Tips for Contractors on the Rise of the COVID-19 Crisis

September 1st, 2020 Posted by Uncategorized No Comment yet

At the start of 2020, the construction industry’s outlook had never been brighter. The early momentum of the United States economy served to boost the confidence of construction industry leaders. According to the Associated Builders and Contractors in mid-March, 72% of contractors expected to expand their staffing levels over the following six months, while more than 68% expected their sales levels to increase. Unfortunately, these expectations have halted because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The COVID-19 crisis has impacted construction projects worldwide in several ways, with numerous projects grinding to a halt. However, not all construction businesses have ceased operations for the time being. Several states in the U.S. have declared construction work as essential, and therefore will continue operations albeit in a limited capacity. Unfortunately, supply chain disruptions and a skeletal workforce are forcing project delays and stoppage.

The pandemic situation is continuously evolving. Many construction business owners have introduced several changes in their operations to adapt to the difficult circumstances. The implementation of social distancing, additional health and hygiene facilities, and remote work is essential to slowing down the spread of the virus.

As you deal with the impact of the coronavirus crisis on your operations, remember to do so with the mindset that you’re preparing for the recovery of your business. Here are some tips on how contractors can rise from the onslaught of COVID-19.

Evaluate Operational Risks and Short-Term Liquidity

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, your company will experience significant delays and disruptions due to the slowing down of the supply chain as well as the general shortage of labor.

At this point, you will need to assess your financial and operational risks and their impact on your overall margins. Because of the disruptions, you may be unable to fulfill your own obligations, so be proactive in renegotiating the terms of your contract if necessary. You should also consider alternative supply chain options, especially if your suppliers reside in areas that are severely impacted by the pandemic. If you source your materials overseas, especially in Asia, you may have to look for other options locally.

Many of the steps you need to take to counteract the impact of the crisis involve cash. For this reason, you need to assess your short-term liquidity and strictly monitor your cash flow. In particular, you need to focus on the management of your inventory (prolonged storage will incur proportional carry costs), as well as the collection of your pending receivables. If you’ve been diligent in filing your preliminary notices, you will have a better chance of collecting your invoices to support your COVID-19 crisis recovery.

Process

Contracts are the most powerful tool in a contractor’s arsenal, but only if they are done properly. The COVID-19 crisis has made the importance of every provision quite apparent. Unforeseen circumstances (force majeure) provisions, which are generally regarded as boilerplate clauses, have been at the forefront of discussions as many construction businesses have failed to fulfill obligations due to the pandemic. Depending on the language of a contract, these provisions can provide you with relief and more time to complete the job, or in some cases, void the contract altogether. Moving forward, this is a perfect opportunity for you to review your contract creation process and begin to negotiate contracts that address situations similar to this pandemic.

Prioritize Your Employees’ Safety

Construction business owners have always dealt with safety hazards on sites, but the pandemic is a completely different type of challenge. Understandably, there will be doubts among your employees about workplace safety that could affect their productivity.

Transitioning to the new normal is a challenge not just for you but for your employees as well. Your job is to explore any opportunities that can ease this transition. For instance, you can expand your work arrangements for non-field employees to include flexible options such as remote work. For field employees, you need to put measures in place to fight against infections, such as having more hygiene facilities and ensuring that social distancing protocols are followed. You may also need to revisit your employee leave policies and encourage workers with mild symptoms to take time off.

There’s no denying that the COVID-19 crisis has brought the global economy to its knees. No one knows when the pandemic will end and how businesses will recover. But if there’s anything that we have learned from previous economic crises, the construction industry is resilient. It may recover slowly, but it will always recover.

Tips for Contractors on the Rise of the COVID-19 Crisis

September 1st, 2020 Posted by Uncategorized No Comment yet

At the start of 2020, the construction industry’s outlook had never been brighter. The early momentum of the United States economy served to boost the confidence of construction industry leaders. According to the Associated Builders and Contractors in mid-March, 72% of contractors expected to expand their staffing levels over the following six months, while more than 68% expected their sales levels to increase. Unfortunately, these expectations have halted because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The COVID-19 crisis has impacted construction projects worldwide in several ways, with numerous projects grinding to a halt. However, not all construction businesses have ceased operations for the time being. Several states in the U.S. have declared construction work as essential, and therefore will continue operations albeit in a limited capacity. Unfortunately, supply chain disruptions and a skeletal workforce are forcing project delays and stoppage.

