Reopening Phase 1: Construction Resumes With COVID-19 Safety Protocols

After pausing non-emergency projects, work at some job sites resumed in Boston with approved COVID-19 safety plans

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The construction industry got the green light in the first phase of Gov. Charlie Baker’s reopening plan in Massachusetts.

Amid some controversy, construction projects across the state had already continued during the COVID-19 shutdown because they were among the list of "essential" industries.

However, cities like Boston, Cambridge and Somerville paused non-emergency projects in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus.

On Monday, Boston lifted its moratorium and allowed certain projects to continue if they had submitted an approved COVID-19 safety plan.

The city's Inspectional Services Department told NBC10 Boston it has received roughly 2,000 plans from projects big and small. ISD also produced a video for contractors to illustrate what types of workplace safety protocols should be in place to prevent spread of the virus.

One large project that resumed was the Boston Arts Academy in the city's Fenway neighborhood.

"It feels really good to be back at work," said Joe Berry with Lee Kennedy Company, the general contractor.

The public school project had been on hold since March, but the hum of heavy machinery and outline of towering cranes joined the scenery again.

"Preparations started weeks ago on paper and behind the scenes with the COVID-19 work plan," Berry said.

Those plans call for workers having their temperatures screened by a hired EMT when they arrived at the project site every day.

There are also hand-washing stations with hot water. Signs posted on fences remind workers to practice physical distancing. When that's not possible, workers need to have appropriate PPE like masks, gloves and goggles.

Berry said Lee Kennedy had projects continue in other communities over the past couple of months, which allowed the contractor to fine-tune safety protocols as it ramped up to resume projects in congested areas like Boston.

It is unclear how the shutdown and new guidelines will affect project timelines.

"We are hoping to do everything in a controlled manner as possible to maintain safety of workers and the public," he said.

Sarah Lawson is owner of S+H Construction, a Cambridge-based residential construction business. Even with construction included in the first phase of reopening, Lawson said a chunk of her projects will remain on hold because they require too much interior work and interaction with homeowners.

One project in Boston's Back Bay neighborhood will resume soon, though, because it is primarily HVAC work on the exterior of the building.

"It's not just the city saying work can continue," Lawson said. "You also have to look at what customers are comfortable with and what we're comfortable with."

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