Below, please find some updated information on Pennsylvania’s response to the COVID-19, including: Business Operations, L&I Information, Waivers, & Enforcement.
On Thursday evening, Gov. Wolf announced that only businesses considered “life-sustaining” can continue to keep open a physical business location. This order significantly strengthens the governor’s previous guidance to businesses earlier last week. The list of businesses considered “life sustaining” was updated on Friday evening. You can view the order HERE and the updated list HERE.
The order, in part, states: “[n]o person or entity shall operate a place of business in the Commonwealth that is not a life sustaining business regardless of whether the business is open to members of the public. This prohibition does not apply to virtual or telework operations (e.g., work from home), so long as social distancing and other mitigation measures are followed in such operations.”
The list of “non-life sustaining” business operations includes: Construction: residential & non-residential (except emergency repairs permitted).
Public sector functions are absent from the list. Local political units are not required to suspend in-person physical operations. However, most local jurisdictions have significantly modified operations in the current environment to appropriately balance public safety with public service.
The Administration did produce a FAQ document on the matter which may be of some help – view it HERE. An excerpt from the document reads “[t]he identified sectors in the list of life-sustaining businesses is not intended to be an authoritative or exhaustive list of critical infrastructure sectors and functions that should continue during the COVID-19 response. State and local officials should use best judgment in exercising their authorities and issuing implementation directives and guidance. Similarly, critical infrastructure industry partners must use best judgment, informed by the list and DHS Guidance, to ensure continued operations of critical infrastructure services and functions. All such decisions should appropriately balance public health and safety while ensuring the continued deliver of critical infrastructure services and functions.”
Today, PENNBOC received the following communication from the PA Department of Labor & Industry:
“The Department has been receiving multiple questions from individuals across the State since Governor Wolf’s order came out last week. We hope that the below guidance on these questions is helpful for you and the individuals you interact with in the construction field.
1. Must construction on health care related facilities and required inspections also stop?
Construction on health care facilities has been determined to be life sustaining business; therefore, code inspections services required for these activities should be considered life sustaining activities as well.
2. Must installation of emergency tents on hospital grounds for coronavirus screening and required inspections stop?
Inspection on emergency tents is also considered life sustaining business, and may continue.
3. Municipal Employees doing plan reviews and inspections may continue but third parties must shut down?
Third party agencies are permitted to continue to provide inspections for limited circumstances that include health care facilities, emergency repairs and work that is being conducted in connection with a DCED waiver.
4. Municipalities are informing third parties that they expect them to continue performing their contracted duties. How should third parties respond to this?
Third party agencies should indicate that they are permitted to continue to provide inspections for limited circumstances that include health care facilities, emergency repairs and work that is being conducted in connection with a DCED waiver in an effort to continue those services requested by the municipality.
5. Inspections were already scheduled when the order to shut down was issued. Can these still be performed?
Continued inspections would be dependent on the structures and use, and whether it is classified as an emergency repair. Currently the main exception is for health care facilities and emergency repairs to commercial and residential structures. If a construction project has received a waiver through DCED to continue work on the project, then inspections may continue.
6. Contractors who ignore the order and continue….wanting inspections. What should they be told?
Contractors who ignore the order and request an inspection should be denied that request, and the requestor should be reminded of the governor’s orders that have suspended construction activities throughout the Commonwealth with the exception of healthcare facilities and emergency repairs to commercial and residential structures. The contractor should be advised to seek a waiver from DCED for the project/work.
7. Homeowners doing their own work not covered by the order….how to respond when they call for an inspection?
Repair and/or maintenance for customers in their homes is allowable under the Personal and Household Goods Repair and Maintenance section of the Governor’s order. Any inspection request that does not fall under this category should be denied unless the homeowner has secured a waiver from DCED.
Sincerely, Matthew W. Kegg | Director
PA Department of Labor & Industry
Bureau of Occupational & Industrial Safety”
Per the Wolf Administration, If a business listed for closure believes it could help mitigate this crisis by providing a life sustaining service, it can seek an exemption. Businesses can get an online waiver application through the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) website. or may contact the Department of Community and Economic Development at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 1-877-PA-HEALTH and selecting option 1.
When a business completes a waiver form, DCED will review each request and respond via email if their operations may re-open. Businesses applying for a waiver must remain closed until a decision is made about the application.
Enforcement of the order has been re-scheduled to begin on Monday, March 23, at 8:00am.
To report a non-compliant business, contact your local law enforcement agency’s non-emergency number or the nearest Pennsylvania State Police station. Please do not call 911 to file reports.