COVID-19 has forced many businesses to screech to a rather sudden halt. While many retail operations have shut their doors for the time-being, some are still able to operate but are experiencing a decline in revenue.
The construction industry, unfortunately, seems to be having a pretty hard go of it. According to the latest research, construction companies have seen a nearly 50% drop in web conversions as a result of COVID-19.
Many construction company leaders are left wondering whether or not they can continue to function – or how their normal operations like inspections and repairs will even occur. While no one can say when all businesses will return to “normal”, progress can still be made on many construction projects.
However, there are some things that you should know in order to progress with repairs and inspections safely during the pandemic.
Let’s dive in.
Restrictions Vary State-by-State
It is quite apparent right now that states are taking different approaches to the COVID-19 pandemic, depending on the number of cases in the area or other local leadership decisions. The regulations and allowances regarding construction projects are different around the country at this time.
For example, in some states, only critical infrastructure like repairs, roads and highways, as well as some business construction are allowed at this time. Some are considering housing projects to be essential, particularly in areas where there is an affordable housing shortage. Washington and Pennsylvania are currently enforcing the strictest regulations and limiting construction to projects that are deemed to be essential.
Other states are permitting projects that began before COVID-19 to continue, as long as the workers are complying to safety measures like wearing masks and practicing social distancing. California, for instance, has no specific orders but the state has instituted more guidelines for worker safety.
However, most states have seemed to cracked down on construction inspection procedures. In Florida for instance, inspections in Miami have been temporarily suspended after several staff members contracted coronavirus. Some states have gotten creative. San Francisco, Santa Clara, and Alameda counties in California are offering virtual inspections and tours. Los Angeles is even forming a coronavirus inspection team for construction sites to enforce safety protocols.
It is best to check with your local officials to schedule inspections and ensure that you are abiding by your state’s specific regulations.
Some Inspections May be Delayed
Everything seems to be moving a bit slower these days as businesses and government departments are having their staff work remotely as much as possible. Local governments are also quite overwhelmed with a plethora of public safety tasks. Conducting construction inspections is not always at the top of their priority lists.
Again, construction permitting and inspections are considered to be essential activities in most states. However, there will likely be delays in the process. Washington state, for example, is extending the permit application process to 120 days (rather than 90) to give local government staff more time to handle these projects.
Most states are also enforcing new procedures for permits, plan reviews, inspections, and code enforcements in regards to COVID-19. Inspectors are required to wear protective face coverings and maintain social distancing as much as possible. Many states are offering online application services and virtual meetings for reviews and inspections to help speed the process along.
Developers and contractors may need to reassess the timeline projections for repairs and building projects in regards to these delays. Some certain areas may need to be accelerated or prioritized in order to counteract delays once restrictions are lifted.
Now Could be a Time to Prepare for Reopening
Unfortunately, many construction projects will need to be put on hold if they are not considered essential. However, this does not mean that affected construction companies should just wait around until COVID-19 regulations pass.
If the work that is able to be done is limited, now could be a time to repair or update equipment pieces. Construction equipment rentals have decreased since sanitation measures are difficult to enforce and many rental facilities are shut down.
Furthermore, construction material prices are falling because of coronavirus. It may be wise for construction companies to stock up on essential equipment like lifting accessories in rigging applications or other basic materials while the costs are low. Many types of businesses are starting to prepare for post-pandemic operations by installing safety devices like sneeze guards or spaced out workstations that will allow employees to get back to work as soon as possible.
Construction companies should be doing the same by implementing measures that will make project sites safer for employees in the near future. For instance, automation and IoT tools for heavy equipment can reduce the number of workers needed at a jobsite at one time.
Contractors and project managers will also be in charge of sanitation policies for their staff to ensure all surfaces are properly cleaned. Workers may be required to wear protective gloves and facemasks throughout the day, and all tools and equipment will need to be disinfected regularly. Furthermore, indoor facilities like restrooms will need to be thoroughly cleaned daily.
This will obviously be quite a change from the normal project procedures that most construction personnel are used to. Therefore, leaders should take the time to prepare for the near future while other projects are on hold due to COVID-19 regulations.
We are living in unprecedented times, and nearly all industries (including construction) have been affected in some manner.
Although most construction projects are able to continue on, the safety of workers should be a top priority at this point in time. Many states are enforcing stricter regulations in order to keep people safe, and contractors must abide by these guidelines.
Construction business owners should also take this time to plan for the future. Preparation is crucial to ensure that they are ready to get back to work as soon as possible.