Construction amid coronavirus: Marin County builder group offers guidelines
As changing public health orders continue to redefine what can and cannot be done during the pandemic resurgence, the Marin Builders Association (MBA) has created a complete online COVID-19 Construction Industry Resource designed to help builders cope with complicated safety rules and regulations.
“We assembled guidelines and practical examples our members and others can use when charting a course for their businesses during these unsettling times,” said Rick Wells, CEO. “Changes are occurring rapidly, our mission includes finding the best way to serve as an all-in-one source of guidance so builders can keep jobsites and workers protected while managing operations effectively and staying in compliance.”
The website currently contains 14 categories of timely, relevant information gleaned from a variety of companies, organizations and subject matter experts. The site is updated regularly as new details become available.
The association also posts upcoming Member Connect “e-vents” including meetings, webinars, forums and e-mail blasts containing vital information such as where to get free COVID-19 testing for construction workers and landscapers and where to find personal protective equipment.
The association also provides two ways builders can network with others across Marin and reach out to share best practices via Facebook and LinkedIn pages that also frequently show new job opportunities.
Wells said that while a significant percentage of information on association’s website is county centric, Marin is one of six counties in a partnership that has issued similar protocols, however, modifications are often needed to signage and when developing training materials for site specific work sites in each jurisdiction.
“Our more than 560 members say this online resource is extremely valuable. We’ve had almost that many view our webinars simultaneous. Feedback has been tremendous. The most popular topics continue to be ways to ensure safe job sites and an overview of sample safety posters and protocols. Several webinars have been devoted to legal issues during the pandemic,” said Wells.
Dan McLennon, partner with Smith, Currie & Hancock, specializing in national construction law, developed and hosted association webinars devoted to legal issues surrounding COVID-19 safety compliance, shelter-in-place mandates and protocol development.
“The MBA surveyed its members to determine their top of mind concerns. Responses centered on practical matters, like how to implement safety protocols; job site gate rules for screening employees, subcontractors and suppliers; washing frequency; how to qualify for safety certification, as well as social distancing policies,” McLennon said.
He stated that with 58 California counties continuing to issue health orders that differ from each other, there is a need for a national safety protocol as a standard to help avoid confusion – especially when a builder has crews working in more than one county requiring multiple training agendas, signage and practices.
Jim Schalich, owner of Schalich Bros. Construction, specializing in high-end residential projects, said the association website keeps everyone up to date. He checks it every day to see what comes up and if there are new developments affecting his business.
“Everything associated with the pandemic and how businesses can operate right now is a moving target, and some previously announcements about business openings have been rescinded as coronavirus cases increased,” Schalich said. “There are differences between Marin and Sonoma County rules, as well as from city to city in some instances. The MBA team keeps its fingers on the pulse of what is happening and posts its findings.”
He said in Mill Valley, for example, local authorities do not allow his workers to park on streets near building sites, requiring those involved to park some distance away. Other municipalities are less restrictive.
If in doubt, the safe bet is to go with the most stringent protocol, according to Schalich.
“There is a challenge associated with trying to keep work groups separated,” he said. “If I have three people on job A, and three on job B, I do not want to co-mingle them to prevent one person who contracts COVID-19 from spreading it to the other team, forcing us to shut down job sites or the entire company for weeks.”
He asserted that this is not a fake concern.
“It’s real, and we have to take it seriously,” Schalich said. “If one of my employees were to test positive for COVID-19, I would give him or her time off with pay whether they had symptoms or not. We need all of the input we can get to cope with challenges like this.”
Ben Goldburg, owner of Simply Solar, is worried about keeping office personnel safe.
“The MBA website provides information on several locations offering construction workers the ability to drop in to be tested free starting July 1,” Goldburg said. “I also needed to find a firm that could test and clean a worksite and wanted to know where I could obtain hand sanitizer in bulk quantities so we could fill small bottled for everyone. I found suppliers on the MBA’s site.”
For Mary Birch, business development director for Contractors Business Centers with a network of 25 schools throughout California including one in San Rafael, having access to an all-inclusive, go-to source of safety-related information from the Marin Builders Association is an asset for those studying to obtain their contractor’s license as well as for startups, small firms and established businesses.
“Most of our students do not have a network within the construction industry they can turn to for support,” Birch said. “MBA also offers personal assistance for those looking for contractors and subs along with guidelines for keeping job sites and employees healthy. Rick Wells, his staff of consultants and administrative personnel, are known for providing one-on-one guidance, even with everyone working from home. From the CEO to those on the reception desk, this team is always available.”
The Marin Builders Association, established in 1958 and located at 660 Las Gallinas Ave. in San Rafael, has been a key resource for contractors and homeowners as well as an industry advocate for 62 years, while helping to build a vibrant and healthy community. The association is a certified Marin County Green Business, offering its members business building tools, insurance programs, safety training and educational resources.
The group publishes an annual Marin Builders Association Home Resource Guide, focused on local needs and home improvement, along with an online member directory listing local contractors in many fields.