COVID-19 Industry Updates from WAPA

May 4

Flatten the Curve Wisconsin

The coronavirus presents a unique challenge to the state of Wisconsin, and our response depends on a robust transportation infrastructure.
Roads ensure that medical supplies get to hospitals, food gets to the grocery store, and other vital services get to market. Pavements get essential workers to their jobs and back home again, and they will help reconnect our communities when it’s time to get back to work.
In the face of this challenge, the asphalt industry and our members have partnered with other transportation industry associations, non-profit groups, and government agencies to provide health and safety guidance. Learn more at wispave.org/flattenthecurve.
Together we will “flatten the curve” and lead the way to providing vital surface infrastructure. And together, we will serve members of our community through these difficult times.

April 10

COVID-19 SAFETY VIDEO

Asphalt continues to lead the construction industry’s commitment to health and safety during these challenging times. NAPA posted an easy-to-follow video tutorial on what road construction workers can do to prevent the transmission of the coronavirus. For more recommendations on workplace measures to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19, as well as additional best practices for the asphalt industry, please see the information posted below.

 


April 9

CONSTRUCTION JOB SITE FIELD MANUAL

It is critical that the transportation construction industry exercise best practices on jobsites to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Wisconsin.

WAPA has worked with industry partners to develop a COVID-19 Response Plan for Field Operations to protect workers and ensure that our industry can continue delivering infrastructure for Wisconsin citizens and businesses during this public health crisis. This plan outlines important jobsite communication, sanitation, health screening and other measures that should be considered in the workplace to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19.

Please share this COVID-19 Response Plan for Field Operations with your managers and employees.

April 8

EDUCATING EMPLOYEES ABOUT COVID-19

It is important that employers educate employees on the seriousness of Coronavirus (COVID-19) and steps they can take to avoid the spread of the disease. Individuals experiencing symptoms such as fever (especially if greater than 100), cough (often dry), body aches/headache, shortness of breath, runny/stuffy nose, chills, and general fatigue must NOT report to work. Depending on the severity of your symptoms, call your healthcare provider. See CDC’s guidelines if you are sick.

OSHA requires employers to identify, assess, and mitigate/prevent/control workplace hazards. As part of this process, businesses should communicate with their employees about COVID-19, recognizing that workplace environments differ across each business sector.

Resources for educating employees on Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Preventing the Spread at the Plant and on the Jobsite

The coronavirus, which can remain virulent in the air and on hard surfaces, is easily transmitted. To reduce transmitting the disease, public health agencies and governments emphasize – and in many cases mandate – social distancing and discourage the congregation of groups. Individuals who must work closely to each other during physically demanding activities could be at increased risk for contracting and further spreading COVID-19. To help “flatten the curve” and prevent the spread of the coronavirus, “Do the Five” with additional CDC recommendations, as indicated below:

  1. HANDS: Wash them often
  2. ELBOW: Cough into it
  3. FACE: Don’t touch it
  4. FEET: Stay more than 6 feet apart
  5. FEEL sick? Stay home

Since road construction work occurs outdoors with limited water (and soap) sources, NAPA provides the following important considerations:

  • Employees should have access to, at a minimum, disinfectant wipes, gels, and/or other materials that can help prevent the virus’s spread. If soap and water are not available, clean your hands with commercially available hand sanitizer appropriate for skin and containing at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry (CDC recommendation).
  • Attention should be paid to good hand-washing techniques.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces of equipment and vehicles often and at the beginning of each day or shift. Pay special attention to handles of tools (e.g., shovels and lutes), controls, and door or faucet handles.
  • Clean hard surfaces with rubbing alcohol solutions (at least 70%) or commercially available disinfectants that are EPA-approved. Encourage employees to be mindful of ventilation while disinfecting surfaces.
  • If you are unsure whether a hard, touchable surface has been disinfected, clean it before you touch it, and then clean it again after you are done.
  • Some experts have suggested wearing cloth or leather gloves that might absorb viral droplets and are bulky enough to discourage individuals from touching their face.
  • Conduct disinfection drills to ensure all equipment has been thoroughly disinfected at the beginning of the day or shift.

Additional Best Practices for the Asphalt Industry

Listed below are some additional suggested practices and recommendations compiled from industry submissions, government agencies, and other trade associations. Consider implementing to minimize contracting or transmitting COVID-19, in addition to those recommendations listed above. These will be updated and/or revised as needed:

  • Minimize or eliminate face-to-face training and meetings.
  • Minimize or eliminate visitation with non-essential individuals.
  • Minimize or eliminate employee ride-sharing. If necessary, ensure no more than two individuals per vehicle. Ensure adequate ventilation, preferably fresh air, during the vehicular transportation of employees.
  • Minimize or eliminate transfer of paper tickets or cash. Be careful of using electronic payment tools and ensure the surface is clean or disinfected.
  • Minimize or eliminate sharing of pens.
  • Attempt to use/drive the same truck, piece of equipment, or tool; ensure it is disinfected after use.
  • Request third-party haulers to remain in their vehicles, if possible.
  • Segregate delivery personnel from plant personnel, if possible.
  • Maintain social distancing as much as possible, do not shake hands, and do not congregate.
  • In lieu of using a common source of drinking water, consider individual water bottles.

