During the COVID-19 pandemic the construction industry has, for the most part, been able to continue field operations on existing projects. Of course, regulations have varied from state to state, and in some regions operations have been restricted or curtailed. For the last several weeks construction trade associations such as Associated General Contractors and Associated Builders and Contractors have done a great job keeping their members informed about measures to keep their jobsites safe by preventing and limiting exposure to the virus.
At the same time, many contractors have shut down their offices, and their office staff has been working remotely. They have done an amazing job adapting to the new environment, but most are looking forward to reopening their offices and returning to some semblance of normalcy. The Stinson Coronavirus Task Force recently held a two-hour webinar that explored in-depth the issues that every company, contractors included, should consider when contemplating a return to work. View the materials used during the webinar.
For those looking for an essential to-do list, we have boiled things down to the top 10 action items for contractors reopening their offices:
The plan should be flexible and take into account that second and third waves of infection are likely. The long-term interests of the company should be taken into account, not simply getting employees back to the office quickly.
4. Consider the interests of all stakeholders – employees, customers, subcontractors, vendors, and visitors, and make sure that the plan addresses the needs of each. Survey your employees to solicit their input, and allow them to self-identify if they need any accommodations for returning to work. Do not make any assumptions about who will need accommodations or what accommodations they might need.
5. Be careful about any medical information that you obtain by whatever means. Preserve confidentiality in compliance with all laws and regulations.
6. Create a process for handling complaints promptly and professionally, and follow it. Do not discourage employees from submitting complaints if they have concerns about their safety.
7. Provide clear and comprehensive training to your employees about appropriate safe practices, and update your training program regularly.
8. Before reopening your offices, and frequently thereafter, provide clear, uniform and accurate information to ensure that all stakeholders understand how you are planning to reopen safely and what is expected from them.
9. If you rent your office space, consult your lease to determine the respective obligations that you and your landlord have.
10. Consult legal counsel to help you create and maintain a plan that best suits the needs of your business.
Stinson recommends that you consult with a trusted advisor to create a return to work plan that aligns with your business goals, protects the health and safety of your employees, and mitigates your risk of exposure to claims and lawsuits.