What Can Go Wrong Will Go Wrong

Managing a large-scale construction project is no small task. There are many moving parts, stakeholders with which to communicate, supplies to order, funding to obtain, permits to acquire, and safety to consider. With this understanding, it may not be a surprise to hear that time delays are quite common within construction projects. However, recent reports by Cornerstone Projects LTD sighted that 90% of construction projects experience time delays and finish behind schedule. Ninety percent! But that’s not all we know. The majority of these delays even occur within the first half of the project, because that is when any changes will have the greatest impact on the subsequent steps. These time delays not only delay the completion of the project but are also extremely costly, inefficient, and wasteful. So, what is causing these delays?

The International Journal of Managing Projects in Business published an article in 2018 highlighting the 10 most common causes of time delays on construction projects as the following:

Weather and climate significantly impact projects with more temperamental and extreme weather conditions, especially in Southeast Asia and anywhere along the Gulf Coast. These areas can have extreme typhoons, hurricanes, winds, flooding, and heat that prevents work from being done. The issue with this type of delay is that it is completely out of the control of the crew and even the best managers cannot prevent it. The only way to ensure this does not put a project behind schedule is to plan to work during the seasons when weather like this is less likely to occur. Furthermore, managers must incorporate the probability of weather delays into their overall timeline and add some cushion dates in the projections, so nothing falls behind.

Poor communication, lack of coordination, and conflicts between stakeholders are extremely common and completely avoidable mistakes. One stakeholder may need a certain vessel to complete their portion of the project, but another stakeholder may need to finish their step with that vessel first. If delays with the first occur due to a staff member being sick or lack of organization, it destroys the timeline for all other portions of the project. Every crew working on the project needs to be communicating exactly how much time they need, which pieces of equipment they need, and when they need it in order to ensure a smooth completion of the project.

Material shortages and financial issues have become increasingly relevant due to the supply chain issues resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Many companies had to close for the safety of their employees, and this has led to a shortage in certain materials – especially ones that take several months to procure. This issue can be compounded when the construction project is dealing with items that are increasing in demand like certain safety equipment, construction drones, or heavy construction equipment. Because there are many factors at play with delays caused by equipment shortages, there is not one clear-cut solution. However, planning well in advance and identifying which equipment will be needed at every step will ensure ample time to reserve your equipment and organize who uses it and when.

Worksite injuries, labor shortages, and a lack of qualified employees also go hand in hand with delays to a project’s timeline. When improper training or disregard for safety protocol results in workplace injuries, it not only costs money for medical bills, but it also costs time and labor to replace the injured employee. Especially with employees who operate specialized equipment, having backup replacements for when these employees fall sick or have personal emergencies that prevent them from working will save time and money in the long run.

Though hiring extra employees and investing in planners, emergency managers, and ensuring equipment is rented for longer than is actually needed to seem like expensive and avoidable costs, these steps can actually save money in the long run. Pew Researchers discovered that every extra dollar invested in risk mitigation will save 6 dollars that would have been spent on responding to and recovering from the emergency or setback. Especially for larger-scale projects that lose hundreds of thousands of dollars on wasted time and equipment for every extra day the project is delayed, spending enough beforehand on comprehensive risk mitigation and planning will significantly save money and benefit the company in the long run. Construction projects have a lot of moving parts, and a lot of things can go wrong that are completely out of the control of the project manager. Because of these inevitable risks, managers need to ensure they have prepared properly for and mitigated every risk that IS preventable, like poor communication, workplace injuries, and lack of experienced workers. What can go wrong will go wrong, so ensure that what does not have to go wrong won’t. Invest now to save later.

Works Cited:

Durdyev, S., & Hosseini, M. R. (2019). Causes of delays on construction projects: a comprehensive list. International Journal of Managing Projects in Business, 13(1), 20–46. https://doi.org/10.1108/ijmpb-09-2018-0178

Gerardi, J. (2021, December 28). Common Construction Mistakes | ProEst. ProEst. https://proest.com/construction/tips/common-mistakes/

Lightbody, L., & Fuchs, M. (2018, January 11). Every $1 Invested in Disaster Mitigation Saves $6. The Pew Charitable Trusts. https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/articles/2018/01/11/every-$1-invested-in-disaster-mitigation-saves-$6

Preparedness at the Individual Level

Risk Education

Preparedness Starts with You!

Risk is everywhere. From the moment you get in your car to go to work until the moment you swallow your last midnight snack before bed, you encounter different risks of different severities. It is also becoming increasingly obvious that both the number and severity of emergencies and disasters people face every year are drastically increasing with climate change, overpopulation, and pollution. Climate change expert and Vox journalist Umair Irfan writes that the number of disasters has increased by 5 times in the last 50 years. Furthermore, USA Facts shares that “The number of natural disasters that cost over a billion dollars has increased over the last forty years, rising from an average of three per year in the 1980s to 13 per year during the 2010s”.

This increase in disasters causes an increase in available information regarding disaster trends and social habits that can be used to improve emergency management policy, but it can also cause disaster desensitization. When people hear about disasters so frequently, especially when they occur with relatively little time in between, the events lose their excitement, shock, and horror. This can consequently lead to less personal preparedness, as people cannot afford to anticipate every possible hazard or live in a constant state of fear and readiness. Many people accept certain levels of risk in their lives to be effective and efficient members of society, but it is essential to find a balance between accepting some inevitable risks while still having a personal plan in case a hazard is encountered.

So what can you, as an individual without formal emergency management training do to reduce risk and assess the vulnerabilities in your own life? The first thing to do is make a list of all the possible or likely hazards you could face in your day-to-day activities, including car accidents, sickness, weather events, or serious injuries. Then create the possible outcomes and results of those hazards, always thinking worst-case scenario. For example, say a large flood hits your town. Should you evacuate? What items will you bring from your house? Where can you go? What if you lose WIFI or cell reception? Do you have backup food and water? What if someone is injured? Are you near a hospital or do you have emergency medical supplies? These are just a few small examples of things to think about, but there are hundreds of other hazards and actions to think about well in advance of the disaster.

It can be overwhelming to know what to do and expensive to take actions like buying a backup generator or retrofitting your home, but luckily, risk management experts from all over the world have provided many different lists and steps to take to move toward being more prepared.

The following is a list compiled by the international nonprofit organization Habitat for Humanity:

This is not a comprehensive list, but one that has some helpful ideas about where to start on your personal preparedness journey.

Being personally prepared is bigger than just you and your family. Your actions have impacts on your entire community, and this is especially obvious financially. Picture this: You fail to retrofit your home, and a massive flood destroys it. Because, in your confidence or lack of preparedness, you did not purchase flood insurance, you are unable to afford to rebuild. You either must take out loans from the bank or government, or you must move altogether, leaving your town to have to foot the bill on the reparations. Now imagine if many people within the same community are in a similar situation, but the town is unable to afford the reparations of all these homes. It is not ideal to leave the damaged homes as they are, because that would be visually polluting, unsafe, and reduce the number of citizens (and therefore taxpayers) who can live there. It becomes a huge, expensive task, all because people failed to be personally prepared.

Life is risky, and the number of risks is only increasing as society develops. However, do not allow the increase in disasters to desensitize you to the importance of vigilance, preparedness, and planning. You want to ensure that you, your family, and your community are resilient and safe when disasters strike, and you can only do that by understanding the possible vulnerabilities you face and taking preemptive measures to reduce their impacts. Preparedness starts with you!