Managing, Operating and Adapting (as the Result of a Pandemic)

A crystal ball would have been useful to many of us in the last three months. In fact, it could be useful for the next three to twelve. If you have one, can we borrow it? In the meanwhile, navigating through the daily concerns of Covid-19 has Helmkamp examining every layer of protecting the health and safety of what we value most… our employees, our clients, and their families.

How do we manage ourselves through the different phases of an unforeseen pandemic and incorporate the challenges into our everyday construction processes? Nothing like this has happened in Helmkamp’s 82 years in business to guide what is supposed to be done in these scenarios. However, we believe our existing safety programs and culture have laid the groundwork for how we prevail and come out the other side of the Covid-19 aftershocks in an even better position than before.

Here’s what we mean by that:

We operate in a very hazardous industry every day and that simply doesn’t change. It is our job to reduce the risk of how we interact with those hazards and we do that well. Below are some items Helmkamp has incorporated to help guide that reduction of risk where the Covid-19 situation is concerned:

  • Implementing health screen procedures to enter a jobsite
  • Planning for barriers to be in certain areas and between people if necessary
  • Having designated break areas away from others
  • Staggering lunches and breaks so everyone isn’t going at once
  • Hosting meetings in different formats (virtual, outside/no longer in trailer, smaller groups, standing further apart)
  • Updating safety inspections to measure how we’re interacting with each other
  • Providing masks, gloves, sanitizer, and handwashing stations
  • Training on how to protect yourself and your co-workers
  • Placing safety reminder bulletins in paychecks and company emails
  • Enforcing the importance of a healthy workplace; Leading by example
  • Standing six feet apart from each other when possible
  • Avoiding shaking hands with others
  • Disinfecting tools between use
  • Communicating and engaging positively with new processes
  • It is up to all of us to be mindful of these things we can control. With Covid, it’s possible to let the distraction of the virus draw focus and conversations away from other initiatives and be “just another thing to do above getting the job done”, which can be challenging. We recognize and are not avoiding that. In fact, the way we are paying attention to Covid is causing us to pay attention to all safety in the same heightened state. It’s a new, fresh, and energized layer that we embark on as Covid impacts the evolution of what safety means in a construction environment.

    There is an elevated sense of care and concern for each other that brings us together in a whole new way, where it’s meaningful and personal. Employees may have different perspectives about safety regarding their task at hand on the job versus bringing a virus home to their families when they leave the job for the day. Through this, we have seen more internal safety champions arise who feel more engaged in the processes to protect themselves and each other in a way that improves their sincerity of all safety, not just Covid-related safety precautions.

    The biggest change we see with the Covid response is having the added awareness, education, and preparedness to put an additional health-safety focus on activities moving forward. As uncertain and challenging as recent times have been, we feel our safety culture at Helmkamp has only strengthened as a result of this pandemic. It is not a temporary situation, but rather, the outcome of the next level of care we all have about the health and well-being of one another.