Gov. Tom Wolf’s measures to combat the COVID-19 pandemic idled most construction work. However, the industry was allowed to resume work May 1. Two area construction businesses—Arthur Funk & Sons Construction Services and Woodland Contractors Inc.—are among those who will recall workers.
A third-generation family-owned business, Arthur Funk & Sons Construction Services is celebrating its 81st anniversary this year. The company works in several sectors including commercial/retail, industrial, medical/healthcare, education, senior living, and communities of faith. In addition to construction, its services include planning, design, finance, and construction management.
Ken Funk, vice president at Arthur Funk, said the company has a staff of 50, and about two-thirds were already working while the other third had been furloughed.
“Faced with COVID-19, the highly contagious respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus, and its impact on the construction market, the Funk team continually evaluated decisions and possible opportunities to keep employees working and projects going,” Funk said in a statement. “While much of our construction was placed on hold, we continued to work in healthcare communities and emergency repairs as permitted.”
On these active sites, Funk explained, “Every precaution was and continues to be taken to prevent viral transmission. These measures affect overall job progress, but with safety as a first priority, we recognize the importance of these added measures and as construction reboots, they will continue to be a priority in protecting the health of everyone on the project. Hand washing and sanitizing stations are provided. Disinfecting door knobs, tools and other areas is a continual process.”
Employees, he said, are responsible for monitoring their own health on a daily basis in and out of work, but on-site, the company is following mandatory face-covering and social distancing policies.
One of those job sites is the WellSpan Dixon Foundation Health Center on North 4th Street in Lebanon. Gov. Wolf’s shutdown order allowed construction to continue on healthcare projects. Funk said the company began working there about 10 months ago and is expected to wrap up its work this week.
As the industry reboots, Funk said work will start up on projects that were already in progress and had to be abandoned during the shut-down. That includes a project in Carlisle and a project at Hersheypark.
Funk said shifts and lunch breaks will be staggered so that safe distances are maintained. Each job site will have a pandemic safety officer to ensure that COVID-19 safety protocols are being met. He said most of the office staff will continue to work remotely from home, taking advantage of online meeting software so that clients and subcontractors can be continually updated.
“We have a great team, and this is definitely a team effort. It is a new time for all of us, and we need to adapt quickly to keep up with the needs of our customers and the requirements of health officials,” Funk said.
Founded in 1987, Woodland Contractors is also a family-owned business. The company specializes in custom residential, commercial and industrial construction as well as site excavation and design services. Carrie Boyer, project manager, said Woodland plans to bring back most of its crew of 22 people. The office, however, will remain closed.
Depending on the weather, Woodland’s construction crews are set to begin work this week.
“Our crew is excited to be doing something that’s close to normal,” she said, “Although we could begin work Friday, May 1, we decided to wait until Monday—that’s usually the beginning of a work week. We decided to use May 1 as the day to do some phone calls and the time to familiarize our team with the new COVID-19 protocols.”
Boyer said phone conversations will be held with each job site foreman about the new COVID-19 guidelines—maintaining social distancing, wearing a mask or face covering, no more than 10 people gathered at a worksite, staggered shifts and breaks, cleaning and disinfecting all high-traffic areas, and hand-washing stations at the site. The guidelines will also be discussed with crew members. She said the company has purchased PPE equipment for its staff.
“We’re setting up each of our crew members to be an individual pandemic safety officer,” she explained.
Work that was in progress when the shutdown order came will take first priority. However, Boyer said there are also some projects that have timelines that need to be addressed promptly, such as projects at schools, which need to be completed prior to the start of the new school year.
“In addition to communicating with our staff, we’re also communicating with clients and laying out a plan for their job. This has really been a team effort,” Boyer stressed.
While the Woodland team plans to get back to work, Boyer said the pace of work may be dependent on outside factors. “While our plan is to complete jobs that were in progress, we may face delays with inspections—the municipal inspectors are going to be swamped with demands for inspections as every contractor gets back to work,” she explained.
She also warned that there could be delays in deliveries of materials, since many suppliers were also shut down and will be calling back their workforce, as well.
“Construction will be gearing up, but people need to be patient with the logistics.”
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