Keeping pace with changing regulations related to the spread of the coronavirus is an ongoing challenge for utilities and the engineer-procure-construct (EPC) companies that design, build and maintain critical infrastructure. Travel restrictions, health advisories and business guidance have evolved as rapidly as the coronavirus has spread around the world.

To keep workers safe and projects running efficiently, EPC companies must carefully monitor this fluid situation and have accountability of where their employees are traveling and working at any given time. Companies are faced with several new and urgent questions, including:

  • How can employees safely reach job sites?
  • Will hotels and restaurants be available?
  • Will employees be required to self-quarantine after returning from certain areas? If so, what is the best way to deploy teams to minimize the number of individuals in quarantine?
  • How can we keep employees safe while still meeting critical needs?

With the volume of new criteria being issued from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), World Health Organization and federal, state and local governments, gaining internal approvals for essential business travel can be confusing and time-consuming. To expedite the process and safeguard everyone’s health, companies can develop an automated travel planning tool.

For example, we developed a tool that allows individual employees to submit an online form at a central location to request approvals for all necessary travel. This form captures the dates, location and purpose of their travel. It also indicates how critical the project is. Employees also provide an emergency phone number and the name and address of their travel accommodations through this form.

Submitting the form starts an automated workflow that routes the request through appropriate levels of management and the travel department. Links to relevant CDC, state, local and internal guidance are readily available within the tool so the approving managers can quickly make informed decisions. The tool also provides resources related to relevant, current risks and precautions to inform the employee and support the employee’s consideration and planning prior to travel. Additionally, it includes a summary page of all travelers, so managers can easily identify and address time-sensitive requests.

These types of approaches to travel safety and project delivery optimize teams in the field and help critical infrastructure projects continue without interruption. Greater visibility into where teams are located at any given moment also supports the monitoring of project progress. Most importantly, the streamlined access to the latest health guidelines and accountability for all employee travel allows companies to keep safety a top priority.