The wheels of the construction industry have started to turn again with contractors beginning to return to site, which is welcome news for everyone. How parties return to site needs to be handled carefully though, from making sure the most up-to-date safety guidance is complied with, to ensuring contracts are in place and are watertight.
Employers, funders, contractors and consultants alike will want to consider how to make a smooth transition back to working on site in what will be a completely new environment. They will also want to avoid or mitigate costly disputes which are now more likely to arise due to Covid-19.
Whether or not contracts are yet in place, special consideration will need to be given to the following:
• Safety guidelines – parties will need to closely monitor the situation for changes in government and industry guidance on social distancing and infection control. Who will monitor this? Who will pay for it? Contracts will need to deal with these points to avoid or mitigate future disputes.
• Time and money – many projects have been inevitably delayed due to the lockdown, and those projects which have not yet started have mostly been pushed back. Employers and contractors should take the opportunity, before jumping back in, to agree restart terms and risk allocation in respect of delays or costs.
Is there any industry support to get projects back on the right course and help avoid disputes?
Well, the industry is rightly concerned about the potential number of disputes which might arise following the lockdown and the Construction Leadership Council has endorsed a scheme set up by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors called the “Conflict Avoidance Pledge”
The scheme is supported by numerous construction industry leaders and contains helpful guidance on conflict avoidance and early intervention. It encourages parties to work collaboratively and adopt a strategy for assessing risks and agreeing procedures for dealing with differences of opinion amicably. One of the key pieces of advice is to put in place “well drafted contracts, which are easy to understand and include practical systems for avoiding and resolving disputes at an early stage”. This is absolutely crucial for dispute avoidance and management; it is well worth putting in the time to get this right.
For more information and advice on how to get your project back on track please contact our Construction Team.
Anna Britland (firstname.lastname@example.org ~ 01284 717503)
Sarah Western (email@example.com ~ 01284 717434)