COVID-19 has changed a lot of things: how we socialize, how we grocery shop, and especially how we work.1 The construction industry is no exeception.2
What can aspiring electricians, students in welding training and other young men and women preparing for careers in construction expect in the coming months?
No one can predict the future, but construction industry experts are making educated guesses.
Check out 4 of them below.
Construction Industry Rebounds
Even though the U.S. Department of Homeland Security classified construction workers like electricians as essential workers*, effectively giving contractors clearance to keep operating during the recent lockdown, states and cities had the final say.3 Some closed construction sites.4
The good news is, they’re reopening. In New Jersey. In Vermont. In Michigan. Across the country, construction projects are restarting.4
Some regions allowed construction to resume as early as April 30th. This was the case in San Francisco, where a big project’s underway at San Francisco International Airport. Progress resumed in early May at Chicago O’Hare International Airport.4
What’s happening at the state and city levels mirrors overall contractor sentiment. 81% of contractors in the U.S. and Canada expect the construction industry to rebound in 2020, and 66% percent think it could happen by October 1, according to a recent survey by Procore, a construction management software provider.5
4 COVID-19 Construction Industry Shifts (And Why They Could Be Here for Good)
Just because some contractors weren’t forced to close during lockdown doesn’t mean they didn’t need to make changes to how projects got done—and paid for.5
4 New Construction Practices
New Safety Procedures
80% of contractors in the Procore survey started new safety practices at jobsites.
41% rearranged schedules and shifts to allow for more social distancing.
32% delayed payment of outstanding invoices and renegotiated payment terms.
Working from Home
90% had employees work from home.5
The New Normal for Construction?
“There’s been a paradigm shift in many areas of construction that is leading contractors to do many things differently than they did in the past.” — Joe Natarelli, leader of Marcum LLP’s national Construction Industry Group2
Rather than a temporary response to the pandemic, these 4 shifts could become business as usual for the construction sector.2, 6
So, let’s take a closer at each one.
1. New Safety Practices
Guidelines for new safety protocols at construction sites in response to COVID-19 came from the top down: the Department of Labor (DOL) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). OSHA even has a website dedicated to coronavirus resources for workers.
Washington, Pennsylvania and other states made their own regulations.2
How are these new rules shaping the day-to-day at construction sites?
A contractor in Massachusetts started a 100% glove and mask policy and installed handwashing stations, distributing 200 gallons of sanitizing soap across jobsites. Elsewhere in the U.S., contractors offered employee temperature checks and disinfected everything from machinery to tools to entire jobsites.2
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2. Social Distancing
Social distancing is part of the new safety practices contractors are putting into place, either voluntarily or to adhere to new laws and regulations.2
Some contractors have staggered shifts and banned carpooling. A new law in Washington State requires construction workers to stay 6 feet apart or face a complete project shutdown.2
The need to keep physical space between workers has sparked some technological innovations: an app that allows an LA-based firm to hold virtual public meetings to keep civic projects moving and remote inspections with the help of videos and photos to prevent delays at a project in Nashville.2
3. Contract Renegotiations
Process changes and closures can mean delays and unexpected costs for contractors. This may be one reason why 32% reported having to renegotiate payment terms.5
Attorneys specializing in construction law and contracts are recommending that contractors revise their contracts to account for unforeseeable changes to cost or deadlines due to acts beyond their control.6
4. Working from Home
If you work in the office for a contractor or maybe even just for the paperwork parts of your job, you may see more opportunities to work from home in the future.2
This shift isn’t unique to the construction industry, either: 74% of American companies plan to move at least 5% of their office workforce to permanently remote positions, and 17% foresee allowing 20% of their workers to do their jobs at home, according to a recent Gartner survey.7
Construction Workers Are Essential Workers
The construction industry may be changing, but its workers are still as important as ever—essential, even.3
As long as America needs buildings, bridges and highways, there’ll be a need for welders, electricians and other skilled tradespeople to construct, repair and maintain them.8,9