Essential Businesses and Operations: Navigating WV Executive Order No. 9-20

If you are like me, I am sure you are wondering when all this news will end. First, as a Society, I think we are being proactive in being part of a collective solution. The WVSPS Board of Directors and Executive Committee have already successfully tested and trained on video conferencing using the Zoom platform. We are actively pursuing this delivery method for Chapter meetings, general membership meetings and educational seminars and webinars. This will be important not only to help our membership maintain their PDHs but, more importantly, to help us maintain social distancing WITHOUT social separation or isolation. Personally, I am also using this time to ramp up my training online for things like OSHA 10- and 30-hoursAutoCAD, etc.

Over the weekend several states, including West Virginia, enacted emergency orders asking non-essential businesses to reduce their in-office workforces. They all use the term “Essential Businesses and Operations” or similar and they all make reference to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s March 19, 2020, Memorandum on Identification of Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers During COVID-19 Response. Several states have published clarifications specifically including (or not explicitly excluding) surveying and engineering as part of these essential operations. West Virginia, however, has not made that type of clarification yet.

In reading Governor Justice’s Executive Order No. 9-20 I believe that intent is an important tool to interpret documents and use as a guide just as you would interpret the intent of a deed describing the conveyance of land. In Section 6 titled “Intent of this Order,” Governor Justice states that the, “Order is to ensure that the maximum number of people self-isolate in their places of residence to the maximum extent feasible, while enabling essential services to continue.” Section 3f, “Essential Infrastructure,” Section 3g “Coal Mining” and Section 3u, “Professional Services,” include provisions that demand and impact the work of surveyors as an essential service.

Ultimately it is up to you and your company to make the final determination concerning the safety of your workplace and your personnel. Evaluate your client’s location and possibilities of congestion. Exercise all the precautions and recommendations issued by the Centers for Disease Control. The following are procedures I have put in place for my office and survey staff over the last few weeks:

  • All staff are either working at home or in the field.
  • Field staff have been directed to do the following:
    • Drive in separate vehicles
    • Open vehicle windows as often as possible
    • Maintain 6 feet or more distance with each other
    • Wipe down shared survey equipment
    • Wipe down survey trucks
    • Take proper sanitizing steps before returning home each day
    • Attend to your physical, mental and spiritual health
    • Stay positive

It is my opinion that our work is essential and part of the eventual solution to the current COVID-19 crisis. As surveyors, you are professionals who are accustomed to making important decisions every day. No one should be forced to work, so if you decide to continue, take the time and effort to make the right choices. Remember, Governor Justice’s order says we are “essential,” not invulnerable. I urge you all to use your best judgement and understanding in these stressful times.

Stay safe, stay positive and be part of the solution.

Thank you,
Bill Orsinger
President, WVSPS

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