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Low-risk construction can resume in Washington with protections for workers

Gov. Jay Inslee says low-risk construction can resume in Washington state, as long as strict health and safety guidelines are followed, including social distancing.

SEATTLE — Governor Jay Inslee announced Friday that a deal has been reached to allow low-risk construction to resume in Washington state, marking one of the first steps the state is taking to slowly reopen the economy amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Many construction projects were put on hold when Inslee issued a stay-at-home order March 23 to slow the spread of coronavirus.

"We have been working towards this measure for some time, and this work has allowed us to create a very comprehensive safety plan because we are thinking about everyone in construction," said Gov. Inslee.

The governor put together a task force from the building industry, state workers and the trade unions to come up with safety recommendations. The recommendations given to him are posted on the Washington Building and Trades Council website and list a number of new guidelines to try and keep workers safe at job sites.

RELATED: Recovery for Washington state will be gradual during coronavirus, says Gov. Inslee

They include things like having a COVID-19 site supervisor to monitor the health of employees and to make sure a safety plan is followed. Workers would be provided with personal protective equipment, like gloves, goggles, face shields and masks. They have to stay 6 feet apart, and soap and running water have to be abundantly provided for at all job sites for hand washing. The job sites will need extra cleaning, and workers will need extra training.

Watch Gov. Inslee's full press conference here:

If physical distancing is not possible on a job site, then that particular project will not be able to move forward at this time. 

Gov. Inslee did not say when other business could resume, such as small businesses being allowed to open. 

"The day of reopening our whole economy is certainly not today...If we did reopen today, this virus would return with a vengeance," Gov. Inslee said. 

But for now, allowing construction to restart at now dormant job sites will put thousands of people back to work.

RELATED: Sound Transit suspends nearly all light rail construction amid coronavirus crisis