It has been an interesting few weeks for the construction industry — and the world at large. We’ve witnessed governments and industries take unprecedented action to address the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent economic meltdown.
In a matter of weeks, the construction industry has also adapted to a “new normal” whereby self-isolation, working from home where possible, and social distancing on site is the status quo. Amid the pandemic, the industry has been forced to think differently about how it works. As such, it has adapted to keep the lights on, all while protecting its most important asset: its people.
One silver lining the industry can take into the post-virus era is the range of innovative technologies that have helped us stay connected, even while physically distant. These technologies are benefitting the health of our people, the health of our businesses, and the health of our global communities.
Innovations Supporting Health
According to figures from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, over ten percent of people working in the concrete industry experienced a job-related injury or illness within a 12-month timeframe.
New COVID-19 policies introduced at manufacturing plants and job sites could actually have a positive impact on these day-to-day potential hazards for workers. For example, the expanded use of personal protective equipment (PPE) could further prevent eye, skin, and respiratory tract irritation from exposure to cement dust; better virtual communications technologies could help educate more workers on how to handle safety incidents like chemical burns from wet concrete; and new wearable devices and beacons could prevent accidents by ensuring worker compliance and improving lockout and tagout systems on machinery.
For workers staying home, video conferencing technologies like Zoom help to maintain social contact in a time of social distance. For many, this digital connectedness helps stave off feelings of isolation and support mental health and wellbeing during the crisis.
Innovations Supporting Business
In addition to the improved safety policies, businesses are finding ways to keep employees productive while working from the safety of their own homes. Technology applications like Slack, Google Meet, and Zoom make this possible.
As remote working becomes the norm, many workers are finding it to be more productive. According to one study, remote employees work 1.4 more days per month than their office-based counterparts, resulting in more than three additional weeks of work per year. More flexibility in remote work policies may be another positive change we carry with us into the post-virus era.
Support Resources for the Concrete Industry
To assist with financial and operational business challenges during the COVID-19 crisis, industry bodies have created useful support materials:
- The Construction Management Association of America (CMAA) created a COVID-19 support portal filled with useful information on topics like stress management in uncertain times and government support programs for businesses.
- The National Ready Mixed Concrete Association (NRMCA) launched a COVID-19 resource portal offering guidance for ready mixed concrete companies to help their workers remain safe and healthy and their businesses stay operational.
- The National Precast Concrete Association (NPCA) released a free webinar series on navigating a business through the crisis. Topics in the series include business continuity, financial supports, and health and safety.
Innovations Supporting Global Communities
The crisis has brought communities together and encouraged collective action against a mutual enemy: the coronavirus. We’ve seen greater support for buying local, supporting small businesses, and taking care of the most vulnerable in our society. As we emerge from the crisis, there are some societal learnings that businesses and individuals will carry with them. For one, they’ll be more aware of the impact of their actions on the wider community.
Governments and industries have shown us how quickly they can react in a crisis to change policy and rewrite the rules. As businesses rethink their future strategies, there is a great opportunity to adopt innovations that are both profitable and contribute to the social good.
To sum up, while we’re facing personal and economic challenges like never before, communities, government, and industries are coming together, albeit apart, to find solutions. There is innovation everywhere as we challenge established norms to find ways to live and work under our new social distancing rules. As such, we’ll emerge from this crisis stronger and be armed with a host of new technologies and practices to set us up for success in the post-virus era.