Apr 25, 2020
A CONEXPO to Remember
Not only because the show closed a day early, CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2020 was a show to remember thanks to the spirit of community and the innovation everywhere you turned. As if we all knew it was the last event we’d attend before lockdowns, quarantines and travel restrictions would physically isolate us from swaths of society, we crammed technological news and updates into our brains as fast as we could get from booth to booth.
When I approached the BOMAG stand in the central hall, a squat roller without an operator cab blinked its lights. It lacked an operator cab because BOMAG is one of multiple OEMs offering remote-control machines. Check out the video of Bert Erdmann explaining a few of the Robomag’s features on AsphaltPro’s YouTube channel at https://youtu.be/OQlcsbrJKAM.
When I approached the Wirtgen Group stand in the silver lot, black milling machines greeted me. Why? Because the mills can be ordered with a carbon fiber wrap kit that protects the machine and increases resell value.
Technology and safety tidbits that we’ll share in the magazine this summer speckled the show floor. Of course, safety is taking on a new look this paving season. Thanks to the phrase “social distancing,” your tailgate talks and lunch breaks require more forethought to keep workers six feet from one another.
In a recent note to the American General Contractors of America (AGC), CEO Stephen E. Sandherr shared that the obligation to safeguard workers has grown in recent weeks. The outbreak of COVID-19 in North America brings new challenges for providing a safe work environment. He wrote:
“Federal, state, and local officials have relied on our assurances that the steps your firms are taking, including social distancing, the use of PPE and monitoring who enters your jobsites, creates a safer environment than exists in other industries. These officials have taken us at our word and allowed many types of construction projects to continue because they know this industry has a long history of complying with complex and ever-changing safety rules and regulations.”
AsphaltPro’s blog post “The Construction Industry Takes Precautions to Prevent Spread of Coronavirus” offers best practices for our industry and lists resources to keep you up to date with guidelines as the paving season progresses and the COVID-19 outbreak begins its downward curve. It’s vital that we all follow CDC guidance to get our day-to-day back to some semblance of normal, but, more importantly, to ensure everyone returns to normal. Those who balk at the rules will not only find themselves fined and shut down; they could end up hospitalized.
“I urge all of you to make sure that every member of your team is following the guidance and safety requirements public health and safety officials have provided to make sure your workers are protected from the coronavirus,” Sandherr wrote. “There is no margin for error when it comes to protecting your workforce. Any lapse in safety protocols can, and likely will, prompt government officials to reverse the industry’s ability to continue to operate…”
Lapses can put company owners at odds with new laws as well. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act: Employer Paid Leave went into effect April 1, requiring employers with fewer than 500 employees to make provisions related to COVID-19. It’s not an easy Act to decipher and even its expiration date of Dec. 31, 2020, is already debated as extendable. After attending Transportation Research Board and National Asphalt Pavement Association webinars discussing the law’s paid leave requirements, I feel confident stating the spirit of the Act is to protect both workers and employers in a time of uncertainty.
The best quote I’ve heard from any presenter so far is that we should learn to be agile. In a time when employees have different family situations and underlying health conditions offering them various stressors, members of the construction trades can go about our essential functions with a calm yet cautious agility.
Like those of us who crammed as much knowledge into our brains as we could during a shortened CONEXPO, we’ll now adapt to working as safely as we can in light of new circumstances in our world. This will likely turn into a paving season to remember, but I challenge you to make it memorable due to your combined spirit of innovation and “safely distanced” community.