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Second wave a top concern for ICI contractors: survey

Angela Gismondi
Second wave a top concern for ICI contractors: survey
FILE PHOTO — The most recent Ontario Construction Secretariat survey conducted in June, the Coronavirus Contractors Survey: Reemergence and Adaptation, shows the top concern among ICI contractor respondents is the potential for a second wave of COVID-19, followed closely by the health and safety of workers.

With construction across Ontario now up and running, the top concern of ICI contractors, according to a new survey by the Ontario Construction Secretariat (OCS), is the potential of a second wave of COVID-19, followed by ensuring the health and safety of their workers.

“In the other two surveys, there were varying degrees of the industry being shut down so this survey captures everyone back to work on the jobsite and gives us a pretty good picture of what is going on now,” explained Katherine Jacobs, director of research with the OCS. “Certainly, health and safety was the number one concern on the first two surveys. In this survey, the potential impact of the second wave was the number one concern.”

The Coronavirus Contractors Survey: Reemergence and Adaptation is the third survey in a series of independent studies conducted by the OCS. The first survey was conducted in April, the second in May and the third in June. Other challenges cited by the ICI sector in the third survey include concerns surround supply chains, increased costs, lower revenues and worker availability.

About 200 ICI contractors from across the province were surveyed to provide insight on how the construction industry is adapting to new safety guidelines related to the coronavirus pandemic.

The report indicates a significant increase in concern with the ability to obtain skilled labour and supply chain disruptions since the first survey, with almost two-thirds of contractors still reporting a medium to high impact on the supply chain.

“The jobsite is constantly changing so they are kind of masters at adapting,” said Jacobs. “Certainly, you are not back to normal. A jobsite isn’t what it used to be, but it seems they’ve got a new process in place that seems to be working right now.”

The survey compares the three surveys conducted and shows there are some areas where the impact has been declining.

“The first survey there was a higher percentage of jobs that were stopped or cancelled and now that has been steadily going down,” said Jacobs. “The first survey, more than half of the contractors said they were going to need government assistance to stay afloat and now we’re down to about a third.”

The construction industry has taken a significant blow financially as a result of the pandemic, which has been constant over the three surveys, Jacobs added.

“Annual revenues are expected to be down in 2020,” said Jacobs. “Supply chains are still a challenge and this survey interestingly, for the first time, found supply of labour popped in the top five concerns. Prior to that they were concerned about that because so many sites were closed they weren’t working that much but now things are getting back up and running.”

Highlights from the findings include the following:

  • Contractors report that on average, only 28 per cent of their activity was halted and five per cent of contractors reported all their construction activities were still fully stopped.
  • Forty-one per cent of work scheduled to start this year is still being delayed and one third of contractors are experiencing significant delays in processing building permits.
  • In terms of procurement, contractors are starting to bid on more work with 53 per cent now doing the same amount or more bidding than usual, compared to 38 per cent at the time of the previous survey. It has been observed by 88 per cent of contractors that owners are now including new health and safety requirements on projects.
  • Regarding the worksite, 93 per cent of contractors believe they are meeting enhanced sanitation standards on their sites and 42 per cent of contractors consider the morale of their workers to have improved for that reason. Over two-thirds (68 per cent) of contractors want enhanced sanitation practices to continue permanently and just over half (52 per cent) of contractors have observed an increase in government enforcement of health and safety standards.
  • Nearly three-quarters (73 per cent) of construction industry firms forecasted less revenue in 2020. This is unchanged compared to the previous surveys. Contractors are now forecasting a 23 per cent fall on average, compared to a 26 per cent fall forecasted in the previous survey. It is expected by contractors that project costs will increase by 13 per cent due to the new PPE and physical distancing requirements.

“At the time of the second survey not everyone was back to work and not sure how this was going to impact their costs,” said Jacobs. “There were a lot of unknowns and that’s what was driving the higher percentage increase at that point in time, but this result is showing a much more modest increase.”


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