On May 1st, it has been widely reported that workers from Amazon, Instacart, Whole Foods, Walmart, Target, and FedEx, are set to walk out of work, reacting to a perceived lack of care from their employers for their personal safety during the COVID-19 outbreak. May Day strikes are a yearly occurrence, but it is especially dramatic in 2020. America has reached historical numbers of people who are out of work, with 30 million people filing for unemployment last month. Those lucky enough to remain working are concerned for their health and that of their loved ones.
In this context, I am proud to be working for an organization that has retained all of its employees and put effective safety measures in place so that no one to date has gotten sick. I want to share how Griffin Living, a real estate development company with a current focus on innovative senior living, has been keeping our people safe so that others can implement similar practices to protect their workers’ health and jobs.
At the office:
At their corporate headquarters in Calabasas, there are normally 70 people working on a daily basis. While all of these people have the option to work from home, 30 have chosen to continue coming into the office while the other 40 telecommute. Those 30 are spread out to every third office, which puts tens of feet of space between them. When I need to go down the hall to talk to a coworker, I stand outside the office door. Griffin Living, by way of Paul Griffin III its President and CEO, has equipped workers with PPE and hand sanitizer at every desk, with spare available at reception.
No guests are allowed in the building for now. Delivery workers are encouraged to leave packages and mail outside, which are disinfected before distribution within the office. We leave bags of chips and bottled waters outside for delivery personnel, whom we’ve known for years and want to offer a bit of extra support right now.
Griffin Living has a trusted janitorial staff who are disinfecting surfaces multiple times per day and fogging the offices with Lysol every night. The whole place smells like disinfectant, but it feels clean and safe.
On the construction sites:
Griffin Living, being one of the top senior living developers, has two active construction sites, one in Simi Valley and one in Westlake Village, each with about 60 workers. We’re breaking ground on two new sites, one in Atlanta and the other in San Diego, in the coming weeks. Some of the safety protocols from the corporate headquarters apply to our construction sites; workers maintain a distance of 10 feet and are not permitted in the onsite construction offices. The sites are vigorously disinfected. We provide PPE and require workers to wear masks and gloves at all times.
In addition, they have worked with contractors to develop practices that make them more comfortable. With their input, we have provided several portable washbasins with hospital-grade soap on each site. We have designated stairways to be directional — some used only for going up and others going down so that workers don’t bump into each other while using the stairs. All of the contractors on these sites are skilled craftsmen, licensed for specialized work in our buildings. We value them and trust their insight on how to make their conditions safe for them.
They also have safety inspectors who are hired to look out for their needs and ensure contractors abide by local and state safety codes. They have received further training to address the pandemic conditions. In ordinary times, contractors will complain that inspectors can slow their progress: these days, everyone is highly compliant and many express gratitude for a second set of eyes to keep them safe.
James Richardson, Project Executive at Land Mark Electric, Inc. says, “Griffin Living field staff has always been diligent in promoting and enforcing safety on their projects. With the recent Covid-19 challenges, Griffin Living focused on getting ahead of the health concern challenges by promoting and enforcing both Cal-OSHA and CDC guidelines for all the construction workers and their families.”
In addition to our in-house safety inspectors, state and local inspectors from a variety of government agencies stop in a couple times a week to make sure everything is up to code.
Finally, there is a high volume of feedback: our workers have many opportunities to express concern. Every morning, the senior project manager meets with the foremen from each trade (e.g. foundation, electrical, plumbing, etc.), the onsite project engineer, and the safety inspector to see how things are going.
Protecting our workers and their jobs have been our top priority during the crisis. Between basic protocols like maintaining social distance, providing PPE, and frequently disinfecting and asking for workers and inspectors to offer input on how to make their work environments safe, we have managed to keep our workers healthy and employed.
John Terando is the Vice President of Capital Acquisition and Management at Griffin Living, identifying and overseeing relationships with community investment partners. During his 30 year tenure with various Griffin entities, he has overseen development of approximately 12,000 residential units in California and Georgia. He is working on new developments in Connecticut, New Jersey, Florida, and Arizona.