As state and local governments grapple with the effects of the COVID-19 virus, businesses face a steady stream of new regulations about which kinds of businesses can keep operating.
If you are a contractor, you are likely to see at least some of your job sites temporarily closed. If, and when, that happens, here are six steps you should take to ensure the site is secure and everyone involved is up to date.
Confirm That You Really Do Need to Shut Down
First, ensure your site does have to close. Because this situation is so fast-moving, it hasn’t always been clear which businesses are impacted. Additionally, rules may vary at the state, county, and city levels. Some organizations – such as the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and ConstructConnect – are maintaining maps of restrictions in each jurisdiction. However, these rules are changing daily, so check with your local government for the latest information. If your site does fall within the parameters for closure, it may be possible to apply for a waiver to stay open. You may be able to get guidance on this from associations you belong to or distributors, manufacturer reps, and other local partners.
Create a Shut Down Plan and Communicate Your Plan
If your site doesn’t qualify for a waiver, you must shut down as quickly as possible while maintaining the safety and security of the site and the health of your workers. Good communication with your workers, vendors, and employees is critical for this process to go well. During such a fast-moving event, you may not have a lot of solid information to share, but communicating what you can – even if it’s that you are still working on a plan and will share more details later – can go a long way to establish confidence.
You’re Not Alone – Don’t Reinvent the Wheel
The National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA) and the Master Builders Association shared detailed shut down checklists you can adapt to your own site. Before you begin, make sure that workers understand and can adhere to both current OSHA and CDC guidelines for limiting the transmission of the coronavirus. These measures include the use of protective personal equipment and maintaining safe personal distances as much as possible.
No Two Jobs – Or Job Shut Downs – Are The Same
Each job site will have unique concerns depending on the type of structure and how far along the project has progressed. Key takeaways as you assess what you need to do include:
- Document current work progress (in writing and pictures, if possible) and what remains to be done, as well as any material stored onsite or moved from the site to another storage location.
- Coordinate with stakeholders who are impacted by, or must assist with, the closure. This may include vendors, other contractors, building owners, and architects.
- Secure the site while maintaining required access, sidewalk clearances, etc. Take into consideration special issues such as utilities, potential environmental concerns, securing and covering any material stored outside, ensuring any partially constructed items are fully secured (tied off, screwed in, etc.), and locking/turning off heavy equipment or vehicles.
- Make sure the site is secured against potential theft, as it’s unclear how long restrictions on construction work will be in place. Depending on your needs and local restrictions, you may be able to hire security for the site or contractors and distributors may be able to pick up and store some materials for you.
Do a Walkthrough with Customers and Key Partners
Next, do a walking inspection of the site — ideally with the building owner or their representative. You want to make sure they understand the condition the site is in as it closes. You should also try to schedule site inspections to ensure the site remains secure during the duration of the shutdown.
Review Your Contractual Obligations
Once the site is closed, review your contract regarding work shutdowns. You should confirm that you’ve met all your responsibilities as outlined in the contract and that the owner or general contractor has done so as well. You may also want to check with your own insurer and lawyer to see if they have additional recommendations.
The COVID-19 pandemic has upended the plans of virtually every company. Ensuring that your job sites are secure (and those efforts documented) is the first step in ensuring your company can hit the ground running once normal operations resume.