“Unless you’re building in the middle of the desert or an uninhabited island, sooner or later you’re going to engage with people surrounding your project.”
Those words from Michael Hastings kicked off the recent Sage-sponsored ENR webcast, “Keeping your project’s public face clean: Community outreach and construction impact mitigation.” Hastings, president of M.D. Hastings Risk Consulting, was one of four speakers who shared their insights during the informative online event.
Be a good neighbor
While Hastings admitted that contractors can’t plan for every contingency, he stressed the importance of setting the stage for a relationship with project “neighbors” that maintains harmony.
“It’s never too soon to reach out to your neighbors,” he said. Hastings recommended contractors introduce the surrounding community to one company contact person or team. But it shouldn’t stop there. It’s also important to give those in charge of public interaction the authority to act, he said.
What makes a good neighbor? Hastings, who has been involved with insurance placement on many construction projects, offered contractors these community relationship tips:
- Reach out to key people. Share your plan for site safety with nearby emergency services (fire, police, medical, private security) and get their input. Also contact property managers in surrounding facilities to solicit their concerns and establish lines of communication. If someone is concerned about your project, you never know who they will call first: police, their building manager, even their city council member. Make sure whoever gets the call can say “I know these guys, just call this person.” When all roads come back to you, you’re in control of your public image.
- Build a good fence. Construction can be messy. A good fence hides a lot of the mess, protects your neighbors, and provides a handy surface for posting promotional information about your project and team. However, if your project is stalled for any period of time, promotional material should be the first thing to go.
- Limit site access. Your public face is also affected by private claims so its always wise to limit site access to only authorized workers. Restrict access using methods such as turnstiles at site entrances and security guards (24/7 if you can afford it).
- Have a parking plan. One item that might be overlooked is worker parking. Few things will spoil your company reputation quicker than taking up neighbors regular parking spaces. If necessary, arrange for a shuttle from a remote parking area or public transit station.
- Don’t forget about drones. Many people don’t like drones and may not respond well when they see an unexpected drone hovering overhead. If you’re using drones on your construction site, over communicate the timing and purpose of flights.
The webinar was also packed with other helpful advice from communication and public information professionals Theresa McClure of HDR, Kathleen Fuller with the Ohio Department of Transportation – District 9, and Erica Wiley of the Portsmouth Gateway Group. You can hear more from Hastings and the other speakers by listening to the entire webcast online.