The Puerto Rico Chapter of the Associated General Contractors of America (AGCPR) described the reactivation of the island’s construction industry and the 26,000 jobs it represents on May 11 as “a positive step.”
“Reopening the construction sector is an affirmative and important step to achieve the necessary balance between the health and economic wellbeing of the people of Puerto Rico,” AGCPR President Umberto Donato said.
“We acknowledge the efforts of Gov. Wanda Vázquez’s administration to protect the people of Puerto Rico from the threat COVID-19,” he said, acknowledging the role that Economic Development and Commerce Secretary Manuel Laboy took on to advocate, jointly with the trade group, for the reactivation of the construction industry “given the low risk of transmission and this sector’s significant economic impact.”
Aside from being an essential service and motor of economic activity, the construction industry has a relative transmission rate of 1.5%, which is very low, according to a recent report form the COVID-19 Medical Task Force, the group said.
In anticipation of resuming construction projects, the AGCPR has launched a program to orient members and industry colleagues about the health and safety guidelines issued by local and federal government agencies — including OSHA and the CDC, among others — to protect the health of construction workers and professionals, and their families.
“Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the construction industry already had to comply with strict safety and cleaning requirements in projects. Now, in light of our new reality, we just need to adopt the new state and federal guidelines to minimize the risks posed by COVID-19 and increase the frequency of other existing procedures,” Donato said.
“We’ll do this in collaboration and constant communication with the Puerto Rico Labor Department PR/OSHA and our health and occupational health committee. The AGCPR is providing members and industry colleagues information on how to protect their construction crews and staff,” he said.
This week, the trade group will be contacting government agencies in charge of construction projects to establish a work schedule according to the reactivation of projects and under new health guidelines, he said.
“In this context, agency heads play a vital role to immediately enable compliance with the mandate of the most recent executive order,” Donato said.
During the past seven weeks, the AGCPR has held 10 virtual seminars with an average attendance of 300 people per session to provide orientation about a diversity of issues that range from contracts and safety, to finance, federal assistance and health, Donato confirmed.
“It’s important that we embrace the opportunity to modernize Puerto Rico’s infrastructure after the hurricanes of 2017 and the earthquakes of 2020,” he said.
“The immediate investment of the federal funds assigned to Puerto Rico, ensuring proper, transparent and strategic use, will minimize the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and reactive economic activity in all sectors,” Donato said.