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Construction workers running low on PPE, COVID-19 impacts industry

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MADISON (WKOW) -- While many people hunker down at home during the coronavirus pandemic, thousands of local construction workers are still on the job as essential workers.

The Construction Business Group (CBG) announced new guidelines to help laborers stay safe while continuing their work, but some groups say they are running low on protective gear.

In a new video, the organization details protective procedures to include limiting deliveries, restricting access to job sites for unnecessary visitors and vigorous cleaning of frequently used spaces.

Executive Director of CBG Robb Kahl said while new procedures are in place he's concern some job sites don't have enough protective gear.

"What we're seeing is that there are issues of are shortages on personal protective gear that gets addressed on the job site and their representatives with the contractors," said Kahl.

"But, are there gloves and glasses and mask on every single job site? No."

Kahl said the shortage is due to the medical community asking for donations for N95 respirators and masks.

"What we are doing is the best we can, we're utilizing what is available, and if it's not available, exercising that social distancing that we have," said Kahl.

Kahl said they are not putting workers in harm's way but depending on the job some work requires a closer distance and masks are not always available.

Impact on the economy

Almost all construction work is deemed essential under Gov. Tony Evers "Safer at Home" order but retail and home construction may slow down during the pandemic.

Kahl said it's hard to predict the overall economic impact in the industry will experience during this crisis but acknowledged some work is slowing down or being put aside because most people are not looking to build or buy homes.

"It will have an impact and then that's a trickle-down impact on realtors, the banking industry, and so forth. So we are hoping that we can maintain what is out there in our construction industry and that we can ramp up as rapidly as safely possible when the time comes to get projects going again," said Kahl.

The Wisconsin construction industry employs 94,200 workers and generates $7.71 billion in economic impact for communities across the state, according to CGB.

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Emilee Fannon

Capital Bureau Chief

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