As COVID-19 continues to expand around the United States and the world, it may only be a matter of time before U.S. construction projects are affected by the virus. Performance bonds guarantee that a project will be completed by a contractor according to the contract. However, what if a contractor cannot complete a project on time due to widespread disease? What, if any, impact could the virus have on a contractor’s surety bond program?
Several risks associated with the virus could trigger a performance bond claim.
1. Materials. The Chinese account for a large supply of construction materials, including steel, copper, cabinetry, etc. An inability to obtain these materials could significantly delay or stop a project all together. Even if a contractor is able to obtain them from other sources, it may be at a significantly higher cost than they put into the bid.
2. Labor. There is already a shortage of qualified labor in the construction industry. Additionally, construction already lends itself to the spreading of viruses; workers are often in close proximity, handling common materials, and they may not have an easily accessible place to wash their hands. Furthermore, even though many now have paid sick leave, there is often pressure not to use it. These things could magnify the labor shortage and make it difficult to complete projects on time.
3. Safety. Finally, the world is having a serious shortage of respirators. Because of widespread panic, many people have been purchasing N95 respirators—so much that the Surgeon General has asked people to stop buying them. It has created a shortage for people who really need them, like contractors. If contractors can’t get these safety masks, certain trades will either be unable to work, or risk continuing the project without masks, which would endanger workers and open them up to OSHA penalties.
Reprinted courtesy of Ben Williams and MG Surety, Construction Executive, a publication of Associated Builders and Contractors. All rights reserved.