Perseverance in a pandemic

June 23, 2020 | Kieways 2020 Q2

Increased toilet paper production capacity at a tissue plant. Larger, cleaner power generation for urban and rural communities. A plant to manufacture large-scale plastic pellets to make billions of consumer goods. Increased capacity and capabilities at a leading children’s hospital.

These are just a sampling of Kiewit’s construction projects across North America designated as essential by government orders during the COVID-19 pandemic. To fulfill this important obligation to clients and communities, the company has implemented protocols and practices to protect the health and safety of employees and maintain business continuity.

No one could have predicted the size and scale of this global crisis. However, unprecedented times call for
strong, swift measures. And that’s exactly what the company has done.

Flexible, Fast Response

As the COVID-19 threat became more real in North America, Kiewit established a cross-disciplinary group of 30-plus internal subject matter experts to form its COVID-19 response team. From that, a fully dedicated 10-person task force mobilized to lead the company’s overall pandemic response.

The response team actively monitors every facet of the pandemic, including disease progression; federal, state, provincial and local government actions; CDC, Public Health Agency of Canada and WHO responses; supplier and supply chain risks; and prevention and containment measures to maintain business operations.

Kiewit also has ongoing communications with leading health experts and public officials. That starts with ongoing discussions with the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases, and medical director of Infection Control & Epidemiology. UNMC is a world-renowned institution known for its work with infectious diseases. Input from these consultations is incorporated into all company guidance.

In addition to Kiewit’s existing site crisis management plans, business units and projects also expanded and implemented customized pandemic response plans to ensure a consistent, comprehensive response to COVID-19 scenarios.

Control What’s Controllable

From the start, Kiewit has worked closely with employees, subcontractors, suppliers, clients and others to ensure that anyone who is ill or believes they have been exposed to COVID-19 refrain from entering offices and projects. This includes, in some locations, requiring pre-and post-access health questions and pre-access and periodic temperature screenings. Kiewit also tightly restricted visitor access and required most office personnel to work remotely.

The company also established dedicated processes and personnel, trained to use detailed exposure intake questionnaires, to track all confirmed and presumptive positive COVID-19 cases, and implement strict cleaning, quarantine and return-to-work protocols.

Clean and Distanced

Good hygiene habits remain one of the best defenses from COVID-19. Early on, projects increased access to handwashing stations, hand sanitizers and disinfectant wipes. Increased signage serves as visual reminders for people to wash hands frequently and refrain from touching their faces. Projects also have instituted new end-of-shift glove sanitization and storage procedures.

With the guidance and direct involvement of experienced industrial hygienists, Kiewit also implemented more stringent office and project site cleaning and hygiene protocols in all locations and developed specific viral contamination protocols to address COVID-19 exposures.

Kiewit has developed procedures and best practices to ensure employees practice social distancing (separation of 6 feet or 2 meters), including protocols for transporting personnel on job sites, using busing/shuttles and driving/riding in company trucks, vans and buses. On projects, the company is providing appropriate masks for specific operations that may require closer proximity to ensure the safety of personnel, and other face protection tools for daily operations.

In many cases, Kiewit’s health and safety protocols on essential operations are more stringent than those shared by the CDC and government agencies.

Kiewit also rolled out, and updates daily, its robust COVID-19 resource center with dozens of important communications, regularly updated protocols, business planning tools, best practices, signage/flyers and other important resources.

Technology Connections

To help protect employee health, the company restricted domestic and international travel unless approved by executive management. Kiewit also postponed social gatherings and in-person training, including at its Kiewit University in Omaha, Nebraska, and Craft Training Center in Denver.

To fill the void, the company has maintained connectivity through a wide array of technologies – many the company had in place but are now maximizing for virtual meetings, trainings and events. The team is learning new ways to connect without travel – and establishing a variety of new, better practices it believes will make it even stronger and more efficient when the pandemic subsides.

Kiewit understands that what its outstanding people do is important, even critical to sustaining the needs of society. As long as it can operate safely and deliver high-quality work, Kiewit will continue to support its clients and people across North America. COVID-19’s impact will be felt for years to come, especially across the construction and engineering space. But every challenge brings opportunity, and Kiewit will be better for it.


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