Construction Industry Laborers Training Fund
  • October 22, 2021
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      Before the Delta variant caused COVID-19 cases to surge this summer, it appeared we were on the verge of leaving behind jobsite protocols like social distancing and facial coverings. Now, with updated CDC and OSHA guidance that those practices and others should continue in public indoor settings to reduce the spread of COVID-19, how should construction contractors proceed?

      We surveyed a number of contractor associations and construction contractors to find out how they plan to keep workers safe this fall. [Note: these responses were gathered prior to the CDC’s recent recommendation to resume the use of facial coverings for fully vaccinated people in certain settings.]

      “LIUNA signatory contractors will continue to lead the way on protecting members from COVID-19,” says LHSFNA Management Co-Chairman Noel C. Borck. “That includes policies and procedures that protect workers on the job, especially during time spent indoors and in enclosed areas, and by promoting COVID-19 vaccination for all workers.”

      Social Distancing, Facial Coverings and Other Protocols

      Most contractors surveyed plan to continue social distancing, though some only planned to do so for unvaccinated workers. Fewer contractors planned to continue the use of facial coverings, with some noting it would depend on what local jurisdictions require.

      Almost all contractors surveyed plan to continue regular surface cleaning, use of hand sanitizer and temperature checks. Plans to continue use of plastic barriers and gloves were more mixed.

      Vaccinations

      No contractors had plans to require their workers to get vaccinated, though many were encouraging workers to do so. A small number of contractors were providing vaccinations on site, although none were providing COVID-19 testing. Some contractors were providing a hard hat sticker or wrist band to help distinguish between fully vaccinated and unvaccinated workers. OSHA recommends that employers encourage their workers to get vaccinated and take steps to facilitate them doing so.

      Testing Positive

      All of the contractors surveyed were unanimous that if a worker tested positive, they should stay home or leave work if they found out about a positive test at work. Contractors were less concerned about reporting cases to the CDC or recording cases in their OSHA 300 logs. While OSHA has been clear that employers should record any COVID-19 cases that are work-related, making that determination with certainty is often difficult.

      Training

      All the contractors surveyed planned to hold toolbox talks or provide information to workers and supervisors about the hazards of COVID-19 and its symptoms. OSHA recommends training workers on these aspects of COVID-19 as well as workers’ right to raise safety concerns related to COVID-19 without retaliation.

      Vendors and Visitors

      This section in particular had the broadest mix of responses. Some contractors had no requirements for visitors, while others said visitors would be encouraged (or in some cases required) to wear a mask and practice social distancing. Others were planning on instituting policies based on vaccination status. OSHA currently recommends that all visitors wear face coverings in indoor settings in areas of high transmission.

      Duration

      All the contractors surveyed planned to continue these precautions as long as they are needed, until new CDC guidance is issued or until their federal OSHA or state OSHA program releases a standard that covers the construction industry.

      Importance of Continued Guidance

      While the individual answers varied, overall, these results show a willingness on the part of construction contractors to follow guidance issued by the CDC and OSHA. Even in the absence of a binding standard at the federal level or in most states, the construction contractors we surveyed are generally taking steps to closely follow recommendations and guidance, even as it changes over time. This shows the importance of OSHA continuing to issue clear, strong policies and procedures that protect workers from COVID-19.



      TRAINING: When you see a union laborer, you are seeing one of the best-trained, most skilled and most experienced laborers in the construction industry. Many of our members got their start as union laborers with apprenticeship training at the Laborers Training Center in Belton, MO.

      It offers both classroom and hands-on instruction in every discipline a laborer will need to do the dozens of jobs they do. Here's a look at many of the important lessons laborers in Western Missouri and Kansas learn at our Belton Training Center.

      The 500,000 members of the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) that work in building construction, highway and utility construction, and environmental remediation play an important role in the industry.  On nearly every phase and area of these job sites, laborers work independently and assist other craft workers to complete projects.  Laborers often are some of the first workers hired on a project and the last to leave it.

      Skilled craft laborers use numerous skills as they move between many varying tasks with equal ability.  Further, they follow detailed instructions as well as problem solve for themselves.  This unique combination of skill, knowledge and decision making requires considerable technical and mental skills.  Women and minorities make up approximately 50% of the skilled construction laborers work force.  Flexible work schedules are often necessary due to the varying lengths and locations of jobs.  A laborer may be paving a highway for weeks in one county, then working only a few days on a masonry project in another county.  The unpredictability of each project can be both frustrating and exciting.  While some laborers may specialize in one type of work such as environmental remediation, often it is difficult to rely on just that one work classification to provide steady work.  Cross training, therefore, is a way to become more “marketable” for future jobs, and it provides experience and skills necessary to stay on jobs longer. Many laborers because of their ability, versatility, and productivity in performing their work tasks, have been asked by their project supervisor or foreman to move on to the contractor’s next project.


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      Updated: Oct. 22 (11:01)

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