Assemblyman Peters: Construction Should Remain Open. Here’s How.

Assemblyman Ryan Peters (R-8).

BY ASSEMBLYMAN RYAN PETERS

If there’s a real-time lesson we can learn from the COVID-19 pandemic and response, it’s that
one-size-fits-all approaches don’t work.

It would be either arrogant or political opportunism to attack leaders who are making decisions
on the fly aimed at protecting people against a once-in-a-lifetime viral outbreak. I believe our
president and country’s governors are doing the best they can to save lives while trying to avoid
a recession that will affect millions for years to come.

This can’t be an easy tightrope to walk. That’s why I commend Governor Murphy’s balancing act
in seeing New Jersey through our current situation. Credit has to be given where it is due. The
governor has faced the media every day, has consistently implemented new strategies and has
made many hard-but-fair decisions through executive orders.

Although I agree with many of the social distancing guidelines he’s put in place, lockdowns
aren’t a zero-sum game. Not every lockdown leads to a loss in economics balanced out by an
equal win for the health of citizens.

That brings me to one of the governor’s more recent lockdowns – putting an end to most private
construction. I would never criticize Governor Murphy on doing what he thinks will save lives,
but as legislators, we must speak out when we feel one of these lockdowns could have a very
minimal or flat positive impact compared to its great negative impact.

A construction site isn’t a restaurant where new people are coming in and out of every day. It’s
not a warehouse where hundreds of people work in close quarters. It is not even a regular small
office, which would most likely lack the type of PPE needed to be at work in the vicinity of other
people. Construction generally involves the same bubble of people working mostly outdoors,
making social distancing possible in most circumstances.

We’ve spent years regulating the construction industry in New Jersey to protect workers from
various airborne substances that could cause damage to them. OSHA and other workplace
regulations in place have led to the existence of PPE at construction sites before PPE was a
nationally known term.

As a country and a state, we have fought this pandemic from home. It has been a necessary
retreat based on science and the adherence to medical professionals, but at some point we
must advance forward and fight the pandemic head on. Now is not the time to return to normal,
but I believe controlled fields like construction are the appropriate places where an offensive
strategy can be implemented.

With that being said, here are some suggestions on how to keep construction open in a safe
and responsible way.

● Temperature checks: All workers must adhere to temperature checks before starting
their days. Anything above 99 degrees and that worker is sent home. This is something
many countries that are reopening are doing.

● Mandatory PPE: all workers must wear masks and gloves throughout their shift –
something most all construction sites already implement.

● Mandatory social distancing: a construction site must change its worker schedules to
follow social distancing rules. If a job can’t get done under social distancing guidelines,
then it should be shut down.

● No congregating during lunch breaks. Workers must eat alone.

Construction is a giant locomotive. Once it slows too much, it is notoriously difficult to get it back
and moving in the right direction. I believe these steps are a clear way to keep the train moving
in a safe manner that is currently unique to only certain industries.

The game plan is that every non-essential activity should be shut down. But paying the bills is
essential. Large engines of the economy are essential. We must only place lockdowns on
industries where the lockdown will have an effect on saving lives. If we can develop offensive
strategies to save lives and keep things chugging along, we shouldn’t shy away from it because
it goes against the current headwinds of the news media.

Construction is uniquely suited for an offensive strategy.

Assemblyman Ryan Peters represents LD8.

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2 responses to “Assemblyman Peters: Construction Should Remain Open. Here’s How.”

  1. Construction is seen as a vital part of the economy, just like manufacturing, and so must continue for as long as possible. So I absolutely support housing construction. Housing is in short supply. I question other construction. I live where there is a lot of construction going on, and I’m not seeing physical distancing among construction workers. Will construction workers end up being a pool of transmission? I’m concerned.

  2. The article presents a well-balanced perspective on the challenges of handling lockdowns and the impact on various industries, specifically focusing on the construction sector. The Assemblyman suggests practical ways to keep construction open safely and responsibly, emphasizing the importance of maintaining essential economic activities while ensuring workers’ health and safety. The approach highlights the need for tailored strategies to combat the pandemic while keeping critical sectors like construction operational. Implementing safety measures, including the comprehensive OSHA 360 training, becomes paramount to protect workers and maintain productivity during these unprecedented times.

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