Although there are realistically as many risks to a construction project as there are steps and members, some are more important to consider than others. It can be easy to become bogged down in risk assessment and management, particularly if you start identifying risks of all shapes and sizes.
Luckily, some of the biggest risks can be easy to mitigate with the proper forward planning. Here at Construction Guide we’ve seen plenty of risks on projects of all sizes, and so are very familiar with how to manage them. We’ve put together this list of the top construction risks, so that you can be aware of them from the start, and we also offer some solutions for mitigating them with the least impact on your project.
Before looking at the main construction project risks, it’s worth understanding how they can be classified. Some construction companies may already calculate their risks using these classifications, and they might seem fairly obvious to many. However, it’s worth starting with some basic information to understand the problem in greater detail. In short, construction risks can be collected under the 3 following groups:
Scheduling is a major factor in construction projects, particularly when you have many different companies working together on the same project. Delays caused by fairly minor issues can have large knock-on effects for other areas of the project, including budget and completion. Scheduling issues can often arise out of communication problems or improper timetabling from the project outset.
It’s all too common nowadays for a construction company to begin without finished designs, as they’re eager to get the project underway. Along with the obvious troubleshooting that’s been missed, this can also lead to plenty of back pedaling once the project has begun, which can result in budget and scheduling problems. The main solution to these issues is to better manage the preconstruction phase and to ensure everyone is working to the same timetable.
Financial issues are probably the most obvious in a construction project because everything will lead back to the budget. It’s not uncommon for a project to go over budget, but this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do everything possible to keep the budget under control. Keeping your budget in check can be a real challenge, but is one that can be mitigated through proper planning and communication from the beginning.
Being aware of the main risks in a construction project should help you to manage them more efficiently from the outset. Below are the main risks explained in some detail, along with solutions for mitigating them. Of course these aren’t the only risks for a construction project, but are ones that can be managed with proper planning.
1. Safety issues
Being aware of safety issues on a construction project is hardly a new risk. What is new, however, is understanding the ways in which these safety issues can be managed before they develop. For example, safety equipment might be everywhere on a construction site, but how helpful is this if employees are unaware of the current safety guidelines?
A fairly common problem that isn’t addressed too much is the issue of a language barrier between a construction company and their employees. The most obvious example is Hispanic employees being hired by American firms, but we at Construction Guide are a multilingual company with employees from around the world. Your employees could be the most skilled in the world, but this can still lead to injury if there are communication issues.
The most obvious solution is to bring in multilingual safety guidelines, which many companies have started already. Along with this, there should be a commitment to improving language training for all employees, as there really aren’t any downsides to better communication, whatever form this takes.
Another solution that’s showing promise is the introduction of machine learning programs to assist with risk analysis. These programs analyze large amounts of construction data to identify risks and offer solutions before the project has even begun. The plan is for this to massively reduce risks, and the reliance on humans to identify them too.
2. Site disputes
Disputes are all too common between the various groups taking part in a construction project. Whether this is between 2 contractors, project managers and their staff, or financers and administrators, it’s likely we’ve all encountered a dispute as part of a project. While this can not only lead to financial issues, it can cause obvious scheduling problems too.
The best solution to site disputes is to document all processes and conversations, which should then be digitized. This means everyone has access to the information they need all the time, and while this won’t completely remove the issue of disputes, it should reduce the time spent building a case. Building Information Modeling (BIM) is commonly used for this because it offers a shared information resource for all parties involved.
3. Labor problems
Labor problems is possibly one of the most diverse risks found in a construction project, as it can include shortage of labor, along with labor quality and productivity issues. Although you might not have a problem finding employees to hire, this doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to be the best people for the job. An even worse scenario would be the combination of labor shortage and reduced productivity because this can lead to financial and scheduling issues at any stage of the project.
The main solution for this risk is to introduce technology to the hiring and working process. Something like BuildingConnected allows contractors to intimately investigate a subcontractor before hiring, giving them much greater control over the process. Similarly, using knowledge sharing resources allows more experienced workers to teach less experienced ones, while also allowing younger employees to teach older ones how to manage any newly introduced technology. The key to improving employee productivity is to manage your resources better, as with almost any other construction risk.
Realistically, almost any construction risk can be traced back to miscommunication, and it’s so important that it possibly deserves a whole article to itself. Communication problems can arise at any stage of the construction project, all of which can lead to delays and budget increases. Similarly, it can lead to wasted materials, unnecessary reworks, and more.
One of the best solutions for miscommunication is cloud-based software and video conferencing. The key is to process your data in real time and ensure everyone has access to the centralized resources. More and more firms are moving away from paper-based resources and are seeing a reduction in miscommunication problems. Granted, this won’t completely remove the issue overnight, but it’ll drastically reduce the chances of glaring communication errors.
5. Lack of documentation
This one relates to risk 2, as one can easily lead to the other. The amount of documents involved in a project of any size are shocking, but it can become almost mind-bending when you start looking at projects of any great size. Paper documenting systems are still surprisingly common, and this can lead to obvious problems when you need to find something from the preconstruction phase during your project closeout. Along with the issue of wasted time, this can also lead to unnecessary disputes and communication errors.
The easiest way to mitigate this risk is again to move to a cloud-based sharing program that can store all the documents you need and be accessed by anyone at any time. Integrating mobile software means these documents can even be accessed onsite, meaning no one has to spend hours looking for that one important piece of paper ever again.
6. Issues with error reporting
Manual error reporting has never really been an efficient system. For example, if you’re onsite and notice a problem, you’ll have to wait until you’re next in the office to report the issue. While this might not be a massive problem for something low risk, it can create hazards if it’s something like a leaking pipe or exposed wiring. Along with safety issues, this can again create delays for scheduling and your budget.
Many current construction software firms have a mobile error reporting system featured, which allows you to report and categorize errors in real time. Some also have the added bonus of creating the report based on your information, which massively reduces the problem of human error. This information can then be shared immediately with the relevant parties, meaning you no longer have to wait days for a critical issue to be fixed.
Construction site risks might never be fully removed, but there are definitely ways to mitigate them as much as possible. Along with proper planning and communication from the start, the most obvious solution is to bring in technology wherever possible. Technology is designed to make our lives easier, and there’s no reason we shouldn’t take advantage of this in the construction industry. We at Construction Guide understand the problems these risks can create, so we want to ensure everyone is as educated as possible from the outset.