Construction workers vaccinated against COVID-19 may not need to wear masks

May 21, 2021

Construction employers and workers have more options at job sites as new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states a fully vaccinated person can “participate in outdoor activities and recreation without a mask, except in certain crowded settings and venues.” However, construction safety experts say the guidance will not eliminate the need for masks and caution.

Although the CDC guidance does not address workplaces, labor safety stakeholders say it gives construction employers the choice of allowing fully vaccinated workers to remove masks when they are outdoors and more than 6 feet away from other workers and the public or working near other fully vaccinated workers. The guidance does not apply to workers who are not fully vaccinated or to vaccinated workers in crowded settings.

Travis Parsons, associate director of occupational safety and health for the Laborers’ Health & Safety Fund of North America, says groups of workers traveling together likely know each other’s vaccination statuses, but it is more difficult to know who has been vaccinated at construction sites with multiple employers. He suggests workers continue to practice social distancing as much as possible.

As the weather heats up, some are in favor of relaxing mask requirements for fully vaccinated workers when working outdoors; however, construction trade associations such as the National Association of Home Builders are hesitant to tell their members to do so. Local and state health and building departments may have their own requirements, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s COVID-19 emergency rulemaking currently is under review so it is unknown how it may address mask mandates

OSHA’s current guidance “generally recommends that employers encourage workers to wear cloth face coverings at work to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.” It also says employers with workers in hot conditions should “allow workers to remove cloth face coverings when they can safely maintain at least 6 feet of physical distance from others.”