Swift Action, Significant Result
When the COVID-19 pandemic forced virtually every sector of the California economy to shut down in the spring of 2020, our team at Associated General Contractors of California (AGC) rolled up our sleeves and got to work.
Almost immediately after Governor Gavin Newsom issued his March 19, 2020, executive order for Californians to shelter in place, AGC was advocating for construction to be deemed an essential industry (download PDF).
By 11 p.m. that evening, the language of the order was amended. The construction industry could continue working.
But AGC didn’t stop there. The day after the order, we disseminated information to members about how to deal with the legal, health and practical considerations surrounding COVID-19. As the pandemic progressed, we ensured that the industry had a seat at the table when health and safety regulations were being drafted. And AGC offered trainings and professional development opportunities that empowered members to take command of the challenges they faced daily. View our COVID-19 resources webpage here.
Importantly, AGC helped construction firms in every corner of California navigate complicated and shifting regulations by issuing timely, accurate information through our “County-by-County Ordinance Tracker,” which was launched in late April 2020.
AGC, together with our member partners, proved the industry’s mettle. We’re proud of the work that we’ve done, and grateful for the trust our members have placed in us to serve them.
AGC Video: Essential During COVID-19
What Fortitude Looks Like
There is no shortage of everyday heroes who have enabled construction companies to carry on their vital work amid the global pandemic. The robust response from AGC and its members across California showcased the qualities that have long made this industry great. And it uncovered new capabilities that will keep our sector going strong in the years to come, no matter what crisis is thrown our way.
Without construction, the wheels that keep California moving—at work and at home—cannot turn. The construction industry supports other critical industries in responding and adapting to the pandemic so that they can focus on the work of saving lives and keeping people employed and sheltered. From hospitals to homes, hotels to highways, construction proved it is indeed essential.
“AGC provided the playbook for how to respond to COVID. It was a huge stress reliever and kept us from spinner our wheels on things that were not productive.”
ACCO ENGINEERED SYSTEMS
The construction industry has a long record of making safety a top priority. When the pandemic called for increased vigilance to protect workers—by way of masks, distancing, sanitation and new ways of working—the response was rapid and thorough. With the support of AGC, firms and their employees added new protocols to their already rigorous health and safety practices, ensuring that employees had the necessary training and protective equipment to continue work safely.
“The stand down was an opportunity for companies to support the idea that embracing enhanced health and safety protocols is something we ALL need to do as an industry, most importantly to keep our workers safe, but also to allow ourselves the opportunity to keep on working. AGC helped all of us keep going in a responsible fashion.”
An event as all-encompassing and unpredictable as a global pandemic calls for quick thinking and a flexible approach to problem solving. AGC and the construction industry at large responded to the COVID-19 crisis with tremendous pluck and creativity. Employees have proven an essential voice in devising smart, workable solutions to health and safety dilemmas on job sites. And the industry as a whole has been both nimble and resourceful in its response to the crisis.
“Every part of our team dove in and figured out what we needed to do, how we could keep each other safe, and implemented it right away. And we continued to learn and improve as we’ve gone along, allowing us to keep our workforce going and keep them safe at the same time.”
Royal Electric Company
The construction industry is the backbone of the California economy. With the support of AGC, members were able to quickly adopt sound health and safety protocols to prevent the spread of the virus and move forward on essential projects, including hospitals and healthcare facilities, schools, roads and other pieces of infrastructure vital to keeping California going. The result is that men and women across the state were able to keep their jobs and support their families.
“I don’t know how our company would have been able to organize our resources and get in front of public officials to keep construction essential. AGC leveraged their relationships with key government officials and were proactive right off the bat. They carry a lot of credibility.”
Granite Construction Company
One outcome of the pandemic is the construction industry has exhibited its capacity for supporting workers as we all grapple with the stress and strains on mental health brought on by a crisis that has touched every corner of our lives. Thanks to improvements in communication within companies and the attention paid to the emotional needs of employees at all levels, the industry has proven that compassion can and should be part of its work culture.
“We recognized that there is a mental health aspect to this situation. We’ve normalized conversations to make it ok to say if you’re having a tough time with things. It’s like it has broken a dam of appreciation. Employees recognize that they are being seen as a whole person.”
Construction sites are highly visible to the public, and thus can be the focus of scrutiny regarding adherence to COVID-related health and safety protocols. AGC and the entire construction industry set the standard for how to respond to the pandemic quickly and responsibly, thus earning the public’s trust and respect. And because of our successes, other sectors have looked to AGC and its members as a model for what it takes to protect health and work safely.
“I’ve been proud to be a member of AGC through all of this, because they have been the leader that their members expect them to be. This is what AGC was built for. They haven’t waited and watched; they have led the path.”
Unified Around Safety
On April 1, 2020, hundreds of thousands of California’s construction workers joined in a unified “Safety Stand Down.” This statewide effort brought jobsite work to a halt and allowed the construction workforce to focus exclusively on the critical role each and every worker plays in keeping themselves and California safe.
Less than two weeks later, hundreds of construction firms across the nation followed the lead of AGC and its members by holding their own safety stand-downs. In doing so, they validated our proactive position on worker health and safety.
“AGC’s leadership on the Safety Stand-Down has been an important element in how we’ve sought to deal with the pandemic. It helped unite the industry around a shared vision for pressing forward while giving us practical tools for keeping workers safe. The fact that it sparked a national stand-down movement is a testament to AGC’s influence.”
Why We Persevere
Our industry is to be commended for serving as a leading example of how to respond to a global crisis—likely the worst crisis many of us have faced in our careers. COVID-19 is a formidable challenge that has upended businesses, put a tremendous strain on families and taken far too many lives.
Still, thanks to the tremendous support of AGC, we’ve been able to keep building. If I’ve learned anything in my conversations with so many of you over the last several months, it’s that the construction industry is more than capable of doing difficult things. If we can build jaw-dropping skyscrapers or awe-inspiring bridges, we are certainly creative and committed enough to do what it takes to keep our teams from getting sick.
Unfortunately, our work is far from done. Public health experts predict that we are several months or more away from returning to life as we knew it before the virus. The circumstances demand that we don’t let up on our commitment to keeping safe on the job. As weary as many of us are, we owe it to our employees and our fellow Californians to remain vigilant.
There are few silver linings to this pandemic, but if I were to identify one, it would be this: Our industry has become better—at communicating, at solving problems creatively and at showing our concern for one another—in ways that I anticipate will be long-lasting. And all of this would not have been possible had it not been for the work of AGC, which has united us, advocated for us, and made us stronger for the betterment of California.
Let’s keep at it.
Blach Construction Company
President, Associated General Contractors of California