Documenting Hazard Mitigation Strategies

  1. Ensure daily that employees are not symptomatic or have tested positive for COVID-19 (This needs to be conducted by an authorized representative, e.g., HR).
  2. Develop a company policy for requiring employees to stay home or self-quarantine.
  3. Consider developing an Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response Plan: OSHA has recommended classifying a worker’s exposure to COVID-19 based on a worker’s or the employment type risk factor. For example, office workers, individuals directly interacting with others or groups, high-risk individuals, etc. Examples are available on the Internet for municipalities. See Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19, starting on p. 7.

Want more information?

April 7

WISDOT MEETING CHANGES (UPDATED)

WisDOT has agreed to offer virtual HMA Inspection Trainings starting next week. After several conversations, it was decided that one three-hour session will be offered for each region. WisDOT will provide the instruction but WAPA will attend all of the sessions as well to provide input or answer any questions.

The dates and times scheduled are as follows:
  • April 16, 1-4 PM (NCR)
  • April 21, 8-11 AM (SWR)
  • April 22, 8-11 AM (NWR)
  • April 22, 1-4 PM (SER)
  • April 23, 8-11 AM (NER)

We appreciate WisDOT staying engaged and connected with us during this process to ensure that these training sessions could be offered in some format for the 2020 construction season.

However, the Regional “Going Visiting” Meetings are still postponed for this spring. We’re looking at rescheduling these after the 2020 construction season or resuming them next spring.

WisDOT also announced that all public involvement meetings and open houses for design and construction projects have been temporarily suspended.
Please let us know if you have any questions or need any additional information.

April 3

Construction Notes

WisDOT E-Ticket Submittal Option: The department will temporarily allow the electronic submittal of load tickets on construction projects. The department is not requiring submittal of electronic copies, but the engineer and contractor are allowed to agree to use electronic methods of submittal, rather than printed paper. The electronic format can be agreed to by the engineer and contractor (PDF, photo, etc.) All of the existing contractual requirements related to tickets still remain (timing of submittal, information on ticket, etc.) Here is a list of best practices, regardless of the ticket format:

  1. Contractor notifies the engineer/inspector with a list of the trucks that will be hauling to the projects each day for each material. If a truck is removed from the project, the contractor notifies the inspector immediately and the inspector documents the removal time of the truck.
  2. Inspector performs periodic checks of trucks hauling to the project throughout the day and periodically documents the truck descriptions and the arrival times to the site.
  3. Per the standard specs, the contractor submits tickets at the required time. For electronic copies, the format can be agreed upon by the contractor and engineer (PDF, photo, etc.)
  4. Upon submittal of the tickets, the inspector compares the tickets to their periodic check-in documentation to verify the ticketed material was incorporated into the project.
  5. Inspectors continue to perform daily yield checks during the placement of materials to verify the ticketed quantities.

The contractual requirements for tickets from the 2020 Standard Specifications remain in effect, regardless of printed paper or electronic copies. Please contact WAPA or WisDOT directly if you have any questions or need any additional information.

Highway Technician Certification Program: HTCP classes are canceled for the rest of the 2020 season. A one-year extension will be granted to a technician that already has a valid certification and will be refunded the registration in full. New technicians to the program and their company is to leverage the ACT program with various caveats. Refunds will also take place. HTCP will look to add earlier classes for the 2021 season to account for more opportunities.

Flagger Certification: WisDOT is delaying the enforcement of a contract requirement that all flaggers be certified. If the contractor does not have an adequate number of certified flaggers available, the contractor can request a change order to avoid delaying contract work.

Commercial Drivers Licenses: WisDOT will allow Commercial Drivers Licenses that expire during the public health emergency will automatically be extended by 60 days and will not be subject to late fees. The driver record, visible to law enforcement, will show an extension and that the driver license is valid.

March 30

Advertising “Essential Service” Job Openings

WAPA was successful in advocating for road construction to be declared an essential service in Wisconsin, now the Department of Workforce Development (DWD) is helping to connect unemployed workers with employers, like our members who run essential businesses, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

While many businesses have temporarily closed and laid off their workers, others are ramping up to fill new jobs. DWD has created a webpage to connect job seekers to the in-demand jobs posted on JobCenterofWisconsin.com. These jobs include the construction industry, which was granted an exception under “essential infrastructure” which includes roads, highways, oil refining, and other related occupations. Visit wisconsinjobcenter.org/lookforjobs/in-demand.htm to connect to in-demand jobs in Wisconsin.

