With the increasing number of COVID-19 cases throughout Washington state, roofing companies must prepare in advance for the possibility of a government-mandated shutdown, or at the very least, new restrictions on how work can continue as the global pandemic continues to rage.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said he believes the state can avoid another shutdown if people steadfastly follow guidelines already in place to prevent the spread of the virus. Following those guidelines help keep your team safe and helps contractors avoid fines or other legal ramifications for failing to adhere to mandated safety measures.
With that reality in mind, construction professionals should already be preparing to button up projects in an orderly fashion so they can come back ready to return to work. And if contracts for new projects are in negotiation, consider including a force majeure clause in them to cover any COVID-19-related delays in work that may occur.
Force Majeure is a clause that covers unforeseen circumstances or circumstances beyond anyone’s control that may prevent you from fulfilling a contract. Such clauses can prevent penalties for delayed jobs.
Fast-Track Your Schedule
Accelerate the job schedule to get as much done as possible in advance of a shutdown. While overtime pay can be costly, it is worth getting a project completed before a lockdown. Keep records to show how the pandemic affected a project.
Before a shutdown occurs, if one does, be sure to document your progress and take note of where you are in the project pre-shutdown. Create a checklist, take photos of the job, note what percentage of the project is complete and what materials and equipment you plan to leave on site.
Secure Assets to Prevent Weather Damage
Cold weather can be a factor on a job site shutting down in winter. Be sure to button up your project to protect equipment from ice and snow. Board up project entrances and, if possible, keep a skeleton crew on hand to act as security. Consider returning rental equipment instead of leaving it on a job site.
Keep Your Workforce Involved
After the Great Recession, many companies found that their employees had moved on to find other opportunities before roofing jobs opened back up. One way to avoid that is to keep trade partners involved in your projects during the shutdown. While there is no guarantee, they will return to the job, keeping employees engaged in Zoom meetings or phone calls can help them remain committed. Keep the lines of communication open.
Keep the Team, Keep the Institutional Knowledge
During the first COVID-19 shutdown, the federal government offered the Paycheck Protection Program to keep employees on the payroll. There may or may not be another federal assist, but there is another option. Ask project owners to keep the team together, so the knowledgeable team can return when the job opens back up. Cohesion is essential and can prevent slow-downs or the necessity to train new employees.
Take Time to Reassess
If another shutdown does occur, take the time to reassess where things did not go as expected on a project. Use the downtime to improve on specific aspects of a project or to go ahead and purchase items needed in the next phase. If necessary, rent a warehouse to hold such purchases until the job moves forward.
Prepare for a Full-Throttle Return to Work
Vaccines for COVID-19 are in the testing phase and could soon hit the open market. While healthcare workers and the most vulnerable will be first up to receive them, the workforce will eventually get its turn. And once that happens, prepare for construction to come back with a vengeance.
Businesses will be ready to put new plans in motion and start new projects. Postponed projects will get started and other projects already underway before a shutdown will gear back up.
Have a plan to build up a workforce to handle the coming boom.
Continue to Keep Employees Safe
The number one priority is to continue following government guidelines to keep employees safe. Set personal views aside and follow guidelines set out by the Centers for Disease Control and rules implemented by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to keep your employees safe and your business secure.
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.