Document and Isolate Coronavirus Issues

Advice from Merchants’ Claims Experts

Designated by many jurisdictions as essential, construction continues to move forward – business as unusual. The rigors of the construction site must adapt to and implement safety standards necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19 on the jobsite. Proper standards will not only protect your workers, but also protect your jobsite from outbreaks and related shutdowns.  Thought should be given for each jobsite for how to implement sanitization procedures and also comply with Center for Disease Control (CDC) regulations while maintaining a timely schedule.  Additionally, the project must also be prepared to deal with and prevent the spread of the virus if a worker tests positive. The Construction Industry Safety Coalition (CISC) in connection with The Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) has developed a sample plan for COVID-19 Exposure Prevention, Preparedness and Response available here. Key items to consider include:

·         Employee and management responsibility for implementing the plan.

·         Measures to protect the jobsite: distancing, handwashing, PPE and temperature checks.

·         Jobsite cleaning and disinfecting on a routine basis, and in the event of worksite transmission.

·         Worksite exposure plan.

·         OSHA compliance.

·         Project security during a COVID-19 forced shutdown.

Document, document, document. To get additional time or money and protect yourself from future claims related to the virus, you will need to be able to show your work. You should be able to segregate each impact into its own bucket and then fill each bucket with appropriate documentation. You should demonstrate distinct impact categories with direct and real time documentation instead of requesting one large COVID-19 Cost Code increase. For example:

·         If social distancing guidelines cause the project to slow down. Calculate the delay (in days or man hours) and document it with pictures showing how the work had to be slowed along with a narrative. Daily reports are a good tool for documenting the labor force on site, social distancing measures implemented and daily productivity in real time. Manpower logs may also be useful to demonstrate how labor had to be reduced in order to maintain safe distances between team members. Be sure to include data showing the level of productivity on the project prior to implementation of social distancing guidelines to establish the impact.

·         If a shelter in place order forces a supply chain disruption. Calculate delay and extra expense. Document it with letters from the affected supplier and plan B suppliers to show that the product is not available elsewhere.

·         If a project is suspended. Create buckets for demobilization, suspension (increased supply costs, etc.) and remobilization. You should then fill the buckets with invoices and time logs as appropriate to support your position for each.

·         If additional supplies (such as extra PPE and cleaners) are needed. Prepare or update your job safety plan to include appropriate COVID-19 prevention measures consistent with CDC guidelines, industry recommendations and the needs of the project. Send a copy of your updated job safety plan to the project owner or general contractor. Calculate the amount and cost of the additional supplies, and then obtain documentary support by way of invoices and receipts. If additional cleaning protocols and safety procedures reduce the time available to actively perform the project work use daily reports and other contemporaneously created documents to record and quantify the lost time. For example, record the time laborers arrival at the project site, the time spent sanitizing and cleaning equipment and donning PPE before commencing work, the duration of breaks required throughout the day to perform additional cleaning or protective measures, and the time work ceases to allow for any necessary cleaning of the project site and equipment at the end of the day.

If your project is suspended by the owner. Confirm the suspension in writing and include the reason for the suspension (i.e., the pandemic), and that the contract was on schedule prior to the suspension. We have seen project owners suspend projects informally by verbal and nonverbal communications. The informal suspension could be a sign of the fluid nature of the pandemic, or it could be a maneuver to skirt cost increases the contractor is entitled to due to a suspension—as many contracts allow for additional time and money when an owner suspends a project for convenience.