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Construction workers concerned about working closely on job sites

Worker Cluster.jpg
Posted at 5:28 PM, Apr 07, 2020
and last updated 2021-01-29 23:42:37-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Construction downtown is just as busy today as it was before the COVID-19 crisis.

Construction workers are considered essential employees and job sites are full.

But some workers are concerned that sites are not following social distancing requirements.

Four states including Washington, Pennsylvania, New York and Michigan have halted non-essential construction - which includes office buildings, retail and hotels.

But that has not happened in Tennessee.

Victor White with the Carpenters Union said social distancing is "impossible" at some construction sites.

He is concerned by what he is seeing.

"Riding around Davidson County, I've seen projects where I said to myself, 'you know, I'm glad I'm not on that project," White said.

"In times of crisis, you have to slow the schedule down a little bit to provide a safe environment for your workforce," White said.

NewsChannel 5 Investigates found some workers who were not wearing masks.

We also saw workers going up in lifts - side by side.

We routinely saw employees clustered closely together.

Ethan Link is with the Southeast Laborers' District Council, a union that represents construction workers across the southeast.

"Frequently those workers don't feel like they can speak up. They don't feel like they have the protections to speak up," Link said.

He said many workers travel from job to job and state to state.

"They are likely to be in North Carolina next week, Florida next month and that is exactly the kind of thing that causes these things to spread throughout the entire industry," Link said.

White said COVID-19 has been found on construction sites from the Canadian border to Miami.

He is most concerned about labor brokers that hire workers during labor shortages which has happened often in Nashville.

He said those workers are usually more transient.

"We're concerned about everybody in the industry, because at some point they may be working side by side with us," White said.

Some large contractors like TVA now provide training videos for workers.

That training might prevent people from sitting too closely together during lunch breaks.

Some contractors are providing masks and hand washing stations.

"It is not necessary to shut down construction sites if workers are given proper training and equipment," Link said.

Link is concerned that some workers may come to work sick because they cannot afford to lose pay or lose their job.

In an open letter to the Governor Bill Lee on Monday a group of community and faith organizers as well as labor unions said the state should suspend certain state laws that limit local governments from requiring employers to provide sick days to employees.


See all our coronavirus coverage here


What is COVID-19 (a.k.a. the new coronavirus?)

According to the World Health Organization, coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases. Examples include the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). A novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans. COVID-19 stands for "Coronavirus disease 2019," which is when this strain of the coronavirus was discovered.

What are the symptoms?

The CDC says patients confirmed to have the 2019-nCoV reportedly had mild to severe respiratory illness with:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

Or at least two of the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Repeated shaking with chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • New loss of taste or smell

At this time, the CDC believes symptoms could appear as soon as two days after exposure, or as long as 14 days.


The CDC is recommending "common sense" measures such as:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.