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How COVID-19 Has Affected Risk in the Construction Industry

While COVID-19 has increased the risks for construction professionals, there are strategies to mitigate risk such as virtual training, wearables and attracting the best talent.
By Gary Clevenger
November 10, 2020
Topics
Safety
Risk
Technology
Workforce

More eyes are on the growth and response of the construction industry than ever before. A McKinsey reportdistinguished construction as one of the industries that has the potential to help both communities and economies recover following COVID-19. The steps construction companies take in the coming months could lead to the industry coming back stronger and more innovative. However, with any rapid transition, comes new risk.

The onset of COVID-19 introduced many new challenges to construction professionals. On top of a shortage of trained construction professionals that has been prevalent in the industry, companies are now facing restrictions on how many workers can be on a jobsite—all leading to a sudden increase in fatigue among workers. There is an increased focus on job safety training and physical fitness, as time off from the job during quarantine likely depleted some workers’ skills. Additionally, from mental distractions due to the stress of the pandemic to additional PPE requirements—there are many new obstacles workers in the construction industry are now facing.

While COVID-19 has increased the risks for construction professionals, here are three strategies construction and contracting companies can implement to better improve their risk profile.

Virtual Trainings

The industry overall has ramped up virtual training opportunities to keep professionals up to date on how to perform tasks and implement safety measures and with some jobsites still idle, continuing to offer training will be essential to ensuring workers are ready to perform once they are able to return.

Organizations, such as The National Center for Construction Education and Research, offer extensive training programs that give users access to robust courses in various crafts, including carpentry, electrical and welding. These industry associations are also working together to generate guidelines and resources that will help keep everyone safe during COVID-19. Additionally, companies could take advantage of the education solutions provided by their insurance carrier.

Wearable Technologies

Wearable technologies are being customized for the construction industry with more sophistication. A few items companies should consider implementing to help minimize risks are exoskeleton technologies, wearable clothing and smart PPE.

Exoskeleton technology is especially beneficial for overhead work. This equipment assists workers in completing tasks with less effort, which prolongs their ability to perform at optimal levels with less fatigue. There have also been recent developments in wearable clothing offerings for construction workers, including heated jackets and cooling vests that take advantage of battery and nano technology.

While wearable clothing has been around for a while, the advancements in battery life allow for longer duration of use and are lighter and more comfortable for the operators.

Smart PPE takes the connected jobsite to the next level as the systems can collect biometric data, alert workers to hazards and call for aid in the event of injury or medical incident. They are integrated into safety vests and hardhats and do not present any additional PPE load or device to wear for employees.

Staffing

Talent in the construction industry continues to be a challenge. Last year, a majority of construction firms reported that they are struggling to fill hourly craft positions. Staffing shortages in construction can lead to delays on projects, fatigue on jobsites and many other negative consequences. Continuing to hire and actively recruit skilled workers will help companies build a more robust workforce and enhance all aspects of operations from safety to quality.

In the next few months, construction companies that properly manage their risk profiles have an opportunity to realize exponential growth. Taking advantage of the industry’s offerings will assist companies in becoming safer and driving substantial change for both their communities and the broader economy.

by Gary Clevenger
Gary Clevenger, MS, CSP, RRE, is responsible for leading and advancing strategic initiatives for the segment business. Aligning risk control with enterprise partners to bring industry leading risk assessment and risk control service to segment business. CNA offers it policyholders CNA SORCE® On Demand, which provides instant access to a custom library of risk control sources and industry specific courses. 

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