Zurich Industry Briefing: Construction after COVID 19: What contractors need to know

A talk by Jon Tate
Vice President of Construction-Risk Engineering, Zurich Services Corporation

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Zurich North America is proud to again be the premier sponsor for the AGC Safety & Health Conference. Although construction stopped in some cities and states during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, many kept working. There is no doubt we have all been affected in one way or another by the pandemic. In the early stages of the pandemic, contractors adjusted on the fly to help reduce COVID-19 health risks to their crews. Now that we are months into the pandemic, we are hopeful that the vaccines will help reduce the spread in time. However, as a construction community we did a great job incorporating lessons learned to help manage risks and rebuild momentum in a world transformed by the pandemic.

Jon Tate, Vice President of Construction Risk Engineering at Zurich North America, points out that contractors deal with unexpected challenges frequently, often weather related. That experience has served the industry well as it adjusts to new safety and health requirements along with complexities of returning to sites where work perhaps started but then was halted and/or is affected by outbreaks on jobsites.

Contractors who developed COVID-19 exposure control plans have likely revised these plans numerous times since the pandemic started. This trend, unfortunately, will continue for quite some time. No one would have invited coronavirus into the world, but new protocols to reduce health hazards may produce additional benefits. Some of the practices put into place since the start of the pandemic may have even contributed to increased productivity. “These steps could become a best practice worth keeping, along with many other new procedures,” says Tate.

It’s still too soon to gauge the net impact of the coronavirus pandemic. But, in terms of the business outlook, potential positive developments could include:

• Construction opportunities increasing in sectors such as healthcare, infrastructure, warehousing (which was already going on) and manufacturing.

• Growth in modular, off-site construction, in part because it can help reduce the number of people on a job site at one time.

• More U.S. manufacturing of construction materials, in response to coronavirus-related supply chain delays associated with offshore providers.

• Regional population shifts in response to the hardships endured during the pandemic. These may result in increased residential construction in areas of growth, followed by additional commercial and infrastructure development.

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