The city of Tampa, Florida, is sending nurses to construction sites to spot-check compliance with COVID-19 safety guidelines. Developers and contractors are on board. In fact, they're paying for it.
"We're not here to be punitive," the city's development and economic opportunity administrator, Carole Post, told Construction Dive. "It's quite the opposite. We're here to try to keep [them] in business."
Construction crews are pushing hard to finish more than $1 billion worth of projects by February, when the city will host the Super Bowl. Those projects include a $200 million JW Marriott hotel and the first phase of the $550 million Midtown Tampa mixed-use development.
The inspection program covers only large structures: height of more than 3 stories or 50 feet, or occupancy of more than 5,000 square feet or 500 people. The city requires those projects—52 of them currently—to meet several safety standards:
- Have a designated COVID-19 compliance coordinator always on the jobsite.
- Close jobsites to the public.
- Require workers to stay 6 feet apart.
- Have handwashing stations.
- Post approved COVID-19 information.
- Cut maximum occupancy by 50% in jobsite trailers.
- Require everyone on-site except office workers to wear construction-grade gloves at all times.
- Restrict locations and pickup/drop-off points for food trucks.
The city recruited about 20 licensed nurses, mostly from the faculty at the local campus of Rasmussen College. They make unannounced jobsite visits approximately 3 times a week. The nurses have reported that most jobsites are following the rules with only a few minor, easily corrected violations, such as inadequate handwashing stations.
Tampa labor and employment attorney Phillip Russell said he wasn't surprised. The large contractors doing those big jobs already have safety programs and personnel. The broad compliance with the new rules, he said, shows that contractors and developers were already committed to safety.
"You don't necessarily need more government for employers to do the safe thing for their workers," he told Construction Dive.
If the nurses find a problem, they bring it up with the site's compliance coordinator. The city doesn't impose fines or other penalties. "We're not trying to catch you or 'gotcha' and issue a fine," Post told the Tampa Bay Times. "It's really about trying to reinforce good behavior."
Nick Haines, CEO of Midtown Tampa developer The Bromley Companies, helped rally support for the idea among developers.
"I think all the contractors and all the workers on the sites realized that their livelihoods were dependent on us really banding together and adhering to these protocols," Haines said.
"Our strategy was to do things in advance of being told to do them."