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The New Normal: Incorporating Social Distancing into your Construction Projects

by Evan Hill   |   August 17, 2020

New Normal in Construction - Episode 3: The Impact of Social Distancing in the Field

As we’re all aware, the COVID-19 pandemic threw a wrench in the growth trajectory of the global economy. For construction projects all around the world, simply shutting down wasn’t an option. Especially for owners in healthcare and transportation, for instance; many saw it as an opportunity to accelerate project progress during the reduced foot traffic of a pandemic.

In an industry that has traditionally resisted adaptation and change, suddenly change wasn’t a choice. COVID has forced owners and project managers to adapt in numerous different ways, but maybe the most important change has been the incorporation of social distancing into onsite work. Suddenly many contractors saw their day-to-day jobs as a threat to the safety and health of their families.

In case you missed the webinar or don’t have time to view it, we invited several different leaders in the construction industry to speak on how their projects are incorporating social distancing into their operations. In this webinar, hosted by our own Dan Conery, we spoke to:

     Yakima County, WA – Angela Ringer – Program Analyst/Construction Contract Administrator
     Parsons – David Dwyer – Senior Systems Integration Specialist
     Yates Construction – Benjamin Crosby – Director of BIM

We’ll break down the prevailing takeaways from how owners are incorporating social distancing practices into the management of their construction projects.

Limiting Choke Points & Foot Traffic

One of the main adaptations owners have taken is the staggered introduction of contractors to the jobsite. Instead of having everyone arrive around the same time in the morning, contractors are being separated into groups and only being allowed entrance into staggered time windows to avoid congregation points.

For example, many owners are utilizing tools like CrewSight, which allows project managers to track where (and how many) workers are located throughout a jobsite. The technology functions through a simple badge on a lanyard or a puck on a hardhat. This helps reduce choke points, eliminating the potential of a virus breakout among project contributors.

David Dwyer from Parsons shared how his organization is implementing social distancing standards throughout their projects:

“Thinking specifically about one of the larger infrastructure projects that I’ve been working with, they’ve definitely instituted a 50% policy when it comes to traveling, especially if you have multiple people in a vehicle, they’ve also set up procedures in place to say that if multiple workers need to be assigned to the same area where they can’t really practice proper social distancing, that additional PPE gear is being supplied, specifically masks, where it’s going to be beneficial for their safety and for everybody’s safety. And it’s funny that this comes up with inspections, because we see that a lot with our inspectors too.

And a lot of it has to do with making sure that resources that are still doing this work out in the field are being assigned appropriately so that you don’t have large groups of people that are all assigned to the same area, and that if they are or people are traveling to the same area at the same time, that we’re doing everything possible to make sure that everybody’s staying as protected as possible.”

CIP Performance

And David brings up a great point: social distancing isn’t the only way owners are having to adapt. Personal protective equipment, beyond the normal gear, has been stipulated as a requirement by many local governments and union groups. Contractors expect a heightened sense of safety among the projects they’re working on. These are all recommended improvements for how owners need to operate and incorporate preventive measures into the management of their construction projects.

Closing Thoughts

For owners who had already committed to adaptation (either in the form of technology or process evolvement), the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t cause a major disruption to their projects. Their proactive investment towards adoption ended up serving as a critical insurance policy for the survivability of their projects and the success of their employees in working from home.

The one resounding takeaway we’d like owners to learn from this New Normal is this: frankly, no one predicted that a global pandemic was going to disrupt the world’s economic landscape across multiple industries. An initial lack of investment in technology was a reasonable mistake, but now owners and construction leaders don’t have the benefit of the doubt moving forward.

Investment in technology is not a choice, it’s a must. Which technology and software companies you choose to partner with is up to you, but the decision not to invest is no longer an acceptable one.

Key Topics Covered: digital transformation

About the Author

Evan Hill
Product Marketing Manager

Host of the Connecting Construction Podcast and frequent contributor to the blog, Evan Hill is a Product Marketing leader with an intimate history of working in the SaaS space. He is passionate about helping construction owners deliver their projects on time, within budget, and with success.