The pandemic situation is continuously evolving. Many construction business owners have introduced several changes in their operations to adapt to the difficult circumstances. The implementation of social distancing, additional health and hygiene facilities, and remote work is essential to slowing down the spread of the virus.

As you deal with the impact of the coronavirus crisis on your operations, remember to do so with the mindset that you’re preparing for the recovery of your business. Here are some tips on how contractors can rise from the onslaught of COVID-19.

Evaluate Operational Risks and Short-Term Liquidity

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, your company will experience significant delays and disruptions due to the slowing down of the supply chain as well as the general shortage of labor.

At this point, you will need to assess your financial and operational risks and their impact on your overall margins. Because of the disruptions, you may be unable to fulfill your own obligations, so be proactive in renegotiating the terms of your contract if necessary. You should also consider alternative supply chain options, especially if your suppliers reside in areas that are severely impacted by the pandemic. If you source your materials overseas, especially in Asia, you may have to look for other options locally.

Many of the steps you need to take to counteract the impact of the crisis involve cash. For this reason, you need to assess your short-term liquidity and strictly monitor your cash flow. In particular, you need to focus on the management of your inventory (prolonged storage will incur proportional carry costs), as well as the collection of your pending receivables. If you’ve been diligent in filing your preliminary notices, you will have a better chance of collecting your invoices to support your COVID-19 crisis recovery.

Process

Contracts are the most powerful tool in a contractor’s arsenal, but only if they are done properly. The COVID-19 crisis has made the importance of every provision quite apparent. Unforeseen circumstances (force majeure) provisions, which are generally regarded as boilerplate clauses, have been at the forefront of discussions as many construction businesses have failed to fulfill obligations due to the pandemic. Depending on the language of a contract, these provisions can provide you with relief and more time to complete the job, or in some cases, void the contract altogether. Moving forward, this is a perfect opportunity for you to review your contract creation process and begin to negotiate contracts that address situations similar to this pandemic.

Prioritize Your Employees’ Safety

Construction business owners have always dealt with safety hazards on sites, but the pandemic is a completely different type of challenge. Understandably, there will be doubts among your employees about workplace safety that could affect their productivity.

Transitioning to the new normal is a challenge not just for you but for your employees as well. Your job is to explore any opportunities that can ease this transition. For instance, you can expand your work arrangements for non-field employees to include flexible options such as remote work. For field employees, you need to put measures in place to fight against infections, such as having more hygiene facilities and ensuring that social distancing protocols are followed. You may also need to revisit your employee leave policies and encourage workers with mild symptoms to take time off.

There’s no denying that the COVID-19 crisis has brought the global economy to its knees. No one knows when the pandemic will end and how businesses will recover. But if there’s anything that we have learned from previous economic crises, the construction industry is resilient. It may recover slowly, but it will always recover.

STAYING HYDRATED ON THE WORK SITE

August 1st, 2020 Posted by Uncategorized No Comment yet

Heat related illnesses are a serious hazard on industrial work sites, especially outdoors during summer months.

With temperatures in some locales soaring past 100 degrees Fahrenheit, the need for workers to stay hydrated is a constant concern. Because industrial workers are also exposed to operational hazards, many are required to wear personal protective equipment (PPE). However, multiple layers of stifling equipment combined with high heat environments can create potentially fatal situations. Under these circumstances the risk of dehydration increases dramatically, which can negatively impact the ability to maintain focus, posture, and function on the job. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention notes that the body has roughly 2.6 million sweat glands, and for workers to replace lost fluids, they should drink water every fifteen minutes.

So, what should managers and employers do to keep their employees protected from dehydration?

