The Business of Building Through COVID-19 & Beyond

The construction industry began 2020 strong and optimistic for the future. But thanks to COVID-19, builders faced tough restrictions the during prime spring and summer months. Now, the construction industry’s future is left unclear as many states are reverting back to stay at home orders from their state officials. Construction has always been one of America’s biggest industries and officials are confident that with some updated safety measures, contractors will be able to adapt and continue operations to move the industry forward.

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected construction companies in many different ways. In order for a company to thrive during these times, developing a strategy is necessary to gain an in-depth understanding of your partners’, customers’, and employees’ needs. While re-opening for business, these key people may feel wary and unsure about sharing space with others regardless of safety protocols. As of this writing COVID-19 has no vaccine or cure. Construction business owners must remain strong by finding reliable COVID-19 resources, prioritizing employee health, and re-opening worksites and offices with the “new normal” standards.

Having reliable information on hand is crucial when determining a strategy for your business’s reopening. Focus on getting your COVID-19 information from reputable and reliable resources. Start by visiting websites of construction industry organizations and leaders to check for specific industry guidelines. The best place to find accurate and updated COVID-19 information the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) which has created specific pages dedicated to businesses that are looking to reopen. State government websites will also provide relevant information regarding business reopening during the outbreak.

The health and safety of employees is crucial to re-opening businesses. Some workers who are working remotely will need to continue their work-from-home arrangement if there is not enough workspace in the office. For construction site workers, be creative in ensuring that fewer people are on the worksite and social distancing is used. Introduce break time schedules to keep fewer workers in shared spaces like break rooms and cafeterias or stagger shifts to minimize the number of people on-site at any given time. It is important to communicate with employees to ensure everyone is working safely and limiting risks brought by COVID-19. Make sure to listen to clients’ and employees’ concerns, answer questions, and incorporate their feedback into your overall strategy.

Guidelines from the CDC require at least six feet of space between employees whenever possible. Before reopening the construction site, you need to optimize the site layout prioritizing the entrances and exits, the flow of traffic, and gathering sites. Work to minimize the formation of long queues and the buildup of people.

Construction technology can make work more efficient and lessen the time needed to finish work. For example, the use of drones will allow inspection activities to continue even without being on the site. Accounting and other office tasks can be done from home using software. There are also several platforms for virtual meetings instead of the classic in-person meetings while still sharing plans, models, and data.

Reopening a construction business in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic won’t be easy. However, the limitations and challenges brought by the pandemic may be the catalyst needed for the industry to adopt new tools, guides, and procedures that are long overdue and move forward to a brighter, sturdier future.


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Proposed Florida Bill Would Require Heat-Illness Training

Under a new proposed bill, Florida’s construction and agriculture employers could be required to train outdoor employees on how to avoid heat-related illnesses. This heat-illness prevention bill would set a standard for outdoor workers to be given plenty of drinking water and access to shade with 10-minute rest breaks after 2 hours of outside work.

It accompanies another bill in the Florida Senate that would also require annual training to identify signs of heat exhaustion and a period to allow workers to gradually adopt to a hot environment.

OSHA does not currently have a standard for indoor or outdoor heat exposure safety practices, except within the scopes of their general hazards section. They do recommend employers provide water, rest, and shade for workers in hot environments.

Proponents have been pushing for tougher standards, arguing Florida is one of the hottest states in the country, and when paired with the humidity it makes work unsustainable.

According to Business Insurance, “The Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission sent clear signals that OSHA should adopt a standard to address heat stress risks rather than relying on the general duty clause after vacating a citation issued after the death of a 61-year-old temporary employee from complications of heat stroke.”


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Ladders: Are they the Best Tool for the Job?

Ladders are the oldest tool still in use today. These amazing tools date back approximately 10,000 years.  Despite being around for ages, the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) recently did a study and discovered that in the last decade 81% of fall injuries among construction workers treated in the U.S. involved a ladder. Ladders are a crucial tool of the trade which requires little to no training, making them time and cost efficient. However, that same study said that 43% of FATAL falls have involved ladders. With statistics like that, shouldn’t ladders be banned from job sites?

Experts in the field agree that ladders should be the last choice when trying to work at an elevated height. They have been the preferred method for decades but at such a high cost. Companies have been getting fancier with ladder design in hopes of making them safer by adjusting the base width and adding platforms at the top to address safety concerns, but then they aren’t as portable or easy to use. Researchers have determined that a key issue with ladder safety is fatigue. Standing and balancing on a step is tiring and leads to fatigue. If the ladder is being used for hours, workers end up taking shortcuts. Workers will reach a little further if the ladder is a little short they will just “make it work”. Luckily in the past 15-20 years, companies have started to focus on the tools and equipment that make it safer for workers vs. workers having to make a decision to be safe.

With the cost of incidents and damages rising, it’s become less acceptable and more costly to use a ladder on job sites. In the U.S. we have typically blamed the worker for a fall, but in most cases, companies provide workers with a poor tool for the expected job. Some countries have gone as far as making laws to sue or imprison supervisors for not doing a proper risk assessment and watching any worker who is working at elevated heights. The employer is held responsible. If everyone knew they were going to be held liable, perhaps companies would look closer at preventing the use of ladders and lowering the risk to their workers.

It was highly educational on safety on which will help me and my company save lives and keep safe on the job site in everyday life. – April 17, 2018
Charlie Tregale - Massachusetts
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