Covid-19 and Hiring Contractors: What Homeowners Need To know

contractors wearing face masks

For many homeowners who are planning on repairs, upgrades or renovations, the idea of having contractors and workers come into their homes in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic has many of us putting those plans on hold, with concerns about potential transmission of the virus from strangers. We’ve been told and taught to shelter in place and avoid contact with others who are not family members. And though restrictions are slowly being lifted, there are still precautions we need to take to keep safe, according to government officials and the medical community.

While there are guidelines that OSHA has put out for the Construction Industry, employees and workers, there has been nothing officially offered that addresses the homeowners and their families, and how to best protect themselves. I personally contacted the CDC several times asking for some help in this area and they ultimately admitted that they do not currently have guidelines on this but referred me to the CDC’s and OSHA’s guidelines as well as our states’ public health departments. So that’s what we have here, and links to those sites are included below.

It’s pretty much a given that having workers wear masks, washing their hands before beginning their work and if possible, wear gloves when they can, along with sanitizing the areas they’re working on before and after, is going to be the least that should be required. This goes along with OSHA’s guidelines for workers but it’s going to be the homeowners’ responsibility to ensure they follow those guidelines.

Researching the internet, I’ve reviewed several articles around protecting consumers from outside service repair people and also reviewed some legal suggestions. And as someone who will be doing some needed repairs and upgrades over the next 3-6 months and who is immune-compromised, I came up with some guidelines suggested from a mix of the CDC, OSHA, and various consumer reporting agencies.

Here are some suggestions and best practices to ensure you and your family are protected:

1.) As the homeowner, sanitize the areas where the work will be performed paying attention to surfaces that are high touch areas.

2.) Place protective plastic sheeting on the floor and footpath that they will be using as an extra precaution. Even putting down old sheets helps.

3.) With some jobs, you may want to require sealing off the areas that are being worked on with plastic sheeting such as is used in lead, mold, or asbestos abatements. Many contractors have implemented this practice to protect everyone in the home.

4.) Require that every worker who comes into your home, wash their hands before, and if that’s not possible, use hand sanitizers. At the very least, soap and an outdoor hose can help as well.

5.) Have the workers sanitize the area with spray or wipe disinfectants that kill the virus before they begin work and after they’re done, paying attention to hi-touch surfaces.

6.) Workers are to wear face masks and protective (nitrile) gloves whenever possible.

7.) Require shoe coverings that are new and used solely on your project.

8.) Ask that they sanitize their equipment before bringing them into the home but do it outside on your property where you can see them doing it. You don’t want them dragging in their equipment brought in from previous projects without being sanitized first.

9.) Social distancing between themselves may be difficult, but definitely require that when you yourself are communicating to the workers. On the many jobs, I’ve witnessed it’s often difficult for workers to do this as they may need assistance from their co-workers to perform a task.

10.) The work area must be cleaned and sanitized at the beginning and at the end of workdays.

11.) When workers leave the home, disinfect the areas again even though they themselves disinfected the areas before they left the premisses.

Yes, it sounds like overkill, but given the highly transmissible nature of this virus, and the fact that there is still much to be learned about this virus. it’s necessary to protect yourself and your family from exposure to the virus. The only other issue is having the temperature of everyone taken before beginning work. OSHA’s guidelines suggest employers take daily temperatures of their employees and workers but smaller companies may not be doing this. You can always ask the contractor or repair person what they are doing regarding this as so many companies have implemented this procedure as they reopen their business to the public.

Finally, and this is an important point: have these requirements and guidelines for the contractor and workers, included in your written agreement or contract. Just like anything else you expect to have happen in regards to the work to be performed for any job, you need to have it in writing and in detail, so everyone knows what to do and what’s expected of them. From a legal standpoint, it’s smart and it will give you some peace of mind knowing you did everything you could do to protect yourself and family during these challenging times.

Here are some additional resources to review:

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/prevention.html

https://www.consumerreports.org/home-maintenance-repairs/how-to-handle-a-home-service-call-during-coronavirus-pandemic/

guidance-construction PDF

osha-4000-covid-guidance-for-construction-alert-4-21 PDF

 

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