NJ Allows Construction Work to Continue With Precautions

March 21, 2020Alerts

Construction workers are permitted to continue working in New Jersey, but projects must reduce onsite staff to the minimum needed and adhere to safety precautions, under the terms of two executive orders issued on March 21 by Gov. Phil Murphy that imposed broad restrictions on business and social activity to curtail the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

In Executive Order No. 107, the governor ordered all non-essential brick and mortar retail businesses to close to the public, and cancellation of all social gatherings. In Executive Order No. 108, the governor declared invalid any county or municipal restriction that in any way conflicts with any of the provisions of EO 107.

EO 107 also set parameters for a variety of industries, including construction.

Notably, paragraph 11 of EO 107 states that "To the extent a business or nonprofit has employees that cannot perform their functions via telework or work-from-home arrangements, the business or nonprofit should make best efforts to reduce staff on site to the minimal number necessary to ensure that essential operations can continue."

According to EO 107, employees who "need to be physically present at their work site" to perform their duties include "law enforcement officers, fire fighters, and other first responders, cashiers or store clerks, construction workers, utility workers, repair workers, warehouse workers, lab researchers, information technology maintenance workers, janitorial and custodial staff, and certain administrative staff.”

As a result, EO 107 permits construction to continue provided certain precautions are taken, such as making best efforts to reduce staff on site to the minimal number necessary to ensure that “essential operations can continue.”

Construction sites are not public spaces and therefore are distinguishable from non-essential retail businesses that were ordered to be closed to the public. Even retail sites are not closed to employees because paragraph 2 of EO 107 allows for residents to travel for work, but are to be given an option to work from home where possible.

Construction workers are specifically listed in EO 107 as employees who "cannot perform services by telecommuting and need to physically be on site to perform their work." Generally, EO 108 does not allow for any county and municipality to issue additional restrictions and/or in conflict with EO 107. However, specifically, paragraph 1(b) of EO 108 states that local agencies cannot issue “any limitations imposed on any business’s scope of services or hours of operation.”