While nothing can truly replace in-person education, virtual options have moved to the forefront over the past year due to the ongoing pandemic. This month would have brought the contract glazing industry together in Las Vegas for the annual Building Envelope Contractors (BEC) Conference but, like so many others, the event was canceled. As an alternative means to educate and inform, “BEC Presents…” on-demand sessions are available, covering a range of topics.
One session, “2021 and the Construction Industry After COVID-19” explores what could be in store once the industry reaches the other side of the pandemic.
Brian Carroll, managing partner and attorney with Sanderford & Carroll P.C., discussed several points of interest for the glass industry as companies look to “what’s next.” One of those topics was whether companies can require employees to be vaccinated. Carroll said a lot of his clients are strongly encouraging it, as opposed to mandating the vaccine, but part of what makes this complicated, is that the vaccine is not yet available to everyone. He explained it’s difficult to create a policy requiring something that’s not yet fully available.
He also addressed working remotely. While companies may shift back to in-office operations eventually, he does expect remote working will occur again for some reason or another at some point. This could be, for example, due to a major weather event. So one concern, he said, involves IT and protecting data and keeping the information companies deal with safe. It’s an issue that companies will need to address and think about, since work-from-home is here to stay.
Speaking of IT, he added that cyber security issues have also become increasingly concerning. He shared an example of a “man-in-the-middle-attack” where a hacker posed as a company’s employee and was able to intercept critical information and steal money.
“We’ve got to be much more sophisticated on our cyber security and how it operates because it affects every aspect of what we do …” he said.
So what’s the next cyber security problem look like? Carroll said, whether it’s having no access to payroll or something so critical as corrupt design files, which leads to buying and ordering incorrect materials for on a jobsite … the question is how to put it all together with what you’re working with to keep tight control of cyber security. This, he said, will only get more complicated and critical.
One concern he has, as he put it, “is what I don’t know, I don’t know … If I know the risk I can help people plan for [it].” For example, looking back to February 2020, he says he would have never thought a major pandemic would affect the U.S. as it did.
“It becomes a balancing of … the risk of the severity of the event occurring versus the probability of the event occurring and trying to balance these two things … you can only prepare and do so much with what you have.” He added, it’s critical to have a risk management plan for your company.
Carroll also addressed some challenges for contract glaziers. These include the continual struggle to find qualified labor and where to find those workers. Another concern is the quality of design documents. He said there’s a trend that if an engineer can draw it in AutoCAD then the contractor should be able to build it, and that’s not conducive to building a quality project in the field. So the challenge for glaziers will be how they can prepare to deal with that with the resources they have.
Speaking of contract docs, particularly from an estimating standpoint, glaziers are being asked to take on more risk, which is a worry. He says it’s important to have a clear, fair document, which will allow the parties to move forward in a relationship to accomplish the goals of the project.
He also addressed litigation and Force Majeure and whether a pandemic is a covered event. He said we’re starting to see those cases move forward.
“What we know is that we need to look to the contract first,” he said. Is “pandemic” listed as an element of a Force Majeure event? If not, is there is there something else such as a differing site condition or is the enhanced personal protective equipment requirement something that can be classified under the differing site condition clauses, etc. He expects we will have answers in the next 18-36 months as these court cases move forward. However, it’s important for companies to take steps now to prepare for what could happen in the future.
“Think ahead,” he said. “Be proactive, not reactive.”