercial construction industry, we respectfully request that Iowa follow the lead of other states and include construction as an “essential service”, should Iowa move to limit any activities through a stay-at-home or shelter-in-place order at a later date. Most states that have taken such unprecedented action like Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Delaware, Connecticut and California and cities like Dallas, St. Louis, Kansas City and New Orleans have reportedly through Executive Orders listed “construction” as an essential service and therefore exempt from their respective stay-at-home or shelter-in-place orders.
Iowa’s commercial construction industry is unique from other industries and should be considered essential.
Specifically, we would cite the following:
- We are following your lead and encouraging all of our members to work remotely when possible, practice social distancing and other safe preventative measures as recommended by the State of Iowa and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Our companies are proactively staggering schedules to limit interactions including alternating days or extra shifts.Construction, by nature, lends itself to limited interaction whereby close proximity often conflicts with productivity.
- The U.S. Department of Homeland Security recently issued a memorandum on identification of essential critical infrastructure workers during the COVID-19 response that included but is not limited to plumbers, electricians and construction of critical or strategic infrastructure.In our opinion, this would include the robust public hospital system we have throughout Iowa.
- Almost all commercial construction sites exist in a remote location and the work is conducted in an open-air environment.An open-air environment is significantly different than a closed-office environment.However, in the instance of closed environments, our companies mitigate risks through barricades, temporary walls, occupancy measures and physical barriers like plastic sneeze guards.
- Because of the dangerous nature of our workers’ jobs, safety is paramount to any other condition of employment.That includes the use of personal protection equipment to already reduce any risk of exposure to silica, and other harmful materials.In addition, our members are employing “engineering control methods” including high efficiency air filters, specialized negative pressure ventilation systems, wet cuts and vacuums to handle respiratory protection.
- Our companies have established protocols to monitor employees as they enter the jobsite, controlling the flow of individuals in a closed community.Many have also employed sign-in sheets.
- Visitors are limited on the jobsite.Deliveries are being handled to limit interactions including delivery drivers staying in their trucks.
- Our contractors are employing the use of technology by conducting inspections through virtual applications on smart phones like FaceTime and Zoom.
- Our jobsites can be easily managed on a case by case basis and could be shut down individually should a positive test of COVID-19 be found.
- As we approach the Spring season, any responses to other natural disasters that may occur need to be immediate. Mobilizing the men and women of the construction industry will be next to impossible for any work if nearly 80,000 Iowans in our industry are put out of work. It is easier for our companies to reassign work than to remobilize or train them.
- It is imperative that permitting and building inspections should not be halted as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Lastly, we are concerned that any shutdown of construction in Iowa would potentially create an unintended consequence during a time of emergency that would be irreversible. If an outbreak of COVID-19 in Iowa were magnified in the days and weeks ahead, the State of Iowa should want to have commercial construction companies ready to take immediate action to build temporary COVID-19 testing sites, clinics or additional hospital space. We fear these individuals will not be ready for the task, should Iowa limit or halt construction activity.
We will continue to advocate aggressively for the preventative and safe measures you have outlined consistently within our organization to help combat the spread of this pandemic.
Thank you for your leadership. We are in this together.
President & CEO
Master Builders of Iowa
Request to Members
We are aware that individual MBI members have been ordered to discontinue all or part of their work by certain owners on individual public and/or private projects.
WE WOULD LIKE TO KNOW IF YOU HAVE HAD A PUBLIC AND/OR PRIVATE OWNER ORDER YOU TO DISCONTINUE CONSTRUCTION, MAINTENANCE OR REPAIR OPERATIONS. This data and information will help us to stay ahead of this pandemic when discussing the issue with state leaders.
Please email Ben Hammes with any specific information. In confidence. THANK YOU!
What To Do If You Suspect Sickness
We have received some questions about what to do if you are potentially sick or encounter someone on the job site that appears to be sick. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has put together the most comprehensive information on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19 that can be found here:
New Resource for the State of Iowa
This new resource by the State of Iowa provides information, maps, and resources about the coronavirus response in your local area: https://coronavirus.iowa.gov/