When you are working on a road construction project, it can be frustrating running into any issues. It may seem counter-intuitive, given that fewer drivers are on the road and that shutdowns would seem like a better time to do roadwork. Still, the pandemic has created major delays that have rippled throughout the construction industry.
Whether the project began long before the COVID-19 pandemic hit or if you are beginning a new roadway project, the pandemic likely has impacted your project. These delays may create tension between your business, the customer (in this case, the government), and the end-users (drivers). In this brief article, a Fort Lauderdale contractor lawyer with Cotney Construction Law shares the most common delays you may face during a road construction project due to the COVID-19 pandemic and how to handle them.
Delay 1: Government Shutdowns
Government shutdowns may seem like they have little to do with construction on roadways, but these closures can cause major delays with the bid process, delayed payment for materials and contractor payments, and other major issues. In this context, a government shutdown can refer to the closure of non-essential government agencies due to budget constraints (or delays). A shutdown also includes the closures of departments or movement of government departments to work from home situations, which may result in delays and issues with approving infrastructure-related projects.
It can be incredibly frustrating when government shutdown issues cause delays in road work because you may feel that these are through no fault of your own. In order to prevent blame from being laid on the wrong party, it is important to contact a Fort Lauderdale construction dispute lawyer to address delays caused by the government.
Delay 2: Strict Social Distancing Rules and CDC Guidelines
The government has deemed construction an essential business — meaning that, despite local or state closures, road work is still allowed to continue, but with a caveat. The catch is that, despite being outdoors, construction workers must still adhere to strict social distancing rules and guidelines set forth by the CDC. These rules require that workers remain at least six feet apart, when possible, and wear facial coverings.
Further, the guidelines offered by the CDC limit the number of workers who are allowed to be present at one time. This can make it tricky to time and stagger the schedule of workers, which may ultimately lead to delays. Even more time consuming is that job sites and equipment must be routinely disinfected, leading to additional time that must be accounted for or else major delays will ensue.
Delay 3: Newly Introduced OSHA Requirements
In addition to guidelines provided by the CDC, workers on any construction site must adhere to new requirements set forth by OSHA specific to COVID-19 prevention. These requirements include elimination or reduction of in-person meetings (which can create costly delays in relaying information), cleaning and sanitizing after deliveries (as well as spacing deliveries of materials out), and the screening of all guests and employees daily.
OSHA requirements also mandate the provision of personal protective equipment (PPE), which may take additional time to purchase, coordinate, and distribute to every member of the job site. PPE, such as face coverings, are different from the coverings typically required to prevent sediment or other particles from entering the airway and may also cause workers to overheat and need breaks more frequently. All of these factors must be taken into account to prevent a dispute both between workers and yourself and between your business and the client.
Delay 4: Unexpected Worker Quarantine Requirements
According to a recent study, construction has the highest COVID-19 rate of nearly any industry. The same study found that construction workers also had the highest positivity rates for asymptomatic cases of any occupation, including healthcare staff, first responders, correctional personnel, elderly care workers, grocery store workers, and food service employees.
There are many reasons for the increased number of construction workers who are exposed to, or positive for, COVID-19. One reason is that construction workers often come to work when they are ill because they are not often given paid time off. As a contractor, you may have a limited capacity to take time off because you may risk the project being delayed. However, with the passage of the CARES Act, contract workers are protected with paid leave when sick. Further, the need to quarantine if exposed to the virus is crucial in preventing the spread, which is why unexpected absences due to worker sickness or quarantine must be accounted for during the planning phase of any project.
Failure to allow employees time off to quarantine can not only impact the spread of the virus, but it can create an environment where things are rushed and attention to detail is ignored. If this is the case, a Fort Lauderdale construction defect lawyer can help you get ahead of repairing any defects while also helping you establish a set of best practices to keep your staff safe.
What to Do If a Project Is Delayed
If your project is delayed, it’s important to keep open communication with the client. This is not only the case for road construction but for any project. A Fort Lauderdale construction dispute attorney will help you communicate any changes needed to the contract and understand how the pandemic may impact current or ongoing contracts.
Cotney Construction Law’s experienced attorneys can provide sound legal advice to construction professionals at every level and for any infrastructure project you need assistance with. Not only do we advise our clients on legal matters, but we also provide representation in court, mediations, and arbitrations when necessary. We also advocate for clients involved in licensing complaints, OSHA citations, labor and safety violations, permitting issues, and stop-work orders.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.