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How Will Construction Industry Brave Covid Storm 2021

The year 2020 had a fear of the unknown that had created significant disruption. By undertaking all active measures by the industry, the year 2021 is the year of resolve, hope, and optimism.

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The second wave of the pandemic has been raging across the country and started to affect people's business environment and livelihoods. The construction industry, which is one of the largest employment sectors, is also facing a challenge. While 2021 started on a positive note, the construction industry has again geared up to brave the storm. Across the country, industry leaders initiated measures to dilute the impact of the second wave. The sector remains better prepared this time and implements measures from lessons learned from the last year. It might be early to come up with a verdict, but there is every reason to believe that the interventions have proven effective.

At the heart of the fight against Covid is labor welfare. The biggest challenge in any disruption of construction activity is labor retention at the site. Early planning on keeping captive workers on site is the first step in this direction. Protecting the workers by providing a safe and sanitized environment is critical. Sanitized accommodation and amenities, supply of essential daily needs, groceries, and healthcare requirements create this sense of comfort. Conducting regular health camps, with a visit by doctors and paramedics, must be organized. 

Safe assembly areas and sanitized dining areas must be set up as much as possible. Setting up of Quarantine and isolation facilities are necessary. For large projects, stationing an ambulance on-site can be a helpful step.

A critical intervention that certain responsible industry leaders are taking up is conducting a vaccination drive to all workers, which is a practical step. In the long run, it will result in retaining workers.

On an overall level, from this objective of providing comfort to workers, key members from the Client can also address the workers in the labor camps and convey their commitment to take care of the workers. Engaging with the workers in an uncertain environment and demonstrating that we care for them can motivate them.

Apart from labor welfare strategies, it is essential to guarantee the income of labors. There will be situations of loss of work due to multiple reasons; ensuring the income is an excellent measure to retain the workers on the project. All the above steps must be carried out with the contractors, and sending out all these messages to labor aggregators to ensure support for the workers. It also creates the possibility to bring back workers from their hometowns.

Notwithstanding the above, Clients can concurrently look at few other approaches to ensure work progress based on workers available on site. Firstly, explore incentivizing the contractor to increase productivity, bearing in mind that labor strength will not be full during a pandemic. Secondly, identify material stacking areas and keep sufficient inventory available on-site to mitigate supply and logistics constraints.

Apart from measures elaborated above, safeguard our construction sites to ensure works progress unhindered. Proper Safety Protocols are imperative. Colliers, like many organizations, has found success in forming a Covid Response Team comprising of senior leaders who have provided effective guidance in setting up and implementing such protocols. Some of these SOPs for the site, detailed with activity, location, process, and measurable actions defined against each, are as follows:

  1. The proper entry screening process
  2. Creating visitor protocol
  3. Making RT-PCR tests mandatory for all incoming labor / staff
  4. Dedicated quarantine/isolation facilities
  5. Regular disinfection / fumigation
  6. Record keeping
  7. Vaccination

The result of all these interventions is very encouraging. We are definitely not in a normal situation, and there are many more mountains to climb, but with all the measures, the success is unmistakably visible.

The year 2020 had a fear of the unknown that had created significant disruption. By undertaking all active measures by the industry, the year 2021 is the year of resolve, hope, and optimism.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


Tags assigned to this article:
Construction Industry construction real estate

Indranil Basu

The author is Managing Director, Project Management (South India) at Colliers.

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