Keeping cool in high heat environments

OSHA suggests that workers who are exposed to temperatures between 103- and 115-degrees drink four cups of water (one quart) per hour. Furthermore, if workers are exposed to direct sunlight, the heat index can rise another 15 degrees, making it even more important to stay hydrated. Water is the preferred choice of beverage over soft drinks or coffee, because caffeine depletes electrolytes more quickly and causes dehydration to worsen.

It also advises that workers take more frequent breaks under these high temperature, stressful situations. Employers should provide necessary shade or cooling facilities on-site so workers are able to cool down before re-entering the work-site environment.

Notice the warning signs

Employers and on-site managers should be able to spot dehydration before it becomes an issue. They should also train the workers how to spot the warning signs and establish a “buddy” system where the employees watch out for each other. According it OSHA those most at risk of dehydration are employees:

  • Who are directly under the sun
  • Who are working for hours at a time
  • Who are wearing PPE

Some warnings that workers are dehydrated are:

  • Excessive fatigue
  • Sunken eyes
  • Red face
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Dry mouth
  • Extreme thirst
  • Cool, clammy skin
  • Goosebumps or chills
  • No longer perspiring
  • Dark colored urine

One of the best ways to identify just how much water is needed to replenish dehydrated workers’ fluids is to assess the color of their urine. There are five stages of dehydration based on color, ranging from clear (fully hydrated) to dark yellow (needs water immediately). On the low end of the spectrum, workers should consume 8-12 glasses of water per day. Those who are severely dehydrated should promptly drink a large bottle of water to protect against heat stroke.

When leaving the worksite at the end of the day, workers should be reminded to keep drinking water until their urine is clear, so they will be fully hydrated before retiring for the night.

CALIFORNIA HIGH-SPEED RAIL PROVIDES 4,000 CONSTRUCTION JOBS

July 1st, 2020 Posted by Uncategorized No Comment yet

The Covid-19 pandemic has caused a flurry of uncertainty in the California construction industry. Questions have arisen as to whether a project is considered essential, as well as whether a full workforce can be safely maintained.

Amid this crisis, The California High-Speed Rail Authority has continued construction, creating more than 4,000 construction jobs over 119 miles of the high-speed rail project. This has greatly contributed to the local economy as well as helping to support a more stable state economy. This is California’s, and the nation’s, first high-speed rail system. It is currently the biggest infrastructure project in the state – possibly in the country.

The Authority has worked closely with the local trade unions, the State Building and Construction Trades Council and the Fresno Regional Workforce Development Board. With so many out of work, the carpenters, electricians, laborers, ironworkers, operating engineers, and many others on the project feel fortunate to have regular paychecks and steady jobs near home.

The majority of workers are from counties in the Central Valley. Of the 4,000 workers currently on the project, 62 live in Merced County, 223 live in Madera County, 1,969 live in Fresno County, 121 live in Kings County, 395 live in Tulare County, and 572 live in Kern County.

The Authority has operated under the mandate that jobs created by the high-speed rail project must benefit disadvantaged areas through the execution of a Community Benefits Agreement. The 119-mile construction site contains thousands of workers and hundreds of apprentices. According to the Targeted Worker Program included in the Community Benefits Agreement, 30% of all project work hours need to be performed by individuals from disadvantaged communities where annual household incomes range from $32,000 to $40,000.

This critically needed high-speed train will provide a clean, fast mode of mass transit, helping to alleviate the congestion on California’s highways, freeways, and airports. The completed project will contribute significantly to California’s economy, and serve the state’s growing population, while at the same time protecting the environment.

Prepare for Tomorrow – COVID-19 and the Construction Job Outlook

June 1st, 2020 Posted by Uncategorized No Comment yet

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the novel coronavirus virus (COVID-19) has been detected in more than 160 locations internationally, including in the United States. As anyone with a computer or television knows, the number of cases involving person-to-person transmission outside China has been increasing at such a steady rate that the World Health Organization has recently declared the outbreak a pandemic. Each day, the number of confirmed infections rises exponentially. Quite simply, all industries, including retail, hospitality, manufacturing, finance and professional services are suffering and will continue to suffer disruptions not seen in our lifetimes.

