Is your construction project ready for covid19 lock-down?

Is your construction project ready for covid19 lock-down?Today Spain and Italy and 20% of the USA are in lock-down due to coronavirus or covid19. More countries are taking drastic steps to lock-down neighbourhoods, cities, states and countries. Will your construction project be forced to stop work? Will you be prepared for an indefinite closure of your construction project?

But even if there isn’t a general closure of businesses in your region your construction project could be closed for 14 days if one person tests positive for coronavirus or covid19. Everyone working on the project will be quarantined for two weeks and you may have to get professional cleaners in to disinfect and clean equipment, offices and various facilities. Clients might not even accept completed buildings until they’re professionally cleaned if there’s a risk that surfaces were contaminated by sick workers.

How to prepare your construction project for coronavirus lock-down

At this stage many closures are indefinite. They could be for 2 weeks, a month, even longer. Who knows?

What will happen to your project while it’s in lock-down? What will the weather be when it’s safe to return? Will your project be safe?

Well here are a few steps to take in preparation.

· Make sure your project is secure. If you have to close up tomorrow will the project be safe? Safe from theft and safe from people getting injured on the project. With schools out you don’t want bored school kids wreaking havoc on your project.

· Will your project be safe from the weather. Lots can happen in the next couple of months. Rain, storms and wind.

o If you’re in the building business can you close parts of the building. Put extra effort into completing roofs and installing doors and windows. Put in place temporary weatherproofing where possible.

o With renovation and brownfield projects avoid creating holes in existing roofs and walls which you can’t quickly close.

o Try and close open excavations. Lay pipes in open trenches. Concrete open foundations. Avoid opening new excavations too far ahead of work.

· Now may be a good time to work extra overtime. I’m generally not an advocate of overtime, but in this case maybe make use of the available time to get ahead on the project schedule, and importantly to secure your project.

· Try to handover sections of the project to the client as soon as possible.

· Get concrete into forms.

· Make sure you have up to date contact details for your crews. During the shutdown it may be necessary to bring back some people if there’s an emergency. Anyway, when people are allowed back to work by the authorities you might not want everyone back on the same day. There could be safety checks to be done, such as checking scaffolding, excavations, etc before work can resume. It may be necessary to pump the project dry. But anyway, sometimes lock-downs are announced over a weekend and it may be necessary to get some people urgently to the project to close it down before the official start of the lock-down on the Monday.

· Plan who needs to work through the lock-down. Are there pumps that must be operated? What about concrete tests and concrete curing? Draft letters for anyone who must still work during the lock-down so they can demonstrate to the authorities that they’re doing essential work.

· If you’re being paid for meeting milestones put every effort into achieving these milestones. It could be a long time before your next payments, so you don’t want to have a milestone 95% completed and you can’t complete it for months while the project is in lock-down.

· Check all storm-water drains are connected and clear of obstructions.

· Remove rubbish regularly so there isn’t litter that could blow around the unattended project during a lock-down.

· Return non-essential hired equipment to suppliers. Try and finish tasks so equipment can be returned.

What to do when your project is about to go into lock-down

Usually the authorities provide 24 to 48 hours ahead of the lock-down.

To prepare the project:

· Notify all staff, subcontractors, suppliers and the client when the project will close. Stop deliveries so that there are no last minute deliveries to offload just as the site is closing.

· Get urgent work completed. Concrete placed into forms that are ready. In a month’s time forms that aren’t concreted before lock-down will probably have to be stripped, cleaned and reformed. Getting elevated beams and slabs concreted before the lock-down could at least mean that the concrete is gaining strength while the project is closed, so forms can be stripped when work resumes.

· Make sure the project is secure.

· Safely store all small tools, and materials.

· Secure loose materials and protect materials from the weather where necessary.

· Ensure that partly completed work won’t be damaged by storms. Check that roof coverings won’t be ripped off, or unsupported walls blown down. Where possible weather coverings must be installed.

· Check storm-water drains are clear.

· Check temporary barricades are secure and won’t be pushed over by severe winds.

· Where possible put hired equipment off hire. Send equipment back to suppliers where possible.

· Park equipment in secure areas where they won’t be flooded.

· Ensure there are people to do essential tasks during the lock-down. Man the pumps, complete concrete curing and testing. If you’re project is in a trafficked area it may be necessary to have someone periodically visit to check safety barricades and signage. Anyone working must have contact details for the project manager in case of problems. If anyone who is attending to essential work becomes ill in this time, they must not continue working and there should be nominated backup people who can step in.

· Notify the security company of project closure.

· If you are being paid monthly for progress to date, then submit a progress claim to your client for your completed work. Don’t forget to include claims from your subcontractors. Everyone is going to be desperate for money.

· Complete and submit all time/pay sheets so workers can be paid for their time on the project.

· There is usually never enough time for paperwork on construction projects, so the project lock-down could be an opportunity to catch-up. Discuss with your team what work can be done during the lock-down and ensure team members take the required work home with them. Arrange skype calls if necessary. While the project is in lock-down you could complete outstanding variation claims and ensure that quality files are up to date. You may be able to get ahead with preparing method statements and risk assessment for future tasks.

· If your company is responsible for design, then ensure the designers will continue working from home. Arrange protocols for discussing design issues with the client and approving designs and drawings.

· Submit notice of a delay to your client.

· Make sure the project has emergency contact details prominently displayed.

· Before sending everyone home, walk the project site to review the shutdown measures. Is everything tidy, safe and secure.

What if your project is essential and must work through the lock-down?

Some construction projects may be able to continue working through lock-downs.

· Make sure your suppliers can continue delivering materials.

· Notify your employees and subcontractors that work will continue.

· Check that transport services will still be operating. It may be necessary to lay on your own transport to get workers to the project.

· Check with hired equipment suppliers that there will be emergency support to fix equipment breakdowns.

· Take every precaution to ensure workers stay healthy. Anyone who feels ill must stay at home.

· Make sure that there will still be office support to pay wages, suppliers and subcontractors.

· Ensure your client will still have staff to process payments.

· Ensure that testing services will still be available.

· Check that your designers will continue working.

· Put in place steps to avoid regular meetings, rather use video conferencing.


These are testing times for everyone. Being prepared can help reduce some of the fallout from a project lock-down.

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Do you want to learn how to manage construction projects and construction companies successfully?

Paul Netscher has written several easy to read construction management books for owners, contractors, construction managers, construction supervisors and foremen. They cover all aspects of construction management and are filled with tips and insights.

The books are available in paper and ebook from most online stores including Amazon.

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Title image by Alexey Hulsov from Pixabay 

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