Members looking to connect with job seekers can post positions for free on JobCenterofWisconsin.com, Wisconsin’s free online job search tool. Both employers and job seekers can connect on the site without charge. If you need assistance posting jobs on the website, please email JobCenterofWisconsin@dwd.wi.gov or call 888-258-9966.

March 26

WisDOT COVID-19 Reporting Requirements

To ensure the health and safety of state employees and members of the general public who are served by state government, WisDOT has implemented reporting requirements for contractors that have had any potential exposure to COVID-19.

Memos on the new requirements and a reporting form can be found here.

March 24

Construction Industry United Behind Health, Safety and Community Support

The Wisconsin construction industry is committed to the health, safety and welfare of our workforce and the public. Our respective organizations represent labor and management in the Wisconsin construction industry. We are continuing to support Governor Evers, legislative leaders and state agencies with their efforts to protect the health and well-being of the citizens of the State of Wisconsin.

Per the Governor’s latest order, we will continue to safely and efficiently provide essential services in the state, while educating employers and employees on best practices to conduct operations safely in accordance with DHS and CDC guidelines. Our industry has already taken great precautions in accordance with the CDC and OSHA, taking into account construction sites are unique workplaces with built-in social distancing that already require rigorous safety protocols.

Governor Evers’ order to exempt construction is consistent with other states that have issued “shelter at home” or “stay at home” orders. Work being done on roads and bridges, in hospitals, and other public works that are critical to operate efficiently and effectively during this pandemic must continue.  Even commercial building construction and multi-family housing sites could become a long-term risk to overall health and safety if left unfinished.

We understand these decisions are not made casually and we thank Governor Evers for his thoughtful and steady leadership in these difficult times. The decisions made by Governor Evers are not solely driven by the loss of jobs and tax-income in construction in the state, but also to avoid additional hazards and disruption to our neighbors already impacted by this public health emergency. We appreciate his well-reasoned approach.

It is impossible to overstate the profound effect that COVID-19 has on us all. With this comes uncertainty among many industries. Our groups represent over 40,000 members of the Wisconsin building trades and thousands of businesses that are literally building Wisconsin. We understand the importance of balancing public health with the need to address critical infrastructure projects. We do not take our roles lightly and are keeping the power on, commerce moving, hospitals working, public works operational and construction projects safe.

View the press release here.

March 23

Wisconsin Governor Orders Nonessential Businesses to Close Statewide

Gov. Tony Evers has ordered all nonessential businesses to close down Tuesday, in the latest effort to clamp down on nonessential travel and limit exposure to COVID-19 coronavirus, which has killed four people in the state. Evers announced the “safer-at-home” order Monday, which he plans to sign Tuesday. Evers noted the order is not a lockdown, but rather an attempt to limit unnecessary trips.

The construction industry remains exempt and specific language refers to “essential infrastructure” including roads, highways, and oil refining. It’s also stated that “Essential Infrastructure shall be construed broadly to avoid any impacts to essential infrastructure, broadly defined.”

When the policy passes, Wisconsin will join other states including California, Ohio and Illinois, which have passed similar orders — also referred to as “stay-at-home” or “shelter-in-place” directives, due to the respiratory disease which has infected nearly 400 people across Wisconsin.

Evers said the order, which strongly urges residents to stay home unless absolutely necessary, “isn’t something I thought we’d have to do, and it’s not something I take lightly. But here’s the bottom line: folks need to start taking this seriously.”

View the press release here.

March 21

DHS Exempts Construction From Ban

In Emergency Order 8, the Department of Health Services (DHS) outlined the types of entities that are exempt from the ban on mass gatherings and should maintain their usual work schedules to aid the state’s response to the coronavirus outbreak. The list identified workers that are essential to critical infrastructure viability which included construction sites and projects, including public works. WAPA will continue to advocate for declaring road construction as an essential service in Wisconsin.

March 20

NAPA Launches Coronavirus Website

NAPA recognizes the impact the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) may be having on your business, employees, and families. We know the safety and health of your employees is your priority. To help during these challenging times, NAPA has created a dedicated web page to corral news and resources that are especially pertinent to the asphalt pavement industry. It will be updated regularly with breaking information on relevant legislation, best safety and health practices, ways to conduct training and maintain accreditation during a pandemic, and event cancellations.