Even prior to the pandemic the industry had already been plagued by an aging and ever dwindling skilled labor pool. Construction workers – aging out of the workforce. The average age in construction was 40.4 years in 2008 up four years from 1985. Construction workers overall stop working at an earlier age than other workers. These demographics predict an exodus of experienced workers from the industry in the next decade. In states where there are specific licensing requirements for specialty trades, it is even harder. In an already tightening construction labor market, any further and widespread disruption will have a major impact.

According to a report from the Brookings Institution nearly 3 million infrastructure workers are expected to retire or permanently leave their jobs in the next decade. An aging workforce combined with a lack of visibility, flexible training, or a pipeline of young talent has hit a crisis point, especially for smaller and rural communities where operations are under threat.

The combination of a decreasing pool of skilled workers due to retirements and increasing demand of construction and infrastructure, repair, and development provide the conditions which create opportunity for secure, well-paying careers for young people.

As the economy ramps up in a post-COVID-19 rebuilding, the greatest shortages will occur among skilled construction workers. In a job market likely flooded with unemployed, those people with demonstrable skills will stand out for the better paying positions. For people working in the fields, the key will be the ability to demonstrate skills. Certification offers a clear proof of skills that provides access to the best jobs.

In a state with a massive housing shortage, workers looking ahead and preparing for careers that will flourish in a post-COVID-19, construction trades offer a clear choice.

Construction Safety and Covid-19 in Los Angeles

May 1st, 2020 Posted by Uncategorized No Comment yet

Under the California state and local orders, construction is considered an essential occupation and workers are allowed to continue to work during the pandemic. While that may sound like good news, the flip side is that construction workers are at greater risk on the job than those who are laid off, furloughed, or working from home.

Eric Garcetti, the Los Angeles Mayor, has issued detailed orders regarding steps to ensure the health of construction workers during this time. This order provides detailed requirements of construction companies to protect their workers from infection and provides compliance reviews and penalties for failure to implement the standards.

The order, as revised on April 15th , provides 19 standards each company must meet in order to continue to work. Many workers, speaking anonymously, report that the reality on construction sites is that these rules are impossible to implement even by construction supervisors who attempt to do so.

The flow of workers, deliveries, and multi-person tasks compromise the social distancing standard. Staggered arrival and departure schedules are difficult to implement. Disinfecting tools and surfaces is unrealistic as a full safety measure.

A local NBC affiliate filed a report of observations of a number of construction sites and found that social distancing was not observed at any of them. At the SoFi Stadium construction site, two cases of Covid-19 were identified as the 3,000 workers continued work on the “essential site.”

While the order by Mayor Garcetti is an attempt to provide safe working conditions for construction workers caught between the need to work and unemployment, the reality is that workers remain at risk without effective testing protocols.

Workers in the construction industry deserve the same protection as workers in other industries whose functions place them at risk of exposure.

Construction Workers Essential To COVID-19 Fight in California

April 1st, 2020 Posted by Uncategorized No Comment yet

At a time when all but essential workers are instructed to stay home, California is recognizing the critical role played by the construction workers. Whether it is housing for the homeless, homes for low income families, home construction to relieve the massive housing shortage in the state, or emergency retooling of hotels and schools to provide hospital services, California has allowed construction workers to continue to assist in solving the state’s most urgent problems.

Nathan Click, spokesperson for the Governor’s Office, noted in an email that the order applies to all workers “except as needed to maintain continuity of operation of the federal critical infrastructure sectors, critical government services, schools, childcare, and construction, including housing construction.” As one official said, “You can’t shelter in place if you have no shelter. In addition to construction projects, the state has recognized as essential those workers who keep buildings functional from hospitals to police stations, nursing homes, and correctional facilities.”

The preparations for an onslaught of coronavirus hospital emergency admission will require a vast number of construction workers to move to these most urgent new projects. As the state moves to acquire hotels, schools and other buildings which can be used as hospitals, there is a sudden surge in the need for skilled workers in every trade. The Governor’s Office also recognized the possibility that trade workers might be essential to conversion of manufacturing facilities to turn out critically needed items for medical care. Union officials noted that construction workers generally work at some distance from each other and much of their work is done in none other than confined spaces. However, the union is instructing workers to take breaks at a social distance of more than six feet, bring their food with them and not to congregate. They have also been instructed to avoid contact with others to reduce risk to themselves and the community. Stay informed and get more information on this trade at Creed LA.

