Northeast Ohio construction worker says no precautions being taken against coronavirus

“A lot of people are taking it lightly, and I don’t think now is the time to be taking it lightly,” he said.

Northeast Ohio construction worker says no precautions being taken against coronavirus

CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Industries and businesses across Ohio and the nation are on hold due to the coronavirus.

So why are construction projects in Northeast Ohio still in full swing?

Some workers worry their health is on the line.

19 Investigates spoke with a construction worker from Akron who said nothing has changed on construction sites.

He's worried about contracting the coronavirus, but he also worries speaking out will cost him his job.

“They’ve been told to suck it up and be a man, and do your work,” the commercial union electrician said.

We’re protecting his identity so he can speak freely.

“A lot of people are taking it lightly, and I don't think now is the time to be taking it lightly,” he said over the phone.

He said he is not seeing any protective measures, like social distancing, being taken on his job sites.

The only change he has seen is one site brought in portable sinks for hand washing.

“Disappointing, like there's a huge lack of leadership from them, locally all the way up. I feel like we should have a lot more information coming to us right now than is happening,” the worker said.

Sometimes he works with 10 people at a site, on other days, it can be 20 people.

But bigger construction sites have hundreds of people working together at a time from all over the state.

“The problem is, everybody works in close proximity. So you’re touching things people touch, you’re right next to them. It’s almost impossible to keep that 6-foot rule,” he said.

Just two days ago, Boston became the first city to shut down construction sites because of the coronavirus.

The mayor called it "a difficult decision to make."

This local construction worker thinks Ohio should follow suit.

“Why wouldn't they shut down construction? The work we're doing is non-essential. It would be different if I were working on a hospital, stuff needed to be up and running 24 hours a day and it couldn't go down, that's a different thing,” he said.

Recommendations to fight coronavirus on site

The Associated General Contractors just released “recommended practices” for construction job sites, including, these guidelines:

-Limit the number of people on site

-Take breaks in shifts, limiting to 10 people or less

-Gloves should be worn at all times

-Hand washing stations should be available

-Workers should not share tools and personal protection equipment

The nationwide union is against shutting down construction--saying it “will do little to protect the health and safety of construction workers. But it will go a long way in undermining economic vitality.”

The local worker we spoke with said safety should be a priority.

“If we all get sick, who's going to do this job when it passes?” he said.

Workers aren't sure how they'll get paid if construction sites do eventually shut down.

They may need to collect unemployment or rely on the federal stimulus package for coronavirus.

Union responses

19 News reached out to several construction unions in our area. We only heard back from two of them.

They told us if workers are sick or uncomfortable about coming in, they can stay home. But they won't get paid.

IBEW Local 306, Electricians Local Union in Akron

Business Manager Mike Might said they are getting extra wash stations on site and supplying workers with Purell. They are also telling crews not to group together during lunch breaks.

He said they are being “proactive and not reactive.” He said nothing major has shut down yet and they are following updates from the governor.

Otherwise, it would be up to the general contractor or owner to make the decision to shut down a work site.

“We’ll get through this,” Might said.

IBEW Local 38, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Cleveland

Business Manager Dennis Meaney said they are following CDC guidelines.

They are making sure they have enough soap and hand sanitizer on construction sites.

He said no one is forced to go to work.

Meaney said most construction sites are open, but some have slowed down.

He said they are not being told to be prepared for any mass layoffs at this time, and they are balancing safety and financial well-being for their workers.

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