A Time to Review and Evaluate
by Len Loewen
September has long been a favorite month of mine. Warm long days with cool evenings. The AC can be turned down a couple notches, kids head back to school and the world seems to settle back into a predictable routine. That is, in any year that is not 2020.
This year, truth really is stranger than fiction and the limits of craziness are seemingly boundless. COVID-19 continues to provide an endless tirade of regulations that have a trajectory of overwhelming life as we have known it. Amidst this, the west seems to be ablaze all at once, including a massive fire at the New West pier that would’ve been more believable in a movie, bringing us to rank as one of the worst two cities in the entire world for air quality. Only Portland, in the center of the wildfires ranks worse. The smoky physical world we are looking at mirrors the opaque emotional reality so many people are living with.
However, life goes on. Many projects have been postponed or cancelled outright, but many projects are carrying on. Although most of us have a bit more capacity than work, there has been enough work to keep the boat afloat. We are after all, an essential service. I mention this in all seriousness, as I have always believed that we are indeed essential. Someone has to pay for our governments’ very generous support of all the industries that are not yet back to any form of stability. I have come to realize that there is a wide range of perspectives regarding our current state of affairs. Like most of you, I have not missed a single day of work due to COVID-19 and the weirdest thing I do is go shopping to Costco. This is not the reality for many who have not worked since March.
As many of the projects that are moving forward are smaller builds, I’ve had several contract and scope reviews recently. I am reminded again at the importance of reviewing ALL pages of contract documents and providing comments and markups to your contractor. With no markups, we are communicating an acquiescence that will far exceed our actual intention and we end up paying for many things that we should not pay for. A subtrade that understands their contract is an asset to the project and their employer. The time to gain that understanding is before we sign our names. The time to negotiate reasonable terms is in the scope review meeting that almost always precedes the contract issuance. If this review is too daunting, consider having a labor lawyer and your accountant look through the document and give you their feedback. We should all have such a team to aid us in our decision-making. No matter what help we recruit, we are still the ones who are responsible and liable for the terms of the contract, so we owe it to ourselves, our families, and our employees to be intimately familiar with our contracts.
I am not the best or biggest form worker in town. I have however worked through poorly vetted contracts too many times to ignore the process now. It can have a large impact on our success in any given project and to not pay adequate attention amounts to negligence. It is worse than negligent form work design. Being professional means competency in the field and in the office.
As we lead our companies through this unprecedented time, I encourage us all to use this softening in the seemingly unrelenting pressure to produce, to review and reevaluate our processes. Processes of contract procurement, safety management, formwork design and leadership development are all key in being successful. As these process evaluations continue to become more prevalent with all the BCFA members, strong contracts with equitable terms will also become more common.