5 Ways Miscommunication Can Turn a Construction Job Site Into a Nightmare

A major key to construction project success is communication. You could argue it’s the No. 1 factor in keeping a project on track.

That’s why we’ve built our construction management software around capabilities like document management and field communications. Reporting, project documentation and project visibility all keep teams aligned on a job’s status. In practice, this removes gray areas from a construction project. Clear communication takes ambiguity out of the work.

As veteran construction professionals know too well, ambiguity is what turns small work site problems into project derailers. Below are five of those job site nightmares — and how trade construction teams can avoid them by using the right communication tools.

Someone Suffers an Injury

Construction teams take great care to ensure the safety of their work sites. But accidents do happen, and these are often the result of people being unaware of a present danger.

“Construction sites can be dangerous and volatile places,” writes the team at Safetybank, a U.K.-based company that builds work site health and safety software.

“… In order to safely carry out the work, a contractor must be provided with the relevant information for the building. This information includes the building’s stability and structural form – only then can the contractor plan and safely carry out the work.”

This is where communication and documentation play an important role in keeping all construction site workers safe. Daily site reports, for example, can help identify unsafe scaffolding or materials that cannot bear the weight they need to. When a field manager notices such a hazard, real-time communication channels can get that information out quickly.

We have a whole eBook on construction site safety that covers this in greater detail. To learn more, download the eBook here.

The Construction Project’s Field Crew Shows Up Understaffed

Workers have been leaving the construction sector since 2016, McKinsey researchers Garo Hovnanian, Ryan Luby and Shannon Peloquin write. Trade contractors all across North America are having to take extra steps to ensure their field crews aren’t spread too thin.

This is another communication and technology issue. Without the right information, a busy trade contractor could send someone to the wrong work site — and then be on the hook for that lost productivity.

Spreadsheets and manual scheduling tools aren’t always up to this task. Busy trade contractors need digital tools to track time-off requests, shift trades and changes in employee availability.

Documents Get Mixed Up or Lost

Document mismanagement might not sound like a nightmare scenario at first blush. But just wait until someone on a construction project somewhere starts building from an old set of blueprints.

This is where capabilities like version control become important in your document management systems. Everyone with access to the files needs to know when they’re using the most up-to-date versions of a document.

Tech reporter DP Taylor writes that good document management software should do certain things well:

  • Make it easy to find documents.
  • Make it easy to organize and categorize those documents.
  • Make it easy to share those documents.

These aren’t things that can be done with filing cabinets or Excel sheets. The only way to bring organization to chaotic construction data is with a centralized cloud solution.

Work Gets Flagged as Defective

There are a couple of reasons for defective work. It could be from a flaw in the design (e.g., imprecision in the architect’s drawings). It could be from subpar workmanship (e.g., improperly installed wiring).

In either case, it’s important for everyone on the project to be able to:

  • Recognize that there is a problem.
  • Identify the root cause of the problem.
  • Find a fair way to fix the problem.

Another way to phrase this: “Who is responsible, and who’s going to pay for the rework?”

That again is where it pays to have strong project documentation processes. If you can comb through the project data to find the root cause of the defect, it’s more likely that all parties will be able to agree upon how to proceed. Shrink those gray areas with solid project documentation and solid communication, and you might save yourself a protracted legal battle.

And if a dispute does escalate to the court, having robust project documentation will help your case.

A Natural Disaster Strikes, and There’s No Recovery Plan

No, a natural disaster like a flood or a tornado is not a communication breakdown. But how a team responds can be.

That’s why risk management and having an ability to plan for the absolute worst are crucial steps in kicking off a construction project.

An important aspect of risk management is having a force majeure clause in your contract. As the team at UpCounsel writes, that clause should:

  • Provide an overview of what events would trigger the clause.
  • Define the length of the triggering event.
  • Describe how force majeure should be communicated to the parties involved.
  • Outline the obligations for each party if such an event occurs.

It’s then up to the individual trade contractor and their team to assess what risks an expectable natural disaster could pose. They should document what steps the team would take in the event of a disaster, and outline a plan for how to recover lost work and get the construction project back on track.

If your team doesn’t have such a document, have a look at our guide to writing a risk management plan.

Images used under license from Shutterstock.com.