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COVID-19 & HVAC: Same Game, New Rules

July 1, 2020
Contractors are adapting, and following COVID-19 safety procedures. As we live and learn, we must continue to earn.

Many of you, perhaps golf fans especially, have heard the comments made in June by Professional Golf Association Commissioner Jay Monahan. His most quoted comment was that, “we need to learn to live with the virus . . . because it isn’t going anywhere.”

Some sports commentators praised Monahan for being the first person that any had heard from a neutral, non-political perspective to express the most common-sense approach to COVID-19: keep on keepin’ on, but beware risky activity. By neutral, I mean he is not one of the many news organizations that have politicized the virus or were pushing extreme measures, something approaching living in caves for the next year.

'Tis foolish to expect anything resembling a total elimination of the virus for many days to come. And, be prepared for what the next flu season might bring, although I believe any further reaction must not include a shutdown of businesses. Life must go on, but we can be careful about it. Based on what we hear, large gatherings, parades, concerts, etc., large outdoor events, must be monitored and, in some cases, discouraged, because that’s the best guess of situations in which the virus thrives.

Heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration contractors began playing by new rules in March, when, thankfully, HVACR was deemed to be an essential service. I was impressed by the speed with which many contractors and contractor associations (ACCA/MCAA/MSCA/PHCC and ASHRAE most notably) began to offer information to members on proper PPE procedures, product suggestions for improved building filtration and service protocols, and forecasts on the look ahead for the industry’s financial outlook (which, it must be said, is important).

I’m not exactly thrilled by some associations' recent decisions to move fall events to virtual online formats, but even if 10 people think it’s safe to convene in person, there are another 20 who disagree, and would remain at home. Event revenue is vital to association success, and staging a live event you know will land in the red would be foolish. 

When a small number of golfers tested positive for coronavirus, it was, Monahan said, a “stark reminder” that we are not out of the woods. The PGA, he said would continue to make adjustments to its health and safety plan, and as needed will continue to reinforce distancing and other safety protocols that minimize risk. 

This month, we feature  profiles by Kelly Faloon and John Messenbrink, of three commercial HVAC contractors that have taken steps to continue working as efficiently and productively as they did pre-COVID, while giving full attention to employee and customer safety.

UMC, Inc. Mukilteo, Wash., had 80 percent of its employees working remotely, and are working on a plan to bring employees back to the building in stages. 

One of UMC’s innovations — which is sure to be all the rage on jobsites —are portable handwashing stations. It sure is great to have plumbers and metal men on the team. In addition to using the stations on jobsites, UMC is selling them to interested buyers. Nothing wrong with that.

UMC sources believe a new industry game plan will be to reduce the large number of onsite construction workers. Thankfully prefabrication and modular construction will help bring this about to full efficiency.

TDIndustries, San Antonio, Tex., has also outfitted teams with wash stations at every jobsite and is advising customers on building reopening strategies and how to prepare for future spikes in COVID-19 cases. Office employees are wearing masks, and temperatures are checked daily, and digital sign-in/sign-out sheets are required. Field workers also take temperature checks and wear masks, even if working alone.

Murphy Co. in St. Louis has been active in helping hospitals. During the stay-at-home orders, the team took on work with healthcare partners in preparation for increased capacity needs. At St. Joseph Hospital, Murphy Co. teams designed and installed temporary ductwork to run along the building to turn ordinary hospital rooms into negative-pressure rooms. This ventilation method is thought to reduce the spread of the disease in hospitals or other healthcare settings, writes author Kelly Faloon.

As PGA Commissioner Monahan said, we’re all learning about how to proceed during this pandemic, and what I hope is a gradual return to a true “normal.” But as we live and learn, we must continue to earn. 

About the Author

Terry McIver | Content Director - CB

A career publishing professional, Terence 'Terry' McIver has served three diverse industry publications in varying degrees of responsibility since 1987, and worked in marketing communications for a major U.S. corporation.He joined the staff of Contracting Business magazine in April 2005.

As director of content for Contracting Business, he produces daily content and feature articles for CB's 38,000 print subscribers and many more Internet visitors. He has written hundreds, if not two or three, pieces of news, features and contractor profile articles for CB's audience of quality HVACR contractors. He can also be found covering HVACR industry events or visiting with manufacturers and contractors. He also has significant experience in trade show planning.