The construction industry is used to working in shifting environments, nimbly adapting to changing circumstances on any given day, including on the worksite. We’re good at innovating, problem-solving on-the-spot.
We are in unchartered territory today.
I have been an owner and a businessman for a lot of years. I am used to making decisions quickly and without hesitation. I have never been so torn in trying to decide what is the right path as I am right now.
How does the COVID-19 pandemic alter our operations, now and in the weeks ahead?
First, as the accompanying article indicates, we are in continued contact with MI on the plans to roll out tender advertisements as scheduled. Through the Canadian Construction Association, we are talking to the federal government. All of our decisions are made with health and safety foremost in mind. We will keep you posted as news comes.
We are seeing, south of the border, some states suspending all construction activity, other than essential services, for a variety of timelines.
While the heavy construction industry performs work in isolation i.e. operators, truck drivers etc., we do have need for contact.
I have employees working from home but also have people in the field and in our office. My business has taken steps to protect their health and welfare, as I expect all companies have. The advice from all governments is no close personal contact, and stay away from social gatherings. Wise words.
I struggle every day as to whether we should still be operating. I want to employ people but I want people to be safe. Every health professional is saying to stay home if you can. I encourage all companies in our industry to follow that advice, to make their assessments as to where that is possible, and revisit those decisions as events unfold.
Our industry is about people. The whole business plan pivots on taking care of our people. And it is logical and compassionate to want to keep people in their jobs, employed, but we must also acknowledge that the federal government has rolled out extraordinary assistance to business and individuals that may be forced to stand down from jobs for this very reason – not all businesses will be able to continue daily operations in the face of a health emergency that may be with us for months.
A common thread on social media has been people will remember how companies treated their employees in this crisis. I do not want to be on the wrong side of that remembering and I’m sure my colleagues in our industry are of the same mind.
I am not advocating for a shutdown of construction but I also believe it might come into play at some point. There is no risk-management tool for this crisis.
The only thing we can do is shift as we must, and look after our employees as best we can.
Jack Meseyton CET, GSC
E.F. Moon Construction Ltd.