COVID-19 has had far-reaching effects around the world and has left many industries reeling from the aftermath of shutting down for nearly two months. The financial impacts will be felt for quite some time, but the daily routine for many companies and industries will be changed indefinitely.
As a best-in-class general contractor, our customers turn to us to manage the risks on their construction projects. In our ever-changing world, our risk management role is more important than ever. To that end, we have been getting a lot of questions from our customers about how to manage COVID-19 on construction sites and wanted to share six of the most important changes we are following. We are also including links to some resources that our partners find very useful.
1. Job-site safety and health protocol are more stringent than ever.
Concern for worker health and safety, combined with nationwide fear of a recurrence of the virus, has led to many new safety procedures and protocols. For example, each job site is now required to have a designated “Onsite Pandemic Supervisor”, who is ultimately responsible for ensuring that all workers are following the COVID guidelines. This includes duties such as:
Ensuring that all workers are wearing a mask or face covering while onsite.
Taking and logging temperature readings of each employee before beginning a shift.
Regular cleaning and sanitizing of high traffic surface areas, tools, and equipment.
Maintaining clean and well-stocked hand-washing stations on each site and encouraging regular handwashing.
There are several new procedures that must be followed on-site, and additional responsibilities that must be incorporated into existing workflows. A complete dissertation of these new safety and health protocols is beyond the scope of this article. However, our team of experts are always on call and can be reached via phone at (724) 492-1083.
2. Contractors will need to adopt a proactive approach to identifying and isolating sick employees.
Across the board, including in construction, many employees still show up to work even if they are sick. Whether it is due to a feeling of necessity or to simply downplaying symptoms, this way of thinking will have to change. Construction sites will need to have job site access controls that provide appropriate screening before access is permitted. Our job sites are equipped with contactless temperature readers so that temperatures can be documented regularly as part of the badge-in process.
Our superintendents are also given tools and procedures to systematically monitor workers on site, so that they can immediately isolate anyone who appears to have symptoms and direct them to the appropriate resources. With these protocols, new plans will need to be implemented to ensure that essential business functions can continue in the face of potentially higher than usual absences.
3. Distancing and staffing levels must be managed.
State and local regulations have been proposed to require strict limits on the number of workers permitted on job sites. Per the CDC guidelines, employees must maintain a social distance of 6 feet between them and break times must be staggered to account for this. Additionally, shift start and end times should be staggered to prevent large gatherings entering or leaving the site at the same time.
Specific protocols have been put in place to limit the number of workers allowed on a site at any given time. These limitations are location and site specific, so we implemented systems to ensure each site’s limitation is understood and followed.
4. Traditional construction means and methods are being reviewed and improved.
With the distancing requirements and the limits on the number of employees allowed on site, many construction means and methods are being reconsidered. Works flows are changing, and production is being affected. On site meetings will be held through virtual meeting platforms. Virtual site tours and inspections will likely become standard. In short, contractors will need to adopt new technology and reconsider means and methods.
5. Organized schedules and phasing plans are more important than ever.
Forecasting for job costs and completion times will face new hurdles, factoring in the potential challenges caused by limiting workers, distancing, and adopting additional safety protocols. There is no doubt that productivity will become more strained on job sites due to these new hurdles, and only the best construction management systems can hope to make up the difference.
With production shortages and panic buying, supply chain disruptions also have the potential to cause lead time expansion and higher costs of materials. These potential challenges will need to be closely managed going forward.
6. Preparedness will be essential.
Now that we have seen the effects a global pandemic has on the construction industry, the need to have preparedness plans in place is greater than ever. Business continuity plans need to be put in place or reviewed thoroughly, with provisions added to allow work to continue safely in the event of another outbreak. Supply levels will need to be monitored, accounting for the potential of another round of shortages, and employees will need to be thoroughly trained on new procedures and technology.
The construction industry was hard hit by the closures from the COVID-19 pandemic, and the long-lasting effects are still unclear. The key moving forward will be preparing and operating under the assumption that this is the new normal. Our customers look to us to prepare for and operate under the toughest conditions, and we are ready to do just that. Please contact us if we can be of any help during these uncertain times.