Has The Pandemic Changed The Rules In Construction?

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Whenever anything huge and attention-grabbing happens, one of the hyperbolic phrases we reach for more often than any other is “This changes everything”. If you’ve been alive for long enough, you’ll have experienced a few occasions where seemingly “everything” would be changed, and yet here we are in 2021 – and it looks a lot like 2001 from many angles.

What is more accurate is to say that big events change the way we think about and look at things, and the pandemic is certainly an example of such an event. Regardless of your opinion on the effectiveness of masks, if someone walks near you wearing one you’re not going to ask any questions as to why they’re wearing it. Next to nobody used the phrase “social distancing” prior to February 2020. By Easter of the same year, we were all using it multiple times a day. Now, as we look to make the early steps toward a post-pandemic future, we can see how things are changing – and the construction sector is no exception.

How large a crew does a job really need?

Keeping a site safe in a pandemic – on those sites that stayed open during the early days – presented a lot of challenges, one of which was social distancing. With construction necessitating people not only to do the job but also to monitor that it is being done safely, it became vitally important to consider who was needed for each part of a project. As we go back to larger numbers on site, it won’t be lost on recruiters and forepeople that the importance of avoiding large crowds hasn’t gone away. It’s going to be important to work out how many people on each job is just enough to be absolutely safe without overcrowding.

Do you bring on new recruits in the middle of a project?

If you’ve lost a few members of staff to positive tests, it can put a strain on the workforce and you’ll need to consider whether you can make do without them or need to hire some temp workers to ease the strain. The more specialized the building work is, the tougher a decision is. Have they worked with this kind of terrain before? Are they familiar with how to replace an HDPE Roller? Are they experienced in working at height? All of these may be questions you need to answer before you can hire someone new – and eventually, the risks may outweigh the benefits.

How do you deal with an outbreak?

Even governments who have seemed to have the measure of the pandemic at one time or another have gone on to face rapidly escalating numbers that defy previous received wisdom. So it’s hard for site bosses without anything like the same information and people power to make better decisions. If someone on your project tests positive, do you send them home and start the clock on an isolation period? What if two people test positive? What if it’s five, or ten, or 20? At a certain point, you have to call a halt to a project, but how do you do that and ensure there is something to return to? That’s something each leader must decide.

Photo by Mikael Blomkvist from Pexels

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