As the COVID-19 outbreak continues, governments have asked non-essential businesses to suspend or close down their operations. However, there is a lot of debate as to which businesses should be considered essential. While many states consider construction and building essential, some people think otherwise.
According to the government, essential businesses are the ones that individuals rely on daily, and they include banks, supermarkets, gas stations, and hospitals. Construction businesses also make the cut for essential businesses, and here is why.
- Critical and strategic infrastructure
The critical infrastructure sector consists of cyber and physical assets that are vital to the US. And, their destruction or incapacity can adversely affect our economic security, public health and safety, and physical security. The construction industry is involved in the development of critical and strategic infrastructure through the supply of materials and building facilities.
Therefore, no single critical sector can function properly without the input of contractors, builders, and suppliers. Some examples of critical sectors include:
- Chemical Sector
- Dams Sector
- Energy Sector
- Commercial Facilities Sector
- Information Technology Sector
- Food and Agriculture Sector
- Maintain and improve the country’s infrastructure
Construction workers not only maintain important infrastructure in the country but also improve them to increase efficiency. For instance, issues such as road decay, road obstructions and debris, and problems with road lighting can affect how people commute to and from work or home.
Luckily, construction workers can repair these problems and ensure important infrastructure is in good working condition.
- Working from home isn’t an option
While some essential businesses can function and operate from home, construction isn’t one of them. Sure, there are executives, CEO’s, project managers, and office staff at construction firms that can work remotely. But, construction workers such as general laborers, forepersons, site superintendents, safety managers, and skilled craft labor have to build projects on site.
Hence, for the construction industry, it’s impossible to develop and build the country’s infrastructure from home. The only option for construction firms is to implement safety measures that protect their employees as they work. For example, construction workers need to maintain social distance while working, and they should wear personal protective equipment, e.g., masks.
- Maintain a steady supply of building materials
As mentioned earlier, the construction industry is responsible for the supply of materials critical to building from overseas. If the government rules out construction as non-essential, this supply chain will be affected, and the growth of critical infrastructure in the country will stop.
Unfortunately, a shortage of supplies means other essential businesses that require infrastructure repair or replacement become affected. This includes healthcare facilities, commercial buildings, pipelines, railways, and hospitals.
- Combat housing supply shortage
Everyone has to stay-at-home or work-from-home to prevent the spread of COVID-19. However, there is a severe housing supply shortage in the US, affecting millions of citizens. Where will such people live to protect themselves when there are no new housing facilities?
In a recent study, it’s estimated that 2.5 million additional housing facilities are required to make up this shortage. Any workers performing housing construction-related activities should continue with their projects, to ensure there are additional housing units that combat this shortage supply. At the moment, the construction industry is facing delays in projects since many government officials and inspectors closed down, causing a delay in permits and building inspections.
For the government to hasten the housing construction process, they should approve permits and perform inspections on time.
Protecting workers on the job site
Since construction is an essential business, safety is supposed to be the top priority on the job site. Some measures that the construction industry can implement to fight against COVID-19 include:
- Cleaning and sanitizing tools after use. Workers should also not share tools as it contributes to the spread of germs.
- Handholds and cabs of heavy equipment need to be sanitized.
- Employers should limit the number of people on a worksite to maintain social distancing.
- Workers that are sick should be sent home and tested for COVID-19. They should also self-quarantine for 14 days.
- Screening all workers daily before they enter the job site by checking their temperatures
Construction firms should work with government officials to find a solution that ensures essential projects continue.