Gumbiner Savett Inc. has been working with the construction industry since we opened our doors in 1950. I have seen many ups and downs in the industry throughout the years and in these uncertain economic times, many construction projects have been put on hold — sometimes indefinitely and other times for a relatively short duration. If you find yourself in such a predicament, here are four steps to stopping and restarting a project effectively:
1. Demobilize in an organized manner. When a job shuts down, you may rush your people, materials and equipment off site, leaving any existing project elements exposed to the weather. This could lead to safety concerns and increased work time when the job restarts. Instead, create a formal demobilization plan that outlines withdrawal procedures, names those responsible for the removal of assets and materials, and mandates the inspection of existing job elements. Also look into negotiating with the project owner to allow you to perform compensated work to stabilize the job site.
2. Secure the project. The weather isn’t the only thing that could damage a dormant job site. Thieves and vandals could seize the opportunity to take or destroy elements that are in place, again creating safety pitfalls and additional work should the project restart. Minimal or no security measures could also allow children (or others) to wander on-site and into harm’s way. Your first defense against intruders is proper fencing. Be sure the job site is completely closed off with stable fencing, secure gates and plenty of warning signs. (On a related note, you may want to remove signage reflecting your company’s logo to prevent bad PR.) In addition, consider fire protection measures if remaining elements could be set alight.
3. Check your insurance. One of the biggest challenges of a stopped job doesn’t happen on-site but back at the office. That is, you’ll need to ensure that your insurance is both in effect and effective. If you’re participating in an owner-controlled insurance program, check with the owner about whether it intends to continue coverage. You may need to contact your own broker to negotiate some gap coverage. And if you sponsor your own contractor-controlled insurance program, determine what kind of coverage to provide going forward and how to handle subcontractors involved in the job.
4. Reassess safety, deadlines upon restart. When the project eventually restarts, follow your formal withdrawal plan in reverse. Inspect the stability of existing project elements and reintroduce materials, equipment and workers onto the site gradually, safely and strategically. Additionally, reconsider your deadlines. The owner may want to accelerate the job schedule to make up for lost time. But rushing your work could lead to defects and breakdowns that cost you time and money. If the time frame looks unfeasible — or too expensive — negotiate the additional costs with the owner.