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3 Things Project Teams Should Plan for During Uncertain Times

The rules and restrictions from federal, state, and local government agencies are in a state of flux in the post-COVID-19 landscape. Project teams must be aware of these changes to avoid impacts on their projects. Today, a client informed me of three new challenges I was not aware of, state travel bans, document quarantines, and local enforcement of COVID-19 safety measures.

In an effort to prevent the spread of the virus some states like New York have implemented a mandatory 14-day self-quarantine from visitors from states with higher positivity rates on a seven-day rolling average. New York currently has 31 states on the list. Other states, like New Jersey and Pennsylvania, have similar travel advisories but the self-quarantine is voluntary (for the time being). States periodically add and remove states from advisory lists, so project teams should closely monitor the advisory lists for crews and resources coming in from out of state. Exemption for the out of state quarantine is allowed for ‘essential’ construction projects in New York State.

COVID-19 is also impacting the review of plans and applications.  The virus can be detectable on paper for hours or even days. As a result, some local government planning departments are quarantining plan submittals and applications in an attempt to prevent transmission of the virus. The government agencies may require plans to be placed in quarantine from 24 hours up to three days before even starting to review the documents. Despite this uncertainty driven by COVID-19 across the country, project teams should be aware of the added time required by government agencies to review and accept documents.

Local governments are also stepping up enforcement of COVID-19 safety protocols for construction projects. Jobsites that fail to follow the proper COVID-19 safety protocols can face fines and even stop-work orders. Many local governments issued warnings for a period after the restarting of projects. That adjustment period appears to have ended and local governments have begun to issue citations. In New York City, the Department of Buildings issued 88 citations and 41 stop-work orders at project sites in one five day period. It is not always inspectors that report non-compliance, many cities are receiving reports from the general public about COVID-19 non-compliance. Some common non-compliance citations include too many people riding hoists, large gatherings for lunch and meetings, inadequate record-keeping of worker interactions, insufficient tracking of onsite cleaning, and constrained entrances and spaces that lead to workers being in close contact.

The COVID-19 pandemic is impacting the construction industry in many different ways. Project teams will have the difficult task of staying ahead of this constantly changing crisis before it impacts the project.  Keep in mind that processes and procedures should be constantly looked at to preserve long-term project objectives. Although moving quickly can certainly create an advantage, knowing where you’re headed will help ensure the changes you make are more impactful.