Los Angeles Celebrates Women in Construction

March 5th, 2020 Posted by Uncategorized No Comment yet

It is Women in Construction Week March 3 – 5 in Los Angeles to recognize and support the expansion of the participation of women in the construction industry in Los Angeles. It has long been recognized that women represent 47% of the overall workforce but only nine percent of construction employment. This week efforts to address this inequality are recognized and celebrated for the organizations seeking to increase the participation of women in construction trades.

Los Angeles has long been a leader in the movement to improve the representation of women in all phases and levels of the construction industry. Starting in 1961 with 12 women, the National Association of Women in Construction has provided active support for the advancement of women in the construction industry in Los Angeles. They have gained the support of corporations, unions and workers.

Women Build Metro LA (WBMLA) was established in support of Metro’s Project Labor Agreement and Construction Careers Policy mandate. Given that women currently make up less than 3% of the construction trade workforce, the voluntary committee members are passionate about increasing female participation. With emphasis on the construction trades, they are proud to recruit, educate and support womens’ introduction into all aspects of the transportation industry. Although Metro does not hire workers for their construction projects, all of their Prime Contractors have this requirement.

Grassroots organizations support and advocate for women in the trades. Tradeswomen, Inc. was founded in 1979, and for over 40 years has worked on outreach, recruitment, training and retention of women in the trades in Southern California.

Women in Construction Operations (WiOPS) supports mentoring, educating, and networking to develop increased presence of women leadership in construction and are offering a presentation on Wednesday, March 25, 2020.

Winterwomen provides training programs specifically for women to enter the construction industry and helps people prepare for apprenticeship programs with a focused 10 week program of skill development for women and youth from low income backgrounds to enter the construction field.

Training is a vital component of this effort, and the California Apprenticeship Coordinators Association has taken a proactive position in recruiting women for apprenticeship programs around the state. The urgent need for skilled workers in the construction trades creates opportunities for women to enter and advance in the various trades, and the association works to increase the percentage of women in each of its many coordinated apprenticeship programs.

CREED LA would like to applaud these efforts at achieving a more gender equitable society by the corporations, organizations and individuals in Los Angeles.

Sustainable Construction for a Sustainable Future

February 20th, 2020 Posted by Uncategorized No Comment yet

In March of 2019, the City of Los Angeles put forth a plan for ensuring the sustainability of all aspects of the city for decades to come. A core element of that plan is working to move to more energy efficient building both through retrofit and change construction design and materials. Building consumes the largest portion of electricity and serves to create a large portion of greenhouse gases. Intelligent, efficient retrofits will reap benefits for years to come in lower energy costs and additional green jobs.

The advantages of green construction fall into three main categories:

  • Environmental Benefits
  • Financial Benefits
  • Social Benefits

Among the benefits of sustainable construction are:

1 COST REDUCTION
Southern California is suffering a major crisis in affordable housing. Sustainable construction can lower housing costs, diminish utility costs, plan for development adjacent to public transportation, and increase the construction of cost efficient housing. The net result of these measures will be to offer residents more housing at affordable rates with lower utility and travel costs.

2. INCREASED PRODUCTIVITY
Researchers have found that living in a environmentally friendly area and working in a green building can improve productivity. The research demonstrates measurable positive impacts on the productivity of workers in such buildings. A study conducted by Harvard researchers demonstrated quantifiable performance improvements attributable to working in a green environment.

3. IMPROVED HEALTH
According to the US Green Building Council, green buildings positively affect public health. Improving indoor air quality can reduce absenteeism and work hours affected by asthma, respiratory allergies, depression and stress and self-reported improvements in productivity. USGBC’s own research reinforces that employees in LEED green buildings feel happier, healthier and more productive.

