We see them every year in one part of the country or another: blizzards, wildfires, tornadoes, floods. But ask just about any contractor in any market, and he or she will probably be able to tell you a tale of a local disaster — such as a fire at a refueling station, a crane collapse on a jobsite or a temporary wall tumbling over in high winds.
We raise these unfortunate incidents not to scare you, but to emphasize the importance of every construction company having a crisis management plan in place.
Brainstorming the bad
To get started developing or reviewing your plan, identify every crisis that could challenge your construction business and create a suitable response to each.
Start with past mishaps. How did you deal with them? Could you have managed them better? Also, gather your managers and various advisors (such as your financial, legal and insurance professionals) to brainstorm about potential dangers and preventive measures regarding these threats.
Many crises are internal, affecting only your company and its employees. Examples include most (non–life-threatening) jobsite injuries and worker disputes. But external crises can affect your company, as well as outside parties (such as subcontractors and the general public). It’s the latter type of catastrophes that can mushroom into a media nightmare.
For each crisis type, devise responses — such as immediately closing the accident site, assessing the situation, documenting damage and injuries, and initiating a formal investigation — and spell these out in your policy. Also establish clear communication channels to inform workers of their roles when disasters occur. The plan should include annual crisis training, possibly even including crisis simulations.
Picking your people
Once you’ve identified the dangers to your construction business, assign a team of managers and key employees to administer the crisis management plan. These should generally include:
• You, the business owner, to oversee the plan;
• A representative from each department;
• A designated crisis management leader on each jobsite;
• A media relations representative to coordinate the writing of public statements and act as company spokesperson;
• An administrative coordinator to recruit new team members as needed, maintain documentation and spearhead plan updates; and
• A specialist to assess the magnitude of the event in dollars to seek insurance or other sources of repayments.
Each team member must know how to handle difficult situations, showing sensitivity to injured or upset workers as well as worried family members. So you’ll need to provide specific training and guidance regarding each role.
In addition, make sure they’re prepared as a team to continually update your entire company throughout a crisis. Otherwise, the rumor mill may spin out of control.
Witnessing a construction accident (or other crisis) may traumatize employees. Regardless of who or what caused the incident, they may feel guilt or responsibility for what transpired. These emotions and their accompanying behaviors can have a ripple effect on your company, so your policy must also cover how you can ease your workers’ minds.
Although you can’t eliminate the emotional toll crises inflict, you can at least manage some of the side effects by providing workers with various response options. Some may need the rest of the day off to gather their wits while others may need short- or even long-term counseling.
Also, debrief involved employees the day of (or for more serious incidents, the day after) the crisis. As a caring employer, strive to get employees back to their normal lives — and work — within a reasonable time.
Evolving with the times
Naturally, we hope a severe crisis never affects your construction company. But, as the cliché goes, you can never be too prepared. Threats evolve with changing weather patterns, shifts in population and other factors. So it’s important to keep your crisis management plan evolving right along with them.
For more information please contact Bill Poland at [email protected] or at 513.241.3111.