As Florida residents continue to follow the statewide state-at-home order, most businesses have either moved to remote work or shuttered their doors for the time being. Construction companies are in a unique position as essential businesses (in most cases) that are simply incapable of moving all operations to another geographic region.
If you are facing a project suspension, you will need to take certain steps to protect your rights. If your projects remain active, you will need to determine which employees should stay on the jobsite and which employees are eligible to move to telework. Along with these tasks, construction businesses of all sizes need to have a crisis management plan in place.
In this article, a Naples construction lawyer will discuss what several of the world’s largest corporations are doing from an operations perspective to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. We have reviewed this task sheet for practices that construction businesses can apply for their needs. If you are interested in staying informed of the latest news related to COVID-19 and the construction industry, please visit our comprehensive COVID-19 resources page for more information. For access to our Naples construction attorneys on demand, consider investing in an affordable, monthly subscription plan.
Creating a Crisis Management Plan
Many of the largest companies in the world are assembling crisis management teams to stay informed, perform a risk assessment of all business aspects, and be prepared to mitigate any issues that arise during this challenging time. Construction firms can follow suit and establish their own committee of the most reliable and efficient employees to assess their operations, identify any issues, and forecast the future market.
We’ve discussed ways that contractors can help prevent exposure of COVID-19 on their jobsite. We’ve also covered many contract provisions that should be featured in your contract during a pandemic. Although it’s extremely important to continue to tackle these tasks, construction companies also require a task force to perform these additional tasks during uncertain times:
- Prepare for Absenteeism: Cross-train all employees on essential tasks that need to be performed, both on the jobsite or through telework. In the event of absenteeism, all employees must be prepared to perform critical tasks. Similarly, all critical business functions should be documented in process documents to prepare for potential absences in the future. A task force can create a reporting system for any workers that are concerned that they may be infected with COVID-19.
- Classify Essential Team Members: To stop the spread of COVID-19, contractors should consider reducing their workforce to only the employees involved in critical operations on the jobsite. Move any employees to telework that can perform the essential functions of their position remotely. Conduct any meetings and non-jobsite related tasks virtually. If you need assistance establishing telework policies or adjusting your employee handbook, consult a West Palm construction lawyer.
- Consider Travel Restrictions: As a community spread disease, employers should advise their employees to avoid traveling to affected regions. If an employee recently used air travel or is returning from a location significantly affected by COVID-19 and exhibiting symptoms, request that they undergo a 14-day self-quarantine. If they live with a family member that has recently traveled to an affected community, consider having that employee self-quarantine as well.
COVID-19 Spread Prevention Tasks
Along with the above tasks, your task force should create a reporting system for your workforce and train them on this system. If an employee is diagnosed with or suspects that they are infected with COVID-19, it’s imperative they understand the reporting system protocol:
- Develop a Reporting System: Require employees to report any confirmed cases (personally or a family member) to their manager or HR representative. Also encourage workers to create daily reports of whom they came into contact with. These reports can be reviewed if a worker suddenly needs to be self-quarantined. Without releasing an employee’s name, employers may notify any co-workers, clients, or vendors that they may have been exposed.
- Practice Jobsite Safety: If an employee shows symptoms of COVID-19, isolate them from their co-workers and send them home immediately. Disinfect their workstation, common areas around the jobsite, and any surfaces or equipment they may have touched.
- Taking Additional Steps on the Jobsite: If your project is still active, here are some additional onsite safety objectives for essential businesses:
- Place posters promoting sanitation, hygiene, and new regulations around the jobsite
- Adjust employee shift times to reduce traffic flow to work and on the jobsite
- Promote social distancing by adjusting common areas
- Expand break times and ensure break areas aren’t overcrowded
Creating a Business Plan
With experts forecasting upcoming breaks in the supply chain, businesses will need to perform a risk assessment of all financial aspects of their operations, including:
- Assessing the Supply Chain: Businesses will need to closely monitor their supply chains and reach out to their most reliable suppliers. Construction businesses should begin preparing for shortages now and consider alternative suppliers. Furthermore, now is a great time to assess your equipment, tools, and materials inventory.
- Perform a Revenue Analysis: Businesses will need to forecast the market impact of COVID-19. Consider the financial implications of dealing with soaring material prices and the impact the current market will have on project bidding in the future.
- Reallocating Funds: Consider reducing bonuses for C-level employees and creating a reserve fund to account for material price increases and additional paid time off for sick employees.
Partner with a Construction Attorney
Along with the safety, business, and crisis management tasks that need to be handled during a statewide shutdown, construction businesses should partner with a West Palm construction attorney to ensure specific legal devices are in place to protect their business, including:
- Stay Informed of the Latest Regulation Changes: As federal, state, and local government regulations continue to change on a daily basis, contractors need to stay informed of the latest developments in their community. Members of our monthly subscription plan service are taking advantage of access to our attorneys on demand, where they can receive immediate insight into the latest legal updates and the implications it will have on their business.
- Review Your Company Handbook: With expected increases in absenteeism, telework, and government orders impacting the day-to-day operations of businesses, company handbooks will need to be revised to accommodate policy changes and to stay up to date on the newest legislation. Our South FL contractor lawyers can make adjustments to sick leave policies, paid time off, telework policies, and other aspects of employment law advice.
- Seek Guidance For All Your Legal Needs: From contract review to assistance with your SBA loan, access to essential business cards, and more, there’s a myriad of ways a construction attorney can assist you during this challenging time. At Cotney Construction Law, a South FL contractor lawyer is committed to helping construction professionals through this uncertain time by offering a plethora of helpful services that protect your business. To learn more about our law firm and how we are mitigating COVID-19 issues for construction businesses, please visit our website’s resources page.
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.