4. WASTE MINIMIZATION
Operation of standard buildings wastes millions of tons of materials each year, while green building uses fewer resources and minimizes waste. LEED projects are responsible for diverting more than 80 million tons of waste from landfills, and by 2030 that number is expected to grow to 540 million tons.

5. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION
The use of recycled materials in construction reduces the flow to the waste streams of vast amounts of what otherwise would be construction debris. By offering energy conservation, the energy sources are less taxed, and fewer waste products are discharged into the air. Solar heaters, improved use of water supplies, insulated air conditioning systems and many other practices combine to reduce the adverse impact of buildings on both the environment inside the building and outside.

6. BETTER QUALITY OF LIFE
Whether it is a healthier work environment, more attractive environment, or mass transit options to high stress commutes, sustainable construction offers a clear improvement to the quality of life for all members of the community. Improved health due to safer materials, increased productivity – thanks to better surroundings and more effective noise protection, are only a few of the advantages. Sustainable construction improves the quality of life for all members of the community.

7. JOB EXPANSION
The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) has reported that the renewable job sector employed 700,000 more people in 2018 than 2017. In solar power, the industry provided 334,992 jobs in manufacturing and installation. In 2018, wind power jobs increased by 4 percent. The U.S. hydropower industry employed 66,448 people. Between retrofit of existing buildings and construction of new ones, the demand for workers skilled in sustainable construction will provide major increases in employment demand, and with increased demand will come increased compensation and benefits for workers.

Working Dangerously in the Los Angeles Construction Trades

January 7th, 2020 Posted by Uncategorized No Comment yet

The daily newspaper routinely reports construction accidents – one killed and three injured by falling rebar, a trench worker killed by a falling plate, a worker killed in a 53 story fall, and the stories continue.

A National Bureau of Labor Statistics report showed that California ranked second in the number of work related deaths, and that Los Angeles ranked 5th in the entire country. A study published by the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health reveals that construction accidents are the second-leading cause of death for California workers. In the five-year period between 2013 and 2017, there were 309 reported construction-accident deaths in California. On average, one construction worker dies in a work-related accident each week.

The Los Angeles construction industry is booming. From towers and skyscrapers going up on every other block in downtown LA, to huge residential projects across Hollywood, to a $2.5 billion, 80,000-seat stadium in Inglewood, the construction industry is keeping workers busy across the Southland. But with that breakneck level of construction comes the danger of construction accidents as contractors and employers push workers to meet deadlines while trying to meet budgets.

Injuries arise from risks which can be reduced by attention to compliance with federal and state safety laws for working conditions, hours, equipment care and training. Risks in construction work include:

  • Falls (the single greatest risk in construction work)
  • Electrocution and burns
  • Defective or poorly-maintained machinery or tools
  • Trench collapse injuries

Common causes of construction accidents include:

  • Failure to follow federal and state safety laws and guidelines
  • Failure to provide workers with proper safety equipment
  • Extended working hours, leading to worker fatigue and oversight
  • Lack of proper training
  • Lack of employer safety planning

A research project reviewed construction accidents in several cities including Los Angeles, and based on statistical data made a series of recommendations to reduce the frequency of construction worker injuries and death at the design stage.

  • The construction industry should implement the concept of designing for construction safety as a standard practice to reduce safety risks to workers. This process involves recognizing risks and minimizing them in the design phase of each project.
  • Designers should include fall protection in specifications for roofs, skylights, and structural steel construction.
  • Designers should include barriers and other measures that prevent contact with electrical and other utilities.
  • Designers should consider incorporating design-for-safety measures in all types of projects (residential, commercial, and industrial) as well as new projects, renovation, and demolition.
  • Root-cause accident analysis and other accident investigations should routinely consider whether design-for-safety modifications could have prevented the incident.
  • The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services should consider broad-based methods and initiatives to integrate the concept of designing for construction safety into construction

State government is active in establishing standards for construction worker safety, and is increasingly vigilant in enforcement. Recent changes in the labor law regarding who is a private contractor and who is an employee will bring many workers under the protection of these labor standards and laws. The progress is valuable, but much more needs to be done before the daily newspaper can stop reporting the deaths and injuries to Los Angeles construction workers.

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