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Construction projects still up and running as nonessential businesses are directed to close

Posted at 7:48 PM, Mar 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-21 09:16:04-04

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — While the majority of businesses across Nevada have been directed to close for the next month, there are still many construction sites up and running with hundreds, sometimes thousands of people working every day. The question is why is construction considered essential during this time and what these companies are doing to protect the health and safety of workers.

Less than 24 hours after Gov. Sisolak's asked all non-essential businesses in Nevada to close for 30 days, the state's Department of Business and Industry issued guidelines for construction sites, including practicing social distancing, providing sanitation and cleaning supplies for common surfaces and equipment and conducting daily surveys of health of staff.

"We've all said we'll keep the distance we're supposed to and if any of them have any safety concerns that someone in the company's not doing it on one of the job sites to let us know so we can pull them off that job," said Monte Brown, president of R.A.M.M. Corporation, a local excavating and paving company.

He said he has also given his 65 employees the option of staying home if they feel uncomfortable being on the job.

"They can file unemployment or whatever they like but most of my employees have told me they would like to work, they need the money to pay their bills," said Brown.

Brown said if an employee chooses to stay home during this time, there will be a job waiting for them on the other end.

"I'm basically working for them," said Brown. "They want the money and I know what's it like to go file unemployment right now because of the tremendous amount of people so to me if they are scared and want to stay home, I will not, they got a job the minute they come back. I'm just doing this so they can survive and feed their families."

Brown's approach mirrors how many big companies are handling coronavirus concerns.

RELATED: Gov. Sisolak orders all nonessential businesses in the state to shut down

One electrician on site of the Google Data Center in Henderson said his union entered into a union agreement that allows the employer to remove an employee if they are considered high risk or for an employee to leave the job site if there is a genuine safety concern.

In either case, the employee would be put on a temporary furlough - able to collect unemployment and able to return to work when appropriate.

The electrician said the safety arm of the construction company, Holder, has been on site this week, offering voluntary temperature checks at the entrance and having workers fill out a self-reporting health questionaire.

He said instead of eating lunch in large groups, crews are split - only five to 10 people allowed together at a time.

He said while the company is doing what it can, it's nearly impossible to follow CDC and state guidelines on a construction site - between sanitizing shared equipment, proper distancing and keeping everyone healthy.

One of the biggest construction sites in Las Vegas right now - Allegiant Stadium. Last week, the Stadium Authority said it was 85 percent complete and still on track to be complete in late July. LVCVA president Steve Hill said in a statement "extraordinary steps" were being put in place to protect the health and safety of everyone on the project but we haven't been able to confirm with the LVCVA, the Raiders or the Stadium Authority what those steps are.