Construction Crises: Preparing to Communicate

by T.J. Winick, Senior Vice President

Issues Management Group Senior Vice President T.J. Winick was recently the featured speaker at the monthly meeting of the Construction Safety Roundtable – Eastern Massachusetts, an initiative sponsored by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and local construction companies to share best practices and improve construction safety.

The nature of the construction industry makes it one of the most susceptible to crises of all kinds, from the collapse of a structure or piece of equipment to an injured worker to a labor dispute. Therefore, it’s crucial for firms to have a plan when crisis strikes. Without a plan, leadership is forced into action before having thought through the best course of action; without a plan, it makes it even harder to respond efficiently, effectively, and accurately.

The audiences that will want to hear from those involved in the event of a construction crises are many: clients, employees, regulators, government officials and, of course, the media.

The first step in crisis preparation is drafting a written plan. A structured plan puts policies and protocols in place, allowing an organization to disseminate accurate and consistent information to multiple stakeholders in a high pressure situation.

Here are 5 things construction companies should include in their crisis management plan:

A designated crisis response team (CRT).

It’s imperative that a company has a core team identified to manage the response. These individuals should each have clearly defined roles and responsibilities to cut down on confusion and chaos when a crisis occurs. In construction, there are usually CRT members both within the front office but also specific to the project, such as Field Superintendents. There should be both digital and hardcopies of a CRT contact list on employees’ computers and/or phones, and in their vehicles or trailers.

Evacuation and/or muster points.

When crisis strikes, there should be a known meeting place where all staff should gather. Ideally, this place affords some privacy away from media or onlookers. A second meeting place should be established offsite in the occasion that the area surrounding the jobsite is unfit or unsafe.

A list of procedures.

When a crisis strikes at the jobsite, and after emergency protocol has been followed to ensure everyone’s safety, there should be clear list of steps to be taken by the CRT. “Determine who travels to jobsite,” “communicate with subcontractors,” or “log media inquiries,” are all examples of actions that should be included on the list of procedures or checklist.

Media relations policy.

A member of the CRT should be the designated Media Liaison and Spokesperson. This person should be well-versed on the crisis management plan and have completed media training sessions. Everyone in the field, and even on the CRT, should pass along any media inquiries to the Media Liaison. This ensures that the message communicated is consistent and accurate.

Template statements.

With press outlets rushing to break news online or on social media, it’s critical that companies respond promptly so their statement be included in those initial reports. After determining your organization’s most likely crisis scenarios, draft statement language that is adaptable and has been approved by your legal team. It’s considerably easier than putting together a statement from scratch when the pressure is on!

Just about every situation can be anticipated and planned for so think of a crisis management plan as a type of insurance policy. You put the time and effort in up front so when something does occur, you’re in a much better position to communicate, take control of the situation and defend your reputation.

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