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Office Re-entry Pilot Program to Begin Next Week

With this week’s news that L.A. County will begin allowing more public recreation spaces and local businesses to gradually re-open, our company’s Executive Leadership Team announced the creation of an Office Re-entry Pilot Program, designed to facilitate the return of a select few employees back into the Office while a larger and more comprehensive plan continues to take shape.

The Pilot Program will be small in scale but will include key elements of the larger plan, including employee temperature checks, face covering requirements, social distancing protocols, workstation sanitation requirements, and the now-familiar personal hygiene recommendations from the CDC.

Invitations will be sent to a handful of employees who have expressed interest in returning to the Office sooner rather than later, and who each represent a different business unit to ensure social distancing protocols will be easily met.

“Based on the results of last week’s survey, we know there are employees who would like to get back into the Office and who we believe will be safe and productive members of the Program,” said Kevin Michel, company president. “Some form of Telework is here to stay, but a safe return to the Office must also be implemented.”

The Pilot Program will include flexibility for other employees to visit the Office or the Shop when needed. Management will test and tweak the Pilot Program in the short-term to see what works before revisiting the idea of opening the Office to perhaps dozens more employees in the weeks ahead.

“Like so many other things in this company, we’ll start with a solid draft plan, and improve from there,” said Mr. Michel.

Just last week, California Governor Gavin Newsom began allowing select businesses across the state to reopen with modifications. The shift continues as part of a four-stage plan he laid out to gradually transition millions of Californians back to work. “We are entering Phase 2” Newsom said last week. “This is a very positive sign and it has happened for one reason: The data says it can happen.”

Earlier this week, it appeared L.A. County’s strict stay-at-home orders would be extended through July. And while the stay-at-home Order was extended indefinitely on Wednesday, local government officials said they will continue down the path of a gradual re-opening of public outdoor spaces, local businesses, and the larger economy.

“If our management team has learned anything while steering the company through this crisis, it’s that what we think we know today can easily change tomorrow,” said Mr. Michel. “And this week is no different.”

Communication, Collaboration and Hard Work.

Our Executive Leadership Team has believed from Day One that a short list of strategies could help steer our company through the COVID-19 crisis: communication, collaboration, and hard work. So, we focused on establishing open lines of communication. Encouraged honest dialogue. And, continue to do our best to meet our commitments to our customers. All of this while the news seemed to get a little worse each day. Well, we’re happy to report something you already know: the statistics are still concerning, but the news does seem to be getting a little better each day. We will continue on this path. We will remain focused on your safety, and the continued strength of our company. We value both. We need both. – ELT

S.A.F.E. Jobsite Recognition: UCLA Franz Tower

The most recent edition of our company’s Safety Incentive and Recognition Program was inspired by a recent meeting between a Cal OSHA investigator and Company Safety Director Steve Prisk, who invited the investigator’s review of an already strong safety program.

“The Safety Incentive Program should be focused on encouraging direct employee involvement. Examples could include employee participation on the safety committee, hazard identification, safety suggestions, and correcting unsafe conditions,” said Bob Middo, associate safety engineer for Cal OSHA.

The high-level feedback was delivered during a conference call between Prisk, Middo and members of the Rudolph & Sletten construction team now overseeing our company’s current project at California State University, Los Angeles.

And, it came just months after Prisk had launched the company’s first-ever Safety Technician Initiative with Manuel Madrid, Jr. and Charles Juarez, Jr.

“Sometimes things just fall into place. Manny and Charles were already covering every major Xcel project site,” Prisk said. “Their primary responsibility is still to help me and support our Foremen’s jobsite safety efforts. But with this new Cal OSHA guidance, they will now begin actively recommending those who they see going ‘above and beyond’ for incentive checks and company-wide recognition.”

The S.A.F.E. Jobsite Incentive and Recognition Program is named after the team’s moniker (Safety Affecting Field Employees).

The first to be recognized under the new program is Sheet Metal Foreman Jessie Gaytan for his work at the UCLA Franz Tower jobsite.

“Jessie seems to always have an eye on his jobsites, even when he’s not there,” said Juarez Jr. “He was splitting time between the UCLA Franz Tower jobsite and work he was doing at LAX. He’d call me or text me after working all night at the airport and ask me if I was going to UCLA that day and if yes, to make sure I had safety vests, gloves and goggles on my truck for his guys,” he said.

“Our guys are good, but that just doesn’t happen all the time.”

“It starts with the Foremen,” Gaytan said. “I help Sean as much as I can. He’s always there whenever I need him. We both look out for each other. We respect each other and what we do. And when we do that, our teams follow.”

Staying the Course Proves Essential for Xcel

During a recent Round Table Discussion with our Field Leaders, I made the comment: “You could say we are lucky. You could say we are unlucky.”

My comment addressed the fact that construction was deemed an essential service weeks ago by the same government agencies that directed our families to stay home.

Well a lot can change in six weeks. While COVID-19 remains a serious threat, and while the safety of our employees remains our Top Priority, we were told this week that our current largest facility – Paramount Studios – is now back online.

