As much attention and as many resources as Haskell focuses on the safety and wellbeing of its team members and contract partners, it is constantly striving to improve. And as tragic and disruptive as the COVID-19 pandemic has been, it’s in that striving that Lance Simons, Haskell Vice President of Safety & Quality, takes some amount of solace.
Haskell, and the Architectural, Engineering and Construction (AEC) industry as a whole, will be better for the concerted efforts made to maintain safety and continuity in extraordinary circumstances.
“I’ve talked with my industry peers, and I think we’ve learned through this,” Simons said. “I think COVID made us focus even more on the things we already had in place. We didn’t have to create new bells and whistles. We just had to get more aware of their value and drive home more consistent execution of the things we already know lead to our greatest success.”
As the pandemic was descending and uncertainty was at its peak, Haskell took a holistic approach. With offices, projects, team members and contract partners across the United States, Latin America and the Asia-Pacific Region, information and official policies varied.
Haskell, therefore, created a new, formal pandemic policy based on CDC guidelines, World Health Organization directives and relevant local information to create as much consistency as possible from location to location.
“For any pandemic in the future, we’ve got a plan in place,” Simons said. “Subsequent to creating that, we built a bolt-on set of procedures that was specific to COVID-19 and went into even more detail.”
Widespread utilization of face coverings is a likely example of a COVID-specific change, in that the requirement could be lifted once COVID-19 abates. On the other hand, the web-based health and wellness screening questionnaire required of all team members and contract partners could well become adopted permanently.
“We’re more conscious of the screening protocols on our job sites and office locations, inclusive of our contract partners,” Simons said. “I could see us adopting the daily questionnaire. This could aid in the evaluation of a craft persons determination of fitness for duty that day, both physically and from a health and wellness standpoint. But more importantly, it gives us a better line of sight so that maybe we can avoid putting somebody out there who’s in a compromised position.”
Some social-distancing measures will remain, as Haskell and the industry writ large have proven highly effective working in a virtual environment. Various requirements of heightened housekeeping and sanitation levels are probably here to stay, too.
The pandemic severely tested supply procurement and distribution systems, and Haskell has addressed its procedures to prepare for future disruptions. The effort will be bolstered by its new regionalization strategy, through which it is establishing Regional Operations Centers in Salt Lake City, Dallas and Jacksonville, Florida.
“We got into the details of the amount of supplies and stock we’ll keep on hand to make sure we can keep all of our operations functioning at full capacity wherever possible,” he said. “We will make sure we have the right supplies on hand through our Project Services division, having those stocked and available for immediate distribution should we need them in the event of another pandemic or a breakout event.
“That’s not only for ourselves. That’s for our clients too. When this started, we were able to get access to equipment and provide it back to our healthcare partners. We don’t look at it as just protecting Haskell employees. It’s about how we can make our clients more successful and healthier, too.”
All that said, the most important COVID-19 lesson may well be the heightened awareness of everyone in the organization. Safety is always Haskell’s top priority, but Simons believes the lasting sense of vulnerability and community will make a difference in the long term.
“I know people are sensitive to the fact that when you walk in the gate, there’s a feeling that your safety and wellbeing are very important,” he said. “But I think it was somewhat taken for granted, and I think now nobody’s taking that for granted. When they walk into a job site, they understand they’ve got an obligation to themselves and their families and their coworkers.”
Editor’s Note: Haskell continues to monitor and maintain CDC COVID-19 guidance for the protection of our team members, contract partners and the general public. At this writing, more than 142 million cases and more than 3 million deaths have been confirmed worldwide. We extend our deepest sympathies to those impacted and extend our sincere gratitude to front line workers who continue to fight the pandemic.