5 Minute Read
State of the Construction Industry: May 2021 Roundup
The masks were coming off in May, but so too were the gloves as the construction industry looks to fight back against cyber criminals and bigotry. Here’s a look at some of the stories we were tracking in May.
Mask Requirements Relaxed for Vaccinated. What Does that Mean for Contractors?
On May 13, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a new set of COVID recommendations, easing mask requirements for fully vaccinated individuals. “Fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear a mask or physically distance in any setting, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.” This means vaccinated people can now go maskless in both indoor and outdoor settings — though local governments and businesses can still institute their own mandates. Construction Dive noted that OSHA is encouraging employers to follow these new CDC guidelines.
Meanwhile, many construction industry trade groups and associations are encouraging workers to get vaccinated as soon as they can. ACHR News noted that specialty trade workers, including HVAC workers, have been more hesitant to get shots, but contractors are realizing success through education rather than vaccine mandates.
The Takeaway: As of this writing, the United States recently hit a milestone, with 25 states now seeing greater than 50 percent of their populations fully vaccinated. And, the country also hit its lowest single-day number for new COVID cases in more than a year. With mask mandates easing and businesses opening back up, these are good signs for a return to at least some semblance of normality.
Of course, we’re still in the twilight of state and local governments’ and companies’ own policies. It could lead to some short-term mask-requirement confusion on construction projects or work sites. With contractors placing extra emphasis on workers' health and safety during the pandemic, odds are many will want to pivot slowly here.
Pipeline Breach Highlights Need for Stronger Infrastructure, Construction Data Security
The massive cyberattack to the Colonial Pipeline in May highlighted the country’s continued vulnerability to data breaches — especially for operations with outdated systems and infrastructure.
Colonial Pipeline is the United States’ largest gasoline pipeline, and the attack forced it to shut down, prompting temporary panic buying of gasoline among communities on the East Coast. In Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo’s interview with CBS’ Face the Nation, Forbes noted that a growing chorus of business and economy experts say cyberattacks are the biggest threat to national security. “Unfortunately, these sorts of attacks are becoming more frequent. They're here to stay, and we have to work in partnership with business to secure networks to defend ourselves against these attacks,” Raimondo said.
The Takeaway: Of course it’s not just national security. Businesses in every industry are keenly aware of the growing cyber threats. While some people are still hesitant about the cloud — including many contractors — the truth is, moving business operations and data to the cloud provides significantly more data security than on-premise servers and software programs.
Hackers target those systems first, knowing that they are not always backed up or updated with the latest data security protections. With connected, cloud solutions however, data is managed by trained software and data vendors that stay on top of the latest threats and protect company data and workflows from cyber criminals.
Watch how contractor E.R. Snell reacted to a ransomware attack:
Amazon Halts Construction Work After Nooses Found at Construction Site
Construction of a new Amazon distribution center in Windsor, Conn. was shut down in May after nooses were found hung around the jobsite. In all, seven nooses were found hanging from different areas of the work site dating back to April 27. The racist symbols sparked outrage from community leaders and Amazon and general contractor RC Anderson offered a $100,000 reward for information leading to the identification of the individual(s) responsible. The FBI has also been investigating the incidents.
The Takeaway: Sadly this is not the first incident of racist acts or symbols occurring on construction job sites, as we note in this previous blog on diversity and inclusion efforts in the construction industry. Nor is it likely to be the last, following a super-charged political divide in a time in which social injustices have been at the forefront of conversation.
The good news is that the construction industry as a whole is cracking down on these incidents, and is making diversity, equity and inclusion a top priority. In one example, Turner Construction, one of the nation’s largest contractors, shut down two of its projects in Ohio in August for anti-bias training after a racist incident. A training video, since posted on the company’s YouTube channel, spells out its zero-tolerance policy for racism and hate. From project owners to contractors to vendors and suppliers, we’re seeing real conversations and real change taking place to empower the voices of all construction professionals.