As jobsites are slowly reopening in mid-May after an extended shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, construction workers can expect radical changes to their industry that may linger long after the current crisis dies down. Because every industry faces an increased emphasis on jobsite safety and improved hygiene, construction worksites will look much different than they have in the past.
If nothing else, the coronavirus has accentuated the need for improved worker safety and cleanliness at jobsites. Subsequently, many contractors now have employee temperature checks, staggered shifts and regular disinfections of tools and machinery in addition to requiring masks and gloves for all employees. Moreover, any employee that displays recognizable Covid-19 symptoms such as a cough, fever or difficulty breathing is not permitted near a worksite or facility.
In order to promote social distancing, companies are limiting the size of employee gatherings as well as prohibiting things like carpooling. Consequently, remote conferencing technology is taking the place of in-person meetings. If a meeting must take place onsite, however, extra measures are being taken to ensure that employees can remain six feet apart from each other.
Clearly, the way contractors interact with their teams and with customers will continue to evolve with new technology. For instance, some companies are using web-based tools to hold interactive virtual public meetings in order to discuss public projects such as stadiums or concert venues. As a result, officials can speak with the public regarding the details and impact of impending projects without having to set foot outside their homes.
In addition to providing ready access to handwashing stations, staff will have the added burden of cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces such as doorknobs and lunch tables. Indeed, most of these protocols stem from OSHA guidelines for the construction workforce such as providing alcohol-based hand rubs for workers without ready access to soap and water and cleaning portable toilets regularly.
Nevertheless, these new safety guidelines will surely increase the time spent on construction. Changes such as suiting up with PPE, permitting only one trade at a time onsite, and staggering shifts are bound to add time to projects.
An overhead door company, for examples, won’t be able to start their installation until the home remodeler finishes the garage addition to the home. As a result, fast-tracking projects will be few and far between.
Another technique that should pick up steam is offsite construction. While many contractors have used this method for years, the coronavirus pandemic should accelerate this trend. While the assembly-line techniques and climate controlled environments involved in factory production cut down on both labor costs and project schedules, the added bonuses of reduced congestion and improved site safety make offsite building more attractive than ever. In other words, spending less time in the field and more time in a controlled environment will provide greater health benefits for employees.
The unprecedented changes in our daily lives will also shift the demand for certain types of construction projects. For instance, there will be less interest in building retail outlets and entertainment venues while requests for healthcare facilities and warehouse spaces should rise. Indeed, we may see more factories and distribution centers within North America as companies move away from their reliance on Chinese-made building products. As a result, contractors such as commercial painters will be perfectly positioned to take advantage of this trend.
Indeed, home contractors have already seen a shift in the kinds of requests they are receiving. While there haven’t been too many calls for interior projects, many companies are staying busy with exterior remodeling. Due to an increased emphasis on staying home and avoiding crowded public spaces, homeowners seem more inclined to renovate their living spaces. As a result, outdoor home entertainment centers may become more elaborate. This could also be the perfect time to add a pool to an outdoor space. While upgrades such as window replacement will still be necessary, contractors can expect a renewed interest in different projects as the country slowly returns to normal.