From the very beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, NAHB has been working to keep America's home builders and trades partners safe and on the job. That effort is now being redoubled as the country faces a worrying spike in cases, hospitalizations and deaths from the virus.
Early efforts focused on the safety of workers on construction sites. NAHB, in cooperation with the Construction Industry Safety Coalition (CISC), adapted CDC guidance into a Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Plan for Construction tailored specifically to home building job sites and published on March 25 in English and Spanish. NAHB has been monitoring changes in official guidance and has updated the plan three times, with the most recent version published on Oct. 29.
The plan was immediately adopted by many in the home building industry, with HBAs adding local guidance and distributing to members and NAHB members posting the materials on job sites and providing training to workers and trades partners.
"NAHB has provided exceptional guidance for managing the coronavirus in the construction industry," said Matt Piper, Technical Manager for James Hardie Building Products. "Their foundational expertise enabled James Hardie to quickly create safety plans for our customers, so they could continue to safely provide their essential services."
The materials provided the basis for the nationwide COVID-19 Jobsite Safety Stand Down held on April 16 and a video toolbox talk. They were also used by HBAs in their efforts to keep job sites open.
In the March 29 order declaring construction essential in Dallas County, Texas, the NAHB/CISC guidance was specifically cited after being shared by Dallas Builders Association Executive Officer Phil Crone. "I commend NAHB and the industry partners that created those resources," said Crone. "They helped keep our industry open and, most importantly, will help keep our workforce safe from this terrible virus."
While many at NAHB focused on worker safety, staff in the NAHB government affairs department worked tirelessly with federal, state and local officials to keep workers on the job site. Due to the nature of most home building work – often done outdoors and with masks and other protective equipment already standard – construction was seen as one of a few industries that could be considered safe and essential.
NAHB won an early victory on this effort when the Department of Homeland Security designated home building as "essential business infrastructure" on March 28. By the end of April, nearly every state and major city in the U.S. allowed home building to continue under modified safety rules.
But now, the nation and the industry are facing a fresh challenge from the virus. As home building returns to levels not seen since 2007, COVID-19 is rapidly spreading in nearly every community. Workers on job sites must be conscientious of safety guidance to keep themselves safe and job sites remaining open. The promise of vaccines hitting the market soon, while welcomed news, should not be a reason for workers to drop their guards in the winter months.
In addition to the considerable threat posed by the virus itself, there may also be regulatory hurdles to overcome in the near future. There remains the possibility that OSHA will issue a temporary emergency standard on workplace coronavirus safety in the Biden administration, making adherence to comprehensive safety protocols even more critical.
For more information about NAHB safety programs, visit nahb.org.