by Bill Tepe, President, NBIS
This article originally appeared in the January 2022 issue of American Cranes & Transport.
As we wrap up 2021 and look ahead to the next year, we’ve been thinking about how absolutely essential it is, now more than ever, to carefully consider the state of your organization as it moves into a new era. The last two years have disrupted life as we all knew it, and the coronavirus pandemic has created a new business landscape. The time to thoughtfully consider how your business navigates risk is now. After the Great Pause and the Great Resignation eras are over, we anticipate a time of reopening, improving, and, in some cases, rebuilding infrastructure (from roads to bridges and beyond) across America. Despite the tumultuous nature of the economy over the last 20 months, heavy construction industries have remained steadfast, with many companies still on the job and looking ahead to new projects in 2022. It’s good news for just about every industry, and related public and private operations.
However, while we can expect heavy construction’s momentum to remain strong, we can’t ignore the extreme difficulty of predicting the way things will unfold across the globe in the next year and beyond. This new world presents new challenges. As we emerge from the pandemic era, constraints caused by lingering supply limitations and skilled labor shortages across multiple regions persist. Many companies in the global construction industry are planning work out five to ten years in advance, taking advantage of the United States’ recently passed Infrastructure Bill and the European Union’s recently passed Recovery and Resilience Facility, a direct mitigation measure in response to the social and economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
In fact, it has been projected in Oxford Economics’ report Future of Construction that by 2030, the US will rank second in the Top 10 global construction markets, ahead of India and just behind China. This projection alone gives many domestic crane, rigging, specialized transportation, and concrete pump operations hope for steady work over the next decade or two. In light of this, we suggest focusing on the three risk management areas outlined below. This will help your company and our industries as a whole stay safe and stay on the job, even in what Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty called, in a November 2021 press release, the “new age of construction risks.”
1) Automate Your Risk Management Plan
We know you’re inundated with paperwork. From daily work/rental tickets and fleet maintenance records to individual employee training, there’s an endless stream of documentation you have to manage. Many of us faced the immediacy of digitizing communication throughout the height of the pandemic in both professional and personal settings. Digital interactions are now, in many cases, a social norm. It’s evident in the prevalence of everything from touchless shopping to e-signature and electronic packaging of once paper-based contracts that deal with complex transactions. And, since there is no shortage of apps and services that can digitize your operation, it’s important to gain clarity around what services you really need.
Our Risk Managers at NBIS recommend the following risk automation efforts:
- Online employee training through a Learning Management System (LMS)
The key benefit of online learning is that it can be accomplished anywhere, any time. Be sure that your LMS also offers tracking of completions, as it is crucial for that training to be quickly summarized in preparation for a routine inspection or in the event of claims litigation. That’ll also keep you in line with OSHA training standards. Remember that many online learning providers offer industry-specific catalogs which can supplement your annual training needs. Consider what might already be available to you through your insurance broker/agent or through your insurance carrier. Also, review a course catalog before committing to a training resource — that way you can be sure industry-related course work is offered for your employees.
- Electronic fleet management software partnership
There are many services to choose from that can help you maintain and keep track of all the equipment in your fleet. These services enable busy fleet managers to stay on top of things like maintenance and service requirements, tracking them before and after they are met. As with employee training records, electronic documentation and reminders for future service will assist your operation in a multitude of ways, not least of which could include responding to a routine inspection, cause-based inspection, or claims litigation.
- Signature capture and work ticket/rental ticket software
The pandemic-necessitated reduction in points of contact has had the beneficial effect of pushing progress toward digitization much further in our industry. There are multiple software solutions that exist to help make getting the required signature on your various contracts and work/rental tickets easier than ever before. These software solutions enable your operators to use a mobile platform for obtaining pre- and post-work signatures on the job site. Many of these platforms allow companies to configure and reconfigure the contract language as need arises, by state, municipality and even in post-nuclear verdict scenarios in order to protect your company. This is especially critical because these contracts themselves contain a number of valuable provisions and clauses, designed to transfer risk and qualify operator expectations – oftentimes, language that requires change faster than your current paper based-pre-printed forms can be expected to accommodate. Digitization immediacy is the name of the game for training, fleet management and contract provisions.
2) Stay Abreast of Labor Shortages and Trends in Your Region
As we all know, labor shortages in our industry continue to be a significant issue. Make it a priority to partner with local and regional industry-specific government agencies to stay ahead of trends in your area. Every area has trade-based labor challenges and they seem to multiply with each additional level of certification required for a given position within your company. Trade-focused associations, like the SC&RA (Specialized Carriers and Rigging Association), advocate on many fronts for our industries and will often regularly report on labor solutions and changing trends. Staying in touch with your member associations, nationally and locally, will give you early warning on impending threats to labor. Typically for companies in our industries, your labor force is highly specialized and loyal. Despite this, a variety of factors challenge the loyalty of workers – and it’s up to you to do all you can to mitigate these threats to labor retention.
3) Leverage Your Commercial Insurance Broker/Agent, Now More Than Ever
As a flood of new and large equipment arrives in the US and large, complex projects are being contemplated, insurance markets will be impacted and have the potential to harden quickly. Maintaining a routine check-in with your insurance broker/agent could prove more valuable than ever these next three years. Large insurance markets retain analysts to monitor equipment purchasing trends and forecast losses; leverage your broker’s view of the economic landscape as it relates to your coverage and endorsement working by state and wording restrictions for Owner Controlled Insurance Placements (OCIP) and placements involving Public Private Partnerships (PPP). Large Infrastructure projects also introduce contractual complexities such as Master Services Agreements (MSAs) that could place limitations on your company’s ability to transfer risk on the job site. At the end of the day, your insurance broker/agent should be your trusted partner, ready to help you navigate an ever-changing economic landscape.
The NBIS Risk Management team and our broker/agent partners are ready to help you navigate these challenging times into 2022 and beyond. For more information and details on risk solutions offered to our policyholders, visit our website at www.NBIS.com or call 1-877-860-RMSS.