COVID-19's Effect on the Construction Industry

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For the latest information and resources on Coronavirus, please visit the RCM&D COVID-19 Resource Center at https://info.rcmd.com/covid19.

Many construction projects are being affected by the outbreak of the coronavirus, or COVID-19, in various ways.  Some are even being halted altogether, with Boston being the first city to suspend all construction projects for 14 days amid mounting coronavirus concerns. Several new challenges around COVID-19 are emerging for the construction industry. These challenges may require further development in your business interruption and emergency preparedness plans. 

Here are a few considerations:

Business / Emergency Planning:

You will likely need to examine delays on-site, especially if materials are coming from a country that has been hit by the virus.  It is important to understand your supply chains and determine whether other alternative supplies and/or materials can be substituted while meeting the terms/specifications of the contract.  Be sure to document any approved changes.  Another aspect could be a reduced workforce at a project if the spread of the virus impacts your local or regional area.  This may result in a large number of infected crew members directly, or there may be forced shutdowns or lockdowns preventing work altogether.  If you utilize a labor force, it is advisable to check with them to be sure they are following all related safety practices and guidelines. 

Business travel should also be incorporated into your business continuity planning.  If you have international or domestic travel, make sure you keep informed of any changes that may affect travel arrangements.  If you have employees who are currently traveling abroad in an affected area, you may need to work with legal counsel to determine the most viable return strategy given current travel restrictions.  Those returning from an affected area may be more likely to have potential exposure to a contagious illness during their travel.  You should have a written policy to address this possibility.  The CDC guidance states that workers who have returned from an affected area overseas within the past 14 days who display symptoms of coronavirus should be encouraged to stay home for a limited time.  There are several related laws, including ADA and FMLA, that could be involved when requiring employees to remain at home. Be sure to comply with legal obligations under federal and state laws.

Cyber Risks:

With a large portion of the workforce shifting to working remotely and accessing company information online, it is important to ensure proper security measures are taken to reduce cyber threats.  Make sure your IT department has sufficient time to check that remote user computers have sufficient protection and VPN tests are run.  Often, new remote users have environments not equipped with the same level of cybersecurity protections as the field office environment.  Be sure employees are aware of the increased phishing/fraud scams and malicious websites.  Employees should be using secured Wi-Fi only and a secured connection such as VPN (Virtual Private Network) or RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol). There are excellent collaboration tools available such as Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, Skype and Slack.  When sending large files or documents with sensitive information, consider using an FTP such as ShareFile or FileZilla and utilize a two-factor authentication with these platforms.  Always backup and save confidential, work-related data only on authorized company computers and avoid storing on personal computers. 

Health and Safety:

Worker safety is paramount.  Examine your worksite for opportunities that may lead to the possibility of close contact of workers or shared tools and equipment.  Are there ways to stagger work or individual subcontractors to various areas to reduce spreading the virus?  Are there means available to clean shared spaces and tools periodically?  Work to ensure that there are appropriate hand washing facilities available. 

As with most safety topics, training and education are imperative.  It is important to post educational materials and hold frequent toolbox talks or stand down meetings to make sure each worker is aware of the prevention methods. These methods include social distancing, hand washing before eating, avoidance of touching eyes, nose and mouth unless your hands are clean, as well as what to do if they feel ill.  There should be a clear policy regarding when workers should stay home.  Employers may consider remote working policies when feasible.  Those who have been sick may need to stay home until cleared by a medical professional to return to work. 

Another health and safety consideration should include how meetings are conducted using remote access, webinar and conference calls.  In-person meetings should be limited.  When they are necessary, the total number of participants should be reduced to as few as possible (10 or fewer persons) and the duration should be kept to a minimum. 

COVID-19 Resources:

To get the latest information and links to reliable federal, state and community resources, visit the RCM&D COVID-19 Resource Center at info.rcmd.com/covid19.

Download the RCM&D resource: Construction Site Shutdown - While the health of the workforce is certainly important, here are RCM&D’s recommendations on what a contractor should do to secure a worksite if a government-mandated work stoppage becomes a reality.

Handouts and Posters:

Attached are several resource documents:

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