April 08, 2020
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Shutting down construction projects is an unnecessary step, will harm economy and undermine recovery efforts, construction officials say

Community Author: Matt Marks
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AGC Maine applauds Gov. Mills for allowing construction work to continue

AGC Maine joined AGC America and colleagues across the nation to encourage officials to allow construction activity to continue during the crisis. Maine firms moved swiftly to adopt procedures to protect construction workers and their families. Construction firms are already taking steps to protect employees, most of whom already wear protective equipment, while halting work will undermine efforts to add hospital capacity and other essential services.

“Maine’s skilled workers are building critical infrastructure, and work occurs during an abridged peak season. With fewer businesses open and reduced traffic allowing Maine’s skilled craft workers to accelerate projects will ensure that we continue improving our backlog of infrastructure work. We are pleased that Governor Mills recognized that construction is an essential service during these difficult times” said Matt Marks of AGC Maine.

Last year AGC Maine ranked 7th in the percentage of US construction job growth in 2019, finally reaching 30,000 skilled workers. While that is still short by a few thousand of the state’s peak before the great recession, it demonstrates the continued demand by the marketplace and tremendous backlog of work.

AGC Maine provided resources for construction firms to modify their daily routines. Those resources include; Toolbox Talk on COVID-19, CDC and OSHA recommended practices, use of teleconferencing or video conferencing where applicable, and strict policies where employees who feel sick should communicate with their direct supervisor and remain at home. Additionally, AGC Maine distributed resources to employers to share with their workers who have been impacted directly, need to care for a family member or have health conditions that put them at risk.

Additionally, AGC Maine encourages agencies to examine conditions that limit capacity and complete work faster including an accelerated bid process where applicable. If work is curtailed, having the ability to be further ahead is critical to meeting deadlines. For instance, daily road opening times could be extended on projects or in-stream work that could start earlier in the season.

The chief executive officer of the Associated General Contractors of America, Stephen E. Sandherr, issued the following statement in reaction to steps being taken to put in place arbitrary halts to construction activity in certain parts of the country:

“Halting construction activity will do more harm than good for construction workers, community residents and the economy. Construction firms are already acting to ensure the safety and health of their employees in the face of the coronavirus outbreak. These new measures, which include increased hygiene and halting group gatherings of staff, are in addition to the fact construction workers already wear protective equipment, including gloves that will help protect them and their co-workers.

“Given the precautions already in place, halting construction will do little to protect the health and safety of construction workers. But it will go a long way in undermining economic vitality by depriving millions of workers of the wages they will need over the coming days. At the same time, these measures have the potential to bankrupt many construction firms who have contractual obligations to stay on schedule or risk incurring significant financial penalties.

“In addition, halting construction projects will undermine ongoing, and future, recovery efforts in regions hit by natural disasters, and will also undermine any future efforts to expand hospital capacity.

“We understand the need for social distancing to help slow the spread of coronavirus. But needlessly shutting down projects where workers are already protected will not help. Instead, it will threaten the livelihood of millions of craft professionals, force many small and family-owned businesses to shut down and undermine the nation’s ability to respond to natural disasters, including the coronavirus.

“In the unfortunate event construction is halted, we urge construction owners to consider continuing their scheduled payments to contractors as a down payment for work to be completed on the project. These payments will help mitigate some of the potential economic impacts of construction shutdowns.”