Navigate the New Health and Safety Norm With Construction Technology

In this age of social distancing, a cloud-based, integrated construction software suite can provide a single source of HR data truth that extends to the workforce in real time.
By Jeremy Larsen
July 2, 2020

Safety has always been a pressing issue in construction, and as states reopen and construction projects pick up steam once again, the industry will become even more closely scrutinized than before. Construction safety looks a lot different than it did six months ago. In addition to the concerns around keeping workers safe on construction sites, today’s contractors are faced with a whole new category of risk, and with new health and safety measures that may vary by county, state or region. New requirements range from social distancing and limits on the size of crews, to requiring masks and temperature checks for all workers.

Operating in the New Norm

This sudden onset of COVID-19 put otherwise healthy businesses into a state of chaos that, months later, is still hard to navigate. By March of 2020, reports indicated that nearly one-third of construction projects had come to a halt. Now, as the industry emerges, balancing business continuity efforts with trying to get crews back to work and jobsites moving again will no doubt present challenges. New health and safety measures, plus the fact that no one wants to touch paper in the field, will add another layer of administrative and procedural oversight to the construction process. Of course, these measures are absolutely needed, but construction businesses can’t ignore the fact that it changes the very way projects and jobsites are managed. And, without the right tools in place, it may be a bumpy ride.

As economies and businesses cautiously begin to reopen, the focus is now going to be on keeping employees informed, keeping them safe and keeping them engaged and responsive—all in real time. For many businesses, the pandemic has forced them to take a closer look at technology and demand cloud-based software solutions to continue business operations. An integrated, cloud-based construction solution of record can ensure, up to the minute, that safety measures are consistently being met and workers are safe. Cloud-based construction operations enable information to flow seamlessly, even from remote locations.

Working in the cloud reduces the burden of project managers traveling back and forth between the field and the office to process data to keep work moving forward. Web-based software lets construction data—and the jobsite—flow in real time without human intervention, which is critical during this time.

With the ability to access the very latest data, contractors no longer have to rely on data that is days, weeks or even months old. The older the data, the harder it is to gauge a real sense of how the project is going. Accuracy, especially with the data used to generate work-in-progress reports, true job costing projections, change order status and the like, is more important now more than ever before to projects’ ultimate success.

Working with data in real time not only reduces unnecessary costs and delays but gives project managers the insight to know where problems on the project might exist so they can address them quicker. Having real-time data also keeps the owners and financiers of the project up to date with real-time visibility. And now that we are in a recession and worker safety top of mind, visibility into project health will continue to be paramount.

Changes happen all the time during construction projects, and even more so now when the rules of engagement and project scope continue to evolve. In addition to ensuring the project is carried out correctly and to the latest specifications, changes are where contractors have opportunities to potentially make more money. However, contractors can also waste a lot of time and productivity waiting for them to be approved. Cloud-based software and modern workflow technologies can route change requests and change orders the moment they are needed and expedite the approval process.

Changes on the job aren’t always necessarily related to the materials used or scope of the plans. With the real-time access to data that cloud-based solutions provide, project managers can see if there is a particular area of the project that is lagging behind or if bills and invoices need attention. This allows the project managers to do their jobs better and be proactive rather than reactive on the jobsite.

Real-World Examples of Modern Safety Practices

Even before COVID-19, Texas-based general contractor Satterfield and Pontikes leveraged an integrated, cloud-based construction ERP solution and its mobile field applications to create digital forms that replicate familiar paper versions, while also enabling visibility into near real-time data for safety and project management. These implementations made the transition to remote work a little less daunting for Satterfield and Pontikes.

Meanwhile, UK contractor RED Systems leveraged the same mobile field solution to create COVID-specific health and safety forms. Upon arrival to the site, workers’ temperatures are taken, they self-certify for symptoms and they are then provided with PPE. All the information is recorded digitally and automatically emailed to key stakeholders. Not only does this offer peace of mind for the company but also provides additional confidence to clients that RED Systems is taking a proactive approach.

Malaysia’s largest civil engineering contractor, Gamuda Berhad, implemented a common data environment database (EDMS) and intuitive mobile field application to not only monitor the health and safety of its workforce but also boost speed, productivity and have access to critical project data to make informed decisions. It is that level of visibility and reduction of manual processes that will make for not only safer worksites for Gamuda Berhad but more productive worksite.

In this new age of social distancing in the workplace, the only viable path forward is to create a modern, self-service culture that leverages technology rather than paper. This keeps employees safe and takes the burden off already stretched back-office and construction HR professionals. To do this effectively, contractors need a cloud-based, integrated construction software suite. This provides a single source of HR data truth that extends out to the workforce in real time.

by Jeremy Larsen
Viewpoint is a leading global provider of integrated software solutions for the construction industry. 

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