With unemployment skyrocketing across the nation, the U.S. Government is making investments in businesses like ours to help Americans get back to work. This week’s Paramount news puts our company in great position. We can see everyone who wants to work getting back on the job in the next few weeks. And that is good news.

Xcel’s Performance at LAX Lands Another Big Win

With a past-performance resume and experienced project team that has gained the respect of decision-makers across LAX, Xcel Mechanical just added another significant win – a $2.8 million plumbing project at Terminal 5.5 and Terminal 7.

The new contract award builds on our company’s growing backlog of major projects at the world’s third busiest airport. It is also the third major contract awarded to Xcel Mechanical by new G.C. Partner Austin Commercial.

Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) awarded Austin Commercial a $336.5 million contract to design and build three ‘terminal cores’ as part of the Landside Access Modernization Program (LAMP) at LAX.

The terminal cores will consist of new and upgraded facilities that will be built in key locations around the terminal area to provide staircases, escalators, elevators and walkways that will connect LAX’s terminals with the new Automated People Mover (APM).

Last August, Austin Commercial awarded our company a $15 million contract to design and build similar improvements at Tom Bradley International – the busiest terminal at LAX.

It was the largest design-build contract—and largest single-contract award overall—in the company’s 22-year history, said Kevin Michel, company president.

“This began last summer as a strategic and targeted new business pursuit that required a total team effort. But it will take more than manpower to deliver quality to this new and very important customer. It is up to all of us – Office, Shop and Field – to deliver on our promise to this new client.”

Elsewhere at LAX, our teams continue work on the $4.6 million American Airlines Terminal Core Project, which is also part of LAWA’s Landside Access Modernization Program (LAMP) and was awarded by new G.C. Partner Hensel Phelps.

In February, Xcel Mechanical teams completed work on the $2.5 million LAX Delta Maintenance Hangar project, awarded by new G.C. partner Skanska USA.

Just in Time! Meet our Safety Techs

“The GC’s were impressed with our response,” said Charles Juarez, Jr., one of our company’s two new Safety Techs.

“When COVID-19 first hit we went really heavy on jobsite inspections: posting our Safe Jobsite Guidelines; conducting Toolbox Talks; and distributing masks, gloves, goggles, hand sanitizers and disinfectant sprays to our field teams. Basically, supporting our Foremen however we could,” he said.

“And in the beginning, Xcel was the only trade doing it, and on some jobsites the only contractor doing it,” he said. “In fact some of the GCs asked for me copies of our postings for their jobsites while their programs came around,” he said. “Xcel obviously hit this thing head on.” 

Juraez and counterpart Manuel Madrid, Jr. transitioned from our Field Construction Team to the role of “Safety Technician” in January.

The first two Safety Technicians ever at Xcel Mechancial.

The initial plan Prisk laid out called for both men to complete OSHA 10 and OSHA 30 training to begin with. They would then shadow Prisk during his new-hire safety training and employee re-currency training. Once up-to-speed, they would then split evenly all of Xcel’s project sites, each assuming responsibility for half.

At a high level, their job was to keep an eye on each jobsite, help each Foreman, and to make sure all our Field Teams are supported so their jobsites are operating safely.

They made sure required signs were posted; that all tools and equipment were serviceable; that safety barriers were built and tie-off locations secure; that hand-wash stations were accessible; and that our teams had and wore PPE at all times

The two men even came up with a moniker for their Team: S.A.F.E, or Safety Affecting Field Employees.

Then the COVID-19 crisis hit.

“It was a crazy time,” Madrid said. “Charles and I going out to the jobsites showed our guys that we care, and that the company cares. They appreciated us going out. And, if our guys felt safer and it saved our Foremen some time, than it was all worth it,” he said

[Company President] Kevin Michel made a big call here. I see the other contractors now looking at this, and I’ll bet they’ll try to copy it, if they can.”

“It was kind of scary,” Juarez said. “When California first issued the Stay at Home order, it didn’t clarify the `construction as essential’ part. I have a young child at home and we ‘re expecting another baby. Manny is too,” he said.

“We knew that if we didn’t take it seriously and push hard to make sure our jobsites were compliant and that our guys were as safe as they could be, we’d run the risk of bringing something home,” he said. “But Xcel did take it seriously. We are all battling through. And now, especially with Paramount opening back up, it seems like it’s all trending in the right direction.”

Juarez said the message Prisk has been preaching from Day One hits the nail on the head. “I really feel – especially in light of the COVID-19 situation – that what we do is just as essential as installing the ductwork or hanging the pipe.”

“We are helping to keep you safe and also protecting the company. If we don’t take this seriously, nobody wins.”

Said Prisk of his latest safety initiative: “This could not have come at a better time.”

OSHA 10 and OSHA 30 Training Certifications Critical at LAX

With more than $20 million in project backlog just at LAX, this week’s Field Leaders Roundtable conference call provided an opportunity to remind our field teams the importance of completing required OSHA 10 and OSHA 30 safety certification training to be eligible to work at LAX.

Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) requires all field supervisors to have OSHA 30 and all field team members to have OSHA 10 certification. Most, if not all, Xcel Mechanical Foremen have completed OSHA 30 training, said Jason Gordon, VP of Operations. Those