In the last month I’ve taken inventory of every call and email to ask GCs around the nation how COVID-19 is affecting their current jobsites and upcoming projects. The responses vary depending on which state, county, and city or town in which the work is commencing. Sadly, some projects are on hold in hard hit states like New York. In North Dakota, it’s business as usual with increased safety protocols to maintain social distancing and the addition of portable handwashing stations on jobsites. Of vital importance is the role of the project manager to schedule work on projects while adhering to OSHA’s guidelines and keeping the project on task towards completion.
ONE TAKE ON THE MATTER
Jon B. Tate, vice president of construction risk engineering for Zurich North America, a leading provider of insurance products and services for construction customers, did a brief Q&A to share his thoughts.
What do you see in the construction industry since mid-April and now the beginning of May with regards to states beginning to open?
JON TATE: States such as Pennsylvania are permitting construction to resume beyond projects that were deemed life-sustaining, with many safety conditions spelled out, including procedures for cleaning and disinfecting the worksite, employee health screening, not sharing tools, mandatory masks or face coverings, and spatial distancing of at least 6 feet. You’ll see pandemic safety officers being appointed at worksites and limits on the number of workers who can be on sites at once. Technology innovation such as contact tracing could help contractors and crews as projects resume to help ensure that workers are complying with social distancing guidelines.
What factors are affecting jobsites still in operation?
JON TATE: One of the most significant impacts include all the new protocols, including staggered start times and breaks. There are fewer people to help manage the work on site; project managers, project engineers, and other office staff are working remote. Contractors are moving to virtual new hire orientation and training rather than in-person. Costs are likely increasing and schedules extending. This slowing down of the process could potentially enhance overall site safety and quality of work. However, there is concern that many projects will accelerate in efforts to get back on schedule, putting pressure on safety and quality.
What do you see for the construction industry for the remainder of 2020?
JON TATE: There’s quite a bit of uncertainty about the rest of the year, and it is nearly impossible to predict the full impact this pandemic will have on our industry. After we get fully back to work, we may see some construction increases in sectors that weren’t previously planned, such as healthcare, infrastructure, warehousing, which was already going gangbusters, and manufacturing. Coronavirus has created supply chain issues associated with offshore providers; the reaction to that may be making more of that material here in America. There are some predictions that we will see regional population shifts in response to the hardships endured during the pandemic. This will result in increased construction in areas of growth.
This pandemic reminds me of a line from my favorite movie series Jurassic Park: “Life finds a way.” Indeed, it does. Work continues; living continues. For some, the virus is simply an obstacle to overcome. The journey moves along. My heart goes out to the families that have truly lost a loved one to the novel coronavirus. It’s hard to grieve with chaos and uncertainty around every corner. Through it all, however, I have faith in human ingenuity to improvise and adapt. Yes, some things will change. It won’t be the end of the world. Embrace your fellow man (virtually) and stand firm on liberty and freedom. We’ll get through this and be stronger on the other side.
Modern Contractor Solutions, May 2020
Did you enjoy this article?
Subscribe to the FREE Digital Edition of Modern Contractor Solutions magazine.