In an article posted on Lexology by the law firm of Gordon Rees Scully Mansukhani, Brenda Radmacher a partner and construction law expert writes about the new jobsite safety measures that Companies will have to observe in light of COVID-19.
Radmacher does a great job of identifying the new norms, both on and off the jobsite, Workers will need to observe in order to avoid spreading the disease.
Some of these new norms are common widespread recommendations such as washing hands and observing social distancing, but some are very specific to construction and some are likely to impact costs and schedules.
I recommend reading Radmacher’s article, but I wanted to address a few specific recommendations.
Limiting elevator occupancy to two individuals
This wont be an issue for most projects, but high rise and mid-rise construction will certainly be impacted. Imagine the time it would take to either bring Workers up or down during high traffic times of the day. The lines of workers with their tools in hand waiting for their turn to access the elevator could be extraordinary. Perhaps some projects will add multiple elevators where they previously only needed one, but those measures would work only on the largest projects where such costs are not considered excessive. This definitely has the potential of extending both cost and time on a project.
Perform daily environmental cleaning – sanitizing surfaces
Most job sites have a laborer or two who’s job it is to sweep and collect rubbish. Generally speaking these resources are not dedicated janitorial staff. They perform other tasks as well, but if the new norm will require a higher level of sanitizing than previously required, a dedicated custodian may be required.
Perform daily sanitization of small, handheld tools
I can honestly say my tool bin is full of tools that have never touched a rag, let alone be sanitized. Most workmen manage their own tools, so I see sanitizing of small handheld tools as an individual task. However, large commercial tools such as concrete saws or jack hammers are probably owned by the Company and shared. Sanitizing tools like this is no easy feat and is certainly not in the purview of a Custodian. This one may just see the birth of a new construction site service you never needed before.
Practice Staged Working
The CDC has published guidelines for returning to work. Among those guidelines, staggering shifts is mentioned, but in the context of construction, the impact of this measure could be much higher than in your typical office environment. Imagine the complexity a Construction Manager will now face in having to plan a job so that work crews are not working concurrently in the same space. Perhaps this will force some job sites to move to a 2 (or maybe three) shift schedule where work is happening during evenings and nights. More than likely this will extend schedules and cause construction work to run longer.
New Jersey’s New Law
Radmacher’s article highlights the new recommended measures that Companies should observe, but in New Jersey, Governor Phil Murphy has passed an Executive Order making these observations the law.
This new order closes non-essential jobsites and mandates the adoption of new practices on sites deemed essential.
Among the Governor’s order sites will need to;
- Require individuals to be at least six feet apart when possible;
- Stagger work start/stop times to limit individuals from entering and leaving the job site at the same time;
- Stagger breaks and work times to safely continue work on the project with minimum amount of employees;
- Restrict individuals from accessing common areas at the same time;
These new regulations will undoubtedly cause increases to cost and extend schedules.
Don’t get me wrong, preventing the spread of COVID-19 is a top priority. I don’t object to these new provisions, but we need to be aware that imposing these new regulations is not without it’s consequences.
Owners will need to accommodate longer durations for construction and their budgets will need to adjust accordingly.
Further, local regulations which previously restricted deliveries or work from occurring during evening hours may need to be softened to accommodate these new norms
On the plus side, these new norms present new opportunities. When working on-site becomes complex, off-site construction becomes more viable. Off-site and modular construction techniques could solve some of these new complexities and perhaps reduce schedules and costs too.
What about you? What changes have you see on your jobsites? How do you see the industry changing? Tell me your stories.
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