Electrical Contractors Get Wired for New Landscape

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — As economic activity resumes, electrical contractors anticipate that the practices put in place to fight COVID-19 will endure well after the outbreak subsides.

“Some of these precautions put in place because of this disease will stick,” says Eric Carlson, president of Joe Dickey Electric Inc., North Lima.

Keeping many of these changes probably isn’t a bad thing, he says. “Hopefully it’s an eye-opening experience for everyone involved.”

Among the long-lasting effects of the pandemic will be an emphasis on encouraging sick workers to stay home so they can recuperate and not infect others, says Becky Bertuzzi, marketing manager for VEC Electric in Girard.

Bertuzzi foresees a gradual restart in the construction market, with project priorities reset. “It’s going to be slow as companies figure out how they’re going to do business in this new environment,” she says, “what precautions they need to take and how they need to outfit their facilities to accommodate that.”

Private investors might be more cautious about investments than state or federal governments, says Michael Johnson, project manager at Tri-Area Electric Co., Youngstown. “There definitely could be a contraction of private dollars” as businesses wait to see what happens in six to 12 months.

Long-term changes will be mainly in the social-distancing sphere, he says. “Face-to-face meetings are going to be few and far between.”

Social distancing requirements might relax from the six-foot standard in place, says Justin Bruce, vice president of Bruce & Merrilees Electric Co. in New Castle, Pa.

One of those “little things that you don’t really think about,” shaking hands, might be a long time coming back, he says.

Enertech Electrical’s Dominic Donofrio expects employees to be able to work from home more often. And he anticipates new public health mandates from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

“We’re going to see an overall caution with people where they go, especially in hospital work. People are going to be hesitant,” Donofrio says. “It’s definitely going to be unique for the electrical industry to go into homes, hospitals and manufacturing. We’ve got to be smart about it and make sure everyone is using proper hygiene and proper distance when appropriate.”

Donofrio anticipates construction will rebound in the summer, although the market for service work will remain tough.

“Construction is going to start to mobilize again,” he says. But he expresses concern about a likely coronavirus spike in the fall. “We could be, possibly as a country, doing the same thing,” he says.