March 19

Wisconsin Construction Industry Statement Regarding Jobsite Safety and the COVID-19 Outbreak

The Wisconsin construction industry is committed to the health, safety and welfare of our workforce and the public. Our respective organizations represent labor and management in the Wisconsin construction industry. The purpose of this communication is to describe the specific mitigation strategies that our members – the Wisconsin construction industry employers and their skilled workforce – are taking to combat the COVID‐19 outbreak.

The following strategies, which are derived from CDC and OSHA workplace recommendations, have been and are being implemented on our construction industry jobsites across the state. Our organizations are promoting the universal implementation of these measures to safeguard Wisconsin construction industry jobsites through the duration of the COVID‐19 outbreak.

Hand‐washing and other hygiene measures are key to preventing the spread of viruses, including COVID‐19. The following measures are being taken across Wisconsin’s construction industry:

  • Worker education – through specific communications– of the importance of frequent handwashing, hand hygiene,cough and sneeze etiquette, and staying home when sick. All employees must carefully observe these requirements.
  • Careful attention to jobsite toilet and hand-cleaning facilities. All employers must ensure that these facilities are in clean, working order and stocked with soap and/or handsanitizer.
  • Jobsite and equipment cleanliness. Jobsites must be kept clean, with frequent cleaning of any frequently touched surfaces on the site. Any tools or equipment that might be shared by workers must be cleaned before and after use.

Construction jobsites are not densely populated work areas. Regardless, the following social distancing measures are also being taken across our industry:

  • Workers are being instructed to observe a minimum distance of six (6) feet between individuals to increase physical space between workers at the worksite. This includes pre‐work and post‐work events of all kinds.
  • Construction work in enclosed or partially enclosed spaces will have no more than 10 people working in any one area.
  • Wearing gloves is being encouraged.
  • Employers may use thermal imaging equipment or laser thermometers to test employees for fevers.  Anyone testing high will be sent home.
  • Workers who are experiencing flu-like symptoms are asked to stay home.
  • Employers are modifying their jobsite communications, planning, and schedules to shrink or eliminate group gatherings.This includes changes to, or the elimination of, pre‐job conferences, communal break locations, and any other activity that would bring a group of people together on the jobsite. Policies for material deliveries and other third‐party jobsite visits are being altered. Employers are simultaneously implementing new strategies to ensure ongoing, successful jobsite communications.

These and other measures – which include remote work directives in office settings – have the full support of labor and management. We will continue to support and take the steps necessary to protect the health, safety and welfare of our workforce and the public.

March 18

WisDOT: COVID-19 Not Impacting Construction

In a conference call this afternoon with construction industry organizations, Wisconsin Department of Transportation Secretary Craig Thompson emphasized that the agency is taking all necessary steps to maintain project design and construction operations as the state deals with the impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak.

“We are putting ourselves in a position of continuing to move forward in terms of our design and construction program,” Sec. Thompson said.

Rebecca Burkel, administrator of WisDOT’s Division of Transportation Systems Development, said the division is emphasizing ongoing communication — both at the project-specific and higher administrative levels — as it deals with a constantly changing situation. Internally, WisDOT is trying to leverage technology as much as possible to reduce face-to-face meetings and many employees are working remotely to the greatest extent possible.

Regardless, the department is committed to keeping the construction program going and promptly paying industry partners.

Here are some key takeaways from this afternoon’s call:

  • Projects and lettings are proceeding without delay.
  • Contractors should be in constant contact with WisDOT staff on issues such as project status, materials and staffing issues, and safety in field construction offices.
  • There is no uniform policy on meetings; it is on a case-by-case basis, however, a ban is in place on gatherings that involve more than 10 people.
  • WisDOT and industry will conduct regular communication on a weekly basis, or more frequently as needed.
  • Ongoing communication is very important. Contractors encountering issues in the field should communicate them immediately.

March 16

Note from March 2020 WAPA Executive Update Newsletter

Before we present the new products offered for the 2020 construction season, and I’m certainly proud of what we’ve been working on, I do think it’s important for all of us to recognize the global health pandemic caused by the coronavirus and COVID-19 disease.

We have entered a very challenging economic time in our country due to the public health emergency and we have communities throughout our state that will be directly impacted. Our industry is no exception.

Operationally, this is something we’ve never experienced before. There are a whole host of concerns that we are working through right now. First on that list is making sure that all of our employees are safe. Our industry and association, like all organizations, are contenting with disruptions to operations that will impact our workplace. We will keep you updated on any changes to meeting schedules, construction project details, impacts on workforce, and anything that might affect your business operations. So that’s been the top-level concern.

The full extent of the impacts from the pandemic are not fully known, but WAPA will continue to keep the industry informed of pertinent information as it becomes available. As always, please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or concerns and we’ll be as of much assistance as possible.

Lastly, I hope that everyone will do their best to aid others in what will continue to be a very trying time in our state and likely throughout the country as we move forward together.