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ibew 520 -covid in construction

Did COVID-19 create a “new normal” for the construction industry?

Most of us want to get back to the pre-coronavirus norm as soon as possible. But some experts believe the construction industry could be forever changed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

A recent Construction Dive article identified eight COVID-induced changes to the construction industry that could remain permanent. The following three changes were already goals for IBEw Local 520, or have become targets, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

They include the following:

Most job sites will be cleaner, safer

Local 520 signatory contractors have long worked to make job sites safe and keep them clean. According to Construction Dive, industry leaders believe the changes made to slow the spread of COVID-19 will be here to stay. From providing hand sanitizers to wiping down tools and equipment shared by multiple tradesmen and tradeswomen, the building trades have done a lot to limit outbreaks, and have been fairly successful.

Keeping up with sanitizing, temperature checks and other safety measures will be needed to help tradespeople return to work who have either been off of work, or who have not felt safe working on more populated projects.

As future outbreaks are expected, keeping up with some of the new procedures will be important. It will also be valuable to develop safety plans in preparation for future outbreaks.

Increased union influence

The COVID-19 pandemic has put the spotlight on labor unions. Construction Dive credits North America’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU) with influencing government officials to keep construction sites open and deem tradesmen and tradeswomen as essential workers.

“NABTU teamed up with the Associated General Contractors of America to ask government officials at all levels to make construction an essential service and exempt it from regional, state and local shutdowns,” according to the Construction Dive report.

On the safety front, unions also have led the way. Local 520 and other Austin-area unions have worked to distribute personal protective equipment to their members and to the community as a whole, when possible.

Workers and workplaces with a union presence have been diligent about protecting workers from COVID-19, despite the lack of guidelines from OSHA. 

Continued distancing

IBEW Local 520 and most other labor unions were fairly quick to adapt to conducting business remotely via video conferencing services such as Zoom.

Local 520 Business Manager Ben Brenneman and his staff are doing their best to keep the membership informed about work status, union business, safety procedures and more through socially distant options.

Additionally, the Local can continue to connect with more members through remote means. After operating from a distance and conducting as much business as possible via phone, email and video conferencing, Local 520 is positioned to better serve its growing membership in the future.

Remote capabilities will also help Local 520 to reach out to more contractors within the jurisdiction.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shined a light on the need for unions, as well as opened up the possibility for increased business through more remote communication.

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