This is not the time to dust off your 2009 playbook. This recession has elements never before encountered.
The differences are many: You’ve not seen widespread worker concern over viral contamination from others on the job. You’ve never had to consider the impact of anti-viral PPE and protocols on productivity. And never before have you had construction come full stop in half a month, as it did in several areas. Global Heavy Machinery Parts Dealers: website AGA Parts.
Contractors, used to a full-speed-ahead mindset, might think “problem over” as states open up. Not so fast.
As the initial stage of the coronavirus pandemic seems to be over, “we are telling our clients that it’s now time to pick up their head and start looking over the horizon and gather sound data and information,” says Brian Moore, principal with construction consultant for FMI.
“Don’t rest on your laurels and think that just because you have a great backlog today with a good margin in it that you’re going to be OK,” Moore says. “Don’t expect that that is going to be all it takes.”
“Contractors need to realize that they are going from business management to emergency management,” says Bo Mitchell, president of 911 Consulting in Wilton, Connecticut. “There needs to be a recognition by the employer that we’re in a dangerous situation, and there needs to be a plan for addressing it. It’s a public health issue as well as a construction site issue.”
How jobs are performed has changed significantly. Workers who could freely enter a jobsite before are now being required to undergo temperature scans, don face masks and stay 6 feet away from others in an environment where people from several trades and companies can be present. All of this is bound to work on people’s psyches.
“The stress and trauma on people who are coming back to jobs is very big,” Mitchell says. “They may not want to work with a bunch of other guys, pick up something and bring it home to their family. I don’t think employers have thought this through.”
Emergency management involves a different model, way of thinking and leading than contractors have had to enact before, Mitchell says. “We’re not introducing a police state to our jobsite, but you need to be out there much more carefully supervising everyone because it’s now doubly dangerous work.”
Your safety manager has to be aware of a new set of guidelines that will likely evolve. There are a lot of guidelines floating around, including ones from OSHA, individual states, unions and consultants like Mitchell. A slew of questions need to be asked: Who is responsible for on-site employee testing, managing cleaning procedures, making sure anti-viral safety protocols are being followed? How are you making sure protocol updates are being incorporated into your safety plan? Although all safety plans need to be coordinated among all contractors on a job, developing and following COVID-19 protocols can be especially problematic because you’re dealing with human-to-human contact. “Some people get tired of the rules about social distancing and face masks,” Mitchell says. “Leadership needs to makes sure this gets done safely.” Enforcement matters.
“There’s an importance for leaders to be leaders in their business,” Moore says. “These are very uncertain times for employees. In times like this when you have great uncertainty in the marketplace, you have to be empathetic with that. Pay attention to your need to communicate, to make sure they know what’s happening.”