Q & A: The Impact of COVID-19 on the Crane & Rigging Industry
The COVID-19 crisis has had a serious impact on the daily lives of individuals, businesses, and industries worldwide. What we are particularly interested is how the virus has impacted the crane & rigging industry and how companies are responding to the resulting limitations.
This is the first interview in a series of interviews with industry professionals, experts, and consultants where we will explore the impact of COVID-19 on crane & rigging companies throughout the world.
Our first interview is with two members of the Reliable Crane Service team: Steve Corso, CFO and Rich Neel, Safety Manager. Reliable Crane Service is located in Las Vegas, Nevada and Corona, California. They have been in the business for more than 40 years and work in steel erection, heavy industrial, HVAC, tank sets, modular buildings, power plants, and more.
Question: Can you share a little about how your team is adapting to the COVID-19 crisis and any lessons learned that might help others?
Our safety committee first started developing a communication plan on March 5th when we learned of the potential impact COVID-19 may bring. It began with more frequent hand washing and avoiding contact with others who were symptomatic. On March 26th, we put together a true protocol with specific regulations for dealing with COVID-19 for our employees and customers. We established criteria to follow for a variety of scenarios including possible indirect contact, confirmed cases, potential exposure, symptoms, etc. We required our employees to have an updated primary care physical early on so that they would know who to contact in the case of developing symptoms.
Fortunately, we are able to operate on a full-time normal schedule out here in Nevada and California, with some changes to the way we do things. Las Vegas’s local economy has been hit hard, but Southern California has been business as usual.
Question: Are you doing any employee testing or temperature checks for COVID-19?
What we are doing now is testing employees who have symptoms. Thankfully, we have not had any positive cases on our staff. But we have quarantined staff who have had known direct contact with positive cases.
We are not doing temperature checks but some of our customers are. We found that larger operations involved with long term projects have been setting up temperature checks at the entry points for most of their sites.
Question: Are you requiring staff to wear personal protective equipment (PPE)? Have you enforced any new rules for sanitizing workstations and equipment?
We did mitigation practices as soon as this looked like we would need a protocol in place. We obtained locally produced masks immediately and additional sanitation stations for our offices and shops so that there were hand cleaning stands readily available; and enforced staff to wash hands upon entry and exit both shops and offices.
We also obtained a large quantity of industrial sanitation products. Each day the vehicles are wiped down and prepared for the coming shift. So, the sanitation procedure became part of our safety checklists and part of the daily inspection. This keeps us and our workers thinking about it and also helps people feel confident that we are mitigating the risk of exposure.
Question: Do you still have staff going into the office? Are some of your employees working remotely?
For the past five weeks our office staff have been working remotely; and we are all using Fleet Cost & Care’s software from home and it’s been seamless. I was very nervous going into this with everybody working from home because we had never done that before. But I will tell you that it has been seamless – we’ve got meetings every Monday and Thursday morning with the administrative and accounting groups for a call-in where everybody updates on what they’re working on. We are also checking on everyone’s mental state. This has really taken its toll on the country and the world. The normal will be different once this is behind us.
We do have some staff going into the office, but we are strictly regulating who goes in and when. Our sales staff are working remotely with some onsite visits and site walks.
Question: How have your staff responded to changes to procedure?
We noticed initially that some workers would rather stay home due to fear of contagion and close proximity workstations. There was a lot of concern that bled over to concerns within families. We tried to do as much contact tracing as possible so that we would be prepared to make quick decisions after obtaining test results. In the first case we had nearby, it took 8 days to get results which resulted in everyone being on pins and needs for that period of time. But with the quick turnaround on testing now available, concerns have eased quite a bit with our workers.
Question: Are there any jobs in particular that have been impacted by new regulations and procedures?
Some jobs have slowed down and some jobs have been elongated. One of the things we found is that the nature of our work tends to require that employees be in close proximity with one another. We did a tower crane disassemble and the GC was very stringent with an additional JHA just for COVID awareness. We had to have a waiver that allowed us to work within the recommended 6-ft social distancing required by the nature of the job; it was impossible to be less than 6 feet apart during the disassemble.
The largest adjustment was on a tower crane job that took three days in 90+ degree weather while wearing masks for up to 10 hours a day. It was very uncomfortable. It was a challenge to keep people aware that they need to maintain distance whenever possible, avoid touching their faces, and keep their masks on their faces. Trying to maintain some sense of normal relationships while maintaining distance.
We’ve gotten to a sustainable level, we have protocol in place, people have masks handy, they’re used to sanitizing their stations. That’s provided us with a level of comfort and being able to continue our normal work as safely as possible. This is our new, modified normal.