The ripple effect of COVID-19 through the construction industry and the world economy as a whole is more like a tsunami whose effects, like the virus itself, are not yet seen. From material procurement to scheduling to employee safety, the industry may never look the same, and views on risk management have forever been altered.
Similar to surviving being caught in a rip current, companies need to embrace what’s happened to them in a very short timeframe rather than trying to fight against it. It is possible to come out of this tired but alive and even more prepared to deal with similar issues in the future.
If one thing is certain, COVID-19 has revealed just how intertwined the world’s supply chain really is and how many different parts are required to make a single finished product. Construction procurement has been particularly impacted by manufacturing delays. Materials, goods, and equipment have all suffered from delays due to shutdowns all over the world. To prevent the unexpected, prime contractors must reach out to their subcontractors and suppliers to ascertain potential sources of delay, which will allow prime contractors to give proper notices of impact to their owners. Additionally, contractors will want to require periodic updates from their subcontractors and suppliers, because what is not impacted today could easily be impacted tomorrow as different areas issue additional restrictions and potentially go into “lockdown.”
As with everything in business and construction, prompt and clear communication is mandatory to preserve contractual rights and to potentially mitigate impacts on projects. Coronavirus is not a single isolated event like an earthquake or hurricane, but rather an ongoing worldwide disaster whose impact is hard to quantify. Communication between all stakeholders promotes the sharing of knowledge and will allow collaboration between contractors, designers, engineers, and contracting officers as to how to best overcome project roadblocks in procurement and scheduling. As more information becomes available, contractors should update all project stakeholders to gain consensus in mitigating impacts.
While construction companies may have prepared for certain contingencies or potentially catastrophic events, most companies likely did not anticipate COVID-19. Construction companies have, to a large degree, been deemed “essential” and allowed to continue to operate, but many companies are not yet aware that COVID-19 is a recordable illness in the employer’s 300 logs and can be deemed as a workplace illness through Worker’s Compensation. So, what can companies do now?
All safety directors know that in order to implement a safety plan, you first must have a written policy. Create a Safety Plan that specifically identifies best practices for the prevention of COVID-19. Train employees on both the hazards of COVID-19 and the value to them and their families for embracing and implementing the new policies and procedures for infectious disease control.
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We’re all in this together, construction professionals helping construction professionals to protect our most valuable resources: our employees. We all want to do our part and help so that our industry, our nation, and our way of life can get back to normal as quickly as possible.
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