Post-Pandemic Construction Start-Up
By: Bob Dresser, PRG Advisor
As you know, we are in unprecedented times in our construction sector. Many of our construction sites were closed, and without sufficient notice to secure these sites. Consequently, many of our sites have been sitting idle, exposed to weather, and are stagnant. And, while many companies settle-in to the “new normal,” I suggest that this is a good time to seize possible opportunities while mitigating future project risks.
With optimism or without, it is imminent that all of our projects will start-up again. We long for those times and hopefully that happens sooner rather than later. We need to get back to work, safely!
Now is the time to plan for what may be anticipated as a rapid reactivation period (some call it the “upward V”). Considerations to assessing project risks and mitigation plans include:
1. Safety & Health
5. Quality of Assets and the Site
6. Supply Chain
7. Financial Diligence
All sites are not created equal and all risk assessments and plans must address both standard and unique conditions. By this I mean that some sites are “in the ground”, while others are in mechanical and electrical phases and other sites are in commissioning phases. Each create their own hazards.
First, let’s get back to basics; blocking and tackling. Utilize best practices and collaboration while planning for site reactivations. Start with what you know (site mobilization check lists, stage gate lists and your construction execution plan(s)) and build on those to ensure that your site reactivation and mobilization plans are comprehensive.
Detailed checklists and processes are highly recommended for diligence “proof” along with efficient and effective project reactivations.
I also suggest strong collaboration amongst stakeholders. If you’re the contractor, work with your owner, and vice versa, while also engaging your engineer / architect. Construction is a team game and the more eyes and expertise on a challenge, the better the result.
With that said, the following is high-level advice, which is not exhaustive, which will help you (owner and constructor) set your companies’ construction sites up for success when we reach the project reactivation period:
1. Safety & Health
You can anticipate many hazards which have built up over time, especially with rapid site closures. First and foremost, consult your OSHA regulations and representative in all regards. You should also consider the state of mind of your employees. Some may be ready to come back to work with great focus and enthusiasm. Others may be distracted or not ready to return due to pandemic concerns such as: losing a loved one; fear that they may still contract the Coronavirus; or other serious issues with their families or current living conditions. These considerations should be factored into your remobilization plans. Other major considerations include:
· Ensure your safety program is updated to include the handling of new hazards. This includes OSHA and CDC’s latest regulations and standards to protect your workers from COVID-19.
· Increased attention to your employees/workers/subcontractors’ state of mind. People will be at all levels of focus and attentiveness in returning to work. As such, expect more leadership time spent in the field checking in on workers to ensure they feel safe as they continue to work.
· Soil conditions (of the build and of the site infrastructure). Special care with soil stabilization such as trenches, pond banks, spill piles, etc., as soil erosion is a real concern. Ensure these are secured, and seek advice from your engineer on this issue.
· The site infrastructure will have changed. Ruts, washouts, blown debris, damaged signage, etc., are all possible hazards and need to be addressed. The ultimate goal is to get your site back to its original state, or better. This includes laydown areas, parking lots, walking paths, restrooms, lunchrooms, foreman’s shacks, and the like. By making your site better, it will be a more productive workplace and can serve as a morale boost to your workers.
· Energy is a huge concern. Ensure we treat energy, at all sources, with respect and assume that changes may have taken place. Detailed inspections are required and inspecting equipment, connections, cable integrity and so on, is vital.
· Similarly, mechanical equipment which has been sitting idle needs to be inspected, lubricated, rotated, etc.
· Idle building openings will have created water damage in the interior of partially built buildings. Inspect glazing, drywall, flooring, finishing’s and construction materials left inside.
· Ensure that all buildings which were left unoccupied are not experiencing the onset of molds and are in proper occupancy conditions.
· Piping systems need to be inspected for debris, rust, valve integrity and so forth, including pipe support systems.
· Overhead items need to be checked and secured.
· Scaffold must be inspected, secured, and tagged for safe access and use.
· Ensure all rigging equipment, including crane cabling, slings, chokers, etc., are fit for use.
· Ensure all tie-off safety points are fit for use.
· Asset safety – ensure that all owner/permanent assets are ready for installation and operation.
· In the near term, engage staffing subject matter experts (per discipline) to determine staffing and hiring trends, ascertain the availability of resources, and determine best practices and processes for increasing workforce demands Specific near-term roles will include planning, inspecting, and reactivating your site(s). You will benefit from taking a team approach by including experts from the owner, the engineer and the contractor in this endeavor. This approach will also mitigate costs, while using the best talent available.
-Contractual amendments may be required to do this, but this approach is recommended in order to mitigate risks while optimizing available talent. We anticipate a race to attract the best talent whom have become available during recent COVID-19 related layoffs.
-Ensure proper PPE is updated and in ample supply, including your “mask” approach as well as policies regarding social distancing while performing work tasks.
· Labor and indirect staff will be anxious and eager to get back to work. Ensure that you are contacting your field supervision and craft on a regular basis to apprize them of any updates and to build your “culture of caring.” This will enhance the potential of getting your best resources back as top-talent will likely be recruited by multiple companies as the construction starts up again. .
· Ensure you have a plan to re-onboard employees, with special attention to hazard awareness and personal care.
Our industry frowns upon re-baselining your project schedules, however, in this extreme case it is an absolute must. Some considerations include:
· Add site reactivation activities, including planning, inspections, repairs, recruiting efforts, etc.
· Work in collaboration as to new schedule goals and timelines so that proper and realistic. schedule goals are built into your new schedule.
· Include opportunities to complete constructability and safety in design.
· Develop a healthy (say 2-3 month) backlog of work packages. This will ensure that when work restarts your crews sustain high levels of productivity. This includes engineering information as well as securing the materials and equipment to support the workforce.
· Resource load your schedules with realism and optimize a collaboration approach.
· Re-assess your supply chain and receive input from suppliers and sub-contractors.
· Ensure any owner asset equipment has integrity and has not leaked, thus requiring HAZMAT. Ensure your checklists are comprehensive to the project scope. Refer to permanent equipment lists in your scope of work documents.
· Check for site erosion into waterways or erosion which has created hazards via washouts.
· Check and maintain all construction equipment, including earthwork equipment, cranes, tuggers, etc., and owner assets are secure, safe, and will not leak upon restart.
· Ensure that ground conditions in parking lots, walkways, and laydowns are included in your plans.
5. Quality of Assets
· Develop a plan to ensure owner assets are in “like new” condition. This will involve, depending on the asset, lubrication, rotations and conductivity.
· Plan to ensure that all construction equipment is in “ready for use” condition.
· Ensure all materials, such as welding rod, has been cared for per code, or is replaced.
· Items such as studs, bolts and gaskets should be inspected for rust and cared for.
· Inspect all components for rust and care for appropriately.
6. Supply Chain
· Ensure you have what you need to maintain a healthy project supply chain and detailed lists are generally required to ensure key elements are not overlooked.
· Work with your supplier relationships to ensure material and equipment flow to your site(s) is sound.
· Reevaluate logistics plans and revise these plans accordingly, with alternate plans, as needed.
· If supply is not available, work with the engineer to identify alternative materials and equipment.
· Build your backlog of materials and equipment to ensure worker productivity is not hindered due to supply chain events.
7. Financial Diligence
This is our greatest opportunity as we plan to reactivate our project sites. There is a great deal of discussion around force majeure and other legal and financial considerations amidst this global pandemic. As such, there are a few ways to optimize your legal and financial exposure:
· Please consult your construction attorney while considering the following:
-Consider reassessing your contracts to be Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) in nature. While IPD is preferred during concept and project definition, this may be a great opportunity to collaborate amongst key stakeholders to develop a one team, integrated, delivery model. An IPD model will drive transactional cost efficiencies, minimize waste, and optimize resources while mitigating many risks.
· Document all relevant issues. If you didn’t take photos (including drone usage) and create logs when your project(s) was shut down, do so immediately. This is not only a financial protective measure, but is a positive step to estimate, plan, and resource load any new scopes which the shut down of your project created.
· As you develop site reactivation plans, ensure that cost estimates are developed in accordance with your new plans. Plan first, then estimate.
· Ensure the client and contractor (and engineering) financial professionals are collaborating regarding impacts and recovery costs. No surprises!
Again, the above is a high-level listing of considerations which should be addressed with diligence as you reactivate your construction sites in the coming months.
The Premier Resources Group has a number of expert advisors who are experienced with project interruptions, site closures, and reactivations. PRG’s expert advisors are available to work with you, and your team, to leverage project reactivation processes, procedures, including check lists and benchmarking, and to help ensure that your projects are reactivated successfully and safely.