TAMPA, Fla. -- While many people across the state hunker down at home, thousands of local construction workers are still on the job as essential workers.
But I-Team Investigator Adam Walser uncovered some construction sites ignoring important health rules, potentially putting their communities at risk.
Despite the stay-at-home orders due to COVID-19, construction in Tampa continues at a rapid pace, from high rise condos, to shopping centers, to office space, to new homes.
Before the pandemic, 7 million Americans, including 563,000 Floridians, worked in construction.
Tampa’s 50 largest open construction sites employ more than 12,000 people.
And that work is allowed to continue under state and local stay-at-home orders, but only if workers abide by certain safety standards.
Those rules include keeping workers separated by more than six feet and gloves are required to be worn at all times. Work sites have to have wash or hand sanitizer stations and workers should not share hand tools.
But the I-Team uncovered construction workers in Tampa violating those rules at more than half a dozen work sites.
At multiple sites, we found workers sharing small lifts.
Two men crowded into the same small construction elevator on a high-rise project.
Masons huddled close together at several job sites, passing concrete blocks and bricks.
Some wore gloves, others did not.
At another site, a worker who wasn’t wearing gloves handed a tape measure to another worker, who was also not wearing gloves.
Three men stood shoulder-to-shoulder with no gloves or masks, touching the same piece of glass.
We shared out findings with Carole Post, Tampa’s Director of Development and Economic Opportunity.
“It’s helpful to keep that really important machine running but they have to do it carefully and they have to do it safely. To see that that is not happening though out all our sites is very disappointing,” Post said.
After we sent the city our findings last week, Tampa started sending out medical teams to do spot inspections at more than 50 major construction sites.
The city had been planning for the oversight program for three weeks, including engaging a medical director and nurses, setting up protocols and scheduling inspections.
“The project managers for these sites have been very cooperative they’ve actually been quite interested in having our assistance and having that added layer or protection,” Post said.
There aren’t just issues in Tampa.
The I-Team received pictures from a Sarasota County Construction site shared by a concerned worker who doesn’t want to be identified, because he’s afraid of losing his job.
He says his coworkers arrive for work crammed packed in the same vehicle, crowd around the lunch truck and work out of the same supply van.
“It takes just a stroke of a pen for all construction activity in a region to be shut down if construction workers the people who run firms are not taking this seriously,” said Brian Turmail, Vice President of the Associated General Contractors of America, the largest construction trade association in the United States.
His group has sent videos and other training to members try to help keep them working safely.
“Their ability to continue to work is very much a privilege, not a right at this point. And that privilege is based on their ability to protect their workers and to protect through them, the safety of the public,” said Turmail.
If you observe construction workers failing to abide by coronavirus health and safety standards, including social distancing guidelines, you should notify your local building inspections department.
In Tampa, city officials say they have not taken any type of enforcement action against any of the workers or firms caught not abiding by those rules.
They say they do have the authority under the governor’s order to do so, if it becomes a continuing problem.
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