When the pandemic first struck the United States, the states of Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington along with cities like Boston, Austin, and San Francisco shut down almost all construction projects within their borders. There were a few exceptions for things like essential infrastructure, emergency work, and hospitals and healthcare facilities.
But for most of the other states, cities, and counties that had “shelter in place” orders, construction was one of the few industries and businesses considered essential. As the country entered the storm season, restrictions were loosened even more for contractors, but the need to maintain COVID protocols was still as strict.
Today, clients who need home repairs are counting on the fact that your company has a COVID Safety Plan in place, ready to implement from the moment you contact them until the final bill is paid. Earlier, we discussed how to put this plan together. What is just as important is how you explain or otherwise project this plan to your customers so that they know you’re complying with all necessary state, local and federal guidelines.
A short pencil’s better than a long memory
Step 1 is to have a written plan. If you already do commercial or government work, this is now mandatory on all contracts. If you’ve been doing any work with real estate agents, you’ve probably seen the Department of Real Estate Mandatory Guidelines and Protocols for showing homes during the pandemic. A formal, written plan is becoming the norm in every facet of our business.
If you don’t have a written plan, it’s a best practice that simply highlights the precautions you take to keep your employees and staff safe. Write one that includes things like social distancing practices on site and at the office, cleaning trucks and equipment after use and the use of face coverings.
Share your written plan at your pre-construction or material meetings. Make sure your customers get a copy of it, and if possible, have them sign an acknowledgement that they received a copy of the plan from you. You can also post it in a documents section of your website or include it in your proposals. Either way, communicating that you have one and discussing it with the client is an important step.
Practice What You Preach
Make sure you practice your plan with your team and that it is actually in use! There are varying emotions around the pandemic and some of the precautions that have been taken. However, as a business operating during the pandemic, regardless of where you are or what your personal belief system is, most customers want to know they are safe. The best way to do that is by following the standards when interacting with them and while on their property. Make sure you have coached your team on your processes for COVID precautions and that they understand the policy or procedure. The last thing you want is for a client to get upset that none of your team are following any of the promised guidelines.
And remember this: there are important issues about liability, some of which haven’t been resolved yet. If a member of your team gets a customer sick with COVID-19, is that person – or even your company – liable for it? The courts will be facing these issues more and more as the pandemic continues. Just another reason why having a written safety plan that you’ve shared with your customers is such a critical detail.
Make It a Habit
Conduct a daily safety brief and include your COVID protocols in it. Safety is one of those issues that should be top of mind in our industry at all times. In this respect, you’re not reinventing the wheel by implementing COVID safety protocols – you’re simply integrating them into your current safety plans. Include your precautions and reminders in your safety briefings to help keep your team thinking about it.
Use common sense. If someone is sick, don’t let them come to work. If someone is exposed to the virus, make sure they quarantine the minimum amount of time and have a negative test before they are allowed back to work. These are not only good ethical decisions as a business owner but, in most states, they are requirements and are subject to fines if it’s discovered that they were not done. And no one wants their name and logo to end up on the news being blasted for being “unsafe.”
Without a doubt, the pandemic has created strange and difficult times for our industry. But we are essential workers: when a storm comes through our area and homes are damaged, customers are counting on us to make repairs and get their lives back to normal. With a solid, written plan for COVID safety, and good habits to communicate that plan to both your employees and customers, there’s no reason you can’t operate your contracting business successfully during the pandemic.