If you’re a homeowner, you may be thinking about all the time and energy that went into planning your project. Some of you are now stuck in a home that is turned upside down and unfinished. Or maybe you’rein temporary housing, worrying that your home will not be completed by the time you have to get out. Here is a glimpse into what your contractor may be doing to adapt to this ever-changing situation.
It was March 2020. We were working onsomelargerenovations; a couple were nearing completion and a couple had just begun. We were planning for upcoming projects scheduled to be started this summer and finalizing sales for some new late summer-fall projects. On March 22, 2020 everything changed due to a novel Coronavirus whose name we will not forget: COVID-19. New York State ordered all non-essential workers to stop workingand take a “PAUSE” to stop the spread.We carefully read the initial definition of “essential” for construction. Homeowners had to get back into their homes, so we assumed we were essential. We stopped working in the homes where people lived due to social distancing guidelines butcontinued working on those projectswhere no one was living. We provided our workers with support and information on COVID-19 so they could be safe while on the jobsite. This continued until March 27th, 2020 when construction workers in our capacity were deemed “non-essential” and ordered to stop working.
We quickly assembled our support team, virtually of course, to figure out how to navigate these unchartered waters. Along with everyone else in the same boat, we wanted to be ready for the day we could get back to work. First, we needed to develop, and then implement, a disease preparedness and response plan.One that would provide clear guidance to our workers and homeowners. Fortunately for us, there is a lot if information out there, so we began searching. In addition to our team of professionals, one of the best compilations of information we found was from the Associated General Contractors of New York State. (AGC NYS https://www.agcnys.org/coronavirus/). ACG NYS assembled a range of information from public health experts on the corona virus and is a terrific resource.
We were ahead of the game since safety is always our primary concern for our homeowners and their families, our employees, and our many subcontractors. Safety just took on a whole new meaning. We started by communicating with our homeowners, workers, and substo provide reassurance that we wouldbe there for them now and in the future. We set up our virtual office to continue communications with current and future homeowners via phone calls andZoom or Facetime meetings. Then it was time to secure homes that were to be left untouched, unattended,orempty untilMay 15th, 2020, or possibly longer.
We learned there are many situations that may arise from this outbreakthat we allneed to prepare for, such as:
- Increased rate of worker absenteeism.
- The need for social distancing, staggered work shifts, downsizing operations, delivering services remotely, and other exposure-reducing measures.
- Options for conducting essential operations with a reduced workforce.
- Interrupted supply chains or delayed deliveries.
In order to help alleviate some of this, weall musttake steps to reduce the risk of exposure,including:
- Promoting frequent and thorough hand washing, including by providing workers, homeowners, and worksite visitors with a place to wash their hands. If soap and running water are not immediately available, we will provide alcohol-based hand rubs containing at least 60% alcohol.
- Encourage workers to stay home if they are sick.
- Encourage homeowners to notify us if they are sick.
- Encourage respiratory etiquette, including covering coughs and sneezes. Wearing masks as recommended. Discourage workers from using other workers’ phones, desks, offices, or other work tools and equipment.
These plans will apply to all of us, including our subcontractors, who are vital team members. They must also follow these precautionsand report any suspected COVID-19 exposure at the job site to us.
Besides having supplies of handwashing items and disinfectants on hand, we will need to modify jobs to accommodate social distancing, including restricting how many subcontractors may work on a jobatone time and restricting worksite access only to individuals who are essential for the project.
Our responsewill most definitely involve changes to existing schedules,causing delays. How much of a delay? That’s still in question. This delay, caused by one of those unforeseeable events“beyond the contractor’s control”, is one that changed the world. One of the most frequent questions we get from a homeowner is, when will you start and when will you be finished with my project? And it’s the one question that we can’t answer…... yet. We realize that patience must become our number one virtue
With everyone having to make a plan to follow new safety protocols to get back to work, personal protection items and cleaning supplieswill be limited or impossible to get. Yet, there are many individuals and companies getting creative to find or get us what we need. One surprising examplewas how our big telephone company contracted with some small, outside vendors so that we could purchase portable Wi-Fi enabling us to monitor our vacant sites. Every day we see more examples of neighbors and local businesses helping each other. That gives us hope.
Although this situation is out of our control, the one thing we can all control is how we respond. Stay informed. Follow guidelines. Be patient. Have hope. Stay healthy. We will do the same. And continue to adjust, as necessary.
What does your disease preparedness and response plan look like?