28 Percent of Contractors Report Projects Delayed by Pandemic

The coronavirus has shut down several major American industries. But how has it affected construction?

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The global coronavirus pandemic already has made its mark on nearly every industry in the United States. Earlier this week, the Associated General Contractors of America released a survey of 909 contractors that illustrates how much of an impact COVID-19 has had on the country’s construction industry.

According to the survey results, 28 percent of contractors reported that they were asked to halt or delay work on projects that were active or expected to start within 30 days. This includes directives from company owners, a government agency or some other form of official notice.

“The coronavirus pandemic has the potential to undermine what had been a very robust construction market, threatening the livelihood of countless workers and the viability of many firms,” said Ken Simonson, chief economist for the AGC.

Sixteen percent of the surveyed contractors also reported a shortage of materials, equipment or parts. And 22 percent have had suppliers tell them that their orders would be delayed or cancelled.

While many Americans have been instructed to work from home to slow the spread of the coronavirus, working remotely is not exactly a viable option for construction workers. Not yet, at least. With that in mind, additional measures have been set up to help protect workers who still need to go in to work.  On March 25th, the Construction Industry Safety Coalition published new guidelines for worker safety that included clear instructions for maintaining the cleanliness of job sites:

  • Clean and disinfect frequently used tools and equipment on a regular basis. This includes other elements of the job site where possible.  Employees should regularly do the same in their assigned work areas.
  • Clean shared spaces such as trailers and break/lunchrooms at least once per day.
  • Disinfect shared surfaces (door handles, machinery controls, etc.) on a regular basis.
  • Avoid sharing tools with co-workers. If not, disinfect before and after each use.
  • Arrange for any portable job site toilets be cleaned by the leasing company at least twice per week and disinfected on the inside.
  • Trash collected from the job site must be changed frequently by someone wearing gloves.

While these measures should help keep construction workers safe and healthy, industry officials are also concerned with how best to protect the long-term health of the industry.

“[The government] providing additional tax credits and loans will help, but contractors also need the certainty that comes with infrastructure funding and improvements to new paid and family leave measures,” said Simonson.

Only 11 percent of the contractors surveyed by the AGC reported delays on projects they expected to start in more than 30 days. That will likely increase as time passes and the impact of the coronavirus and its ripple effects become clearer.