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Opinion: Construction stepping up to help build strong communities in COVID-19 crisis

As a global health pandemic, coronavirus (COVID-19) became far more real to Floridians when the first case was detected in the state less than a month ago. Since then, many things have changed while we have all tried to do our part in taking smart, responsible steps to protect ourselves, our families, our companies and our communities.

While some businesses have the ability to work remotely and continue operations in a fairly typical manner during this time, other labor-based industries, like construction, have had to re-evaluate “normal” procedures and protocol. What’s been most inspiring is the manner in which our industry has united to support and protect our employees and trade partners. We’re sharing best practices, embracing new ways to communicate, empowering our teams, and assisting our communities.

It’s been amazing to see construction companies step up, whether it’s donating construction masks and gear to hospitals which our team has been able to do in a few different markets or assembling temporary medical facilities to handle influx of patients requiring care.

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The industry is also stepping-up efforts to best protect our employees and trade partners whose safety is always our top priority. For example, at Suffolk, we’ve implemented specific protocols and standard operating procedures on jobsites following Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines. These include protocols for continuously cleaning and disinfecting at-risk areas, keeping safe distances from each other, closely monitoring the health of people on the site, and enforcing strict procedures to immediately remove from the site any individuals who exhibit symptoms, among many other precautions. Last month, all our safety managers also underwent COVID-19 symptom identification training provided by the World Health Organization and have shared learnings with trade partners.

Beyond taking the necessary procedural steps in terms of safety, the need for evolving communication methods and best practices has also become extremely important. In addition to utilizing video conferencing and personal mobile device video chat to replace face-to-face communication, the emphasis of transparency and calm has become especially vital.

We must serve as conduits for the experts like the CDC, WHO and Florida Department of Health so that our industry is informed and our teams are empowered. In addition, it is important to share collaboration tools that are available; establish clear roles, responsibilities and escalation processes; keep everyone informed of all operational changes; and promote company culture and a sense of caring. By establishing trust in the way companies and people communicate, and remaining true to core values, we are more likely to ensure community safety and foster a better workplace.

South Florida is resilient, as is the heart behind our industry. And while there is no crystal ball to show us the future beyond COVID-19, if we move forward safely and in unison, we’ll have the right ingredients to make us stronger on the other side.

Peter Tuffo is president and general manager, Southeast Division of Suffolk Construction in Miami.

This story was originally published March 30, 2020 7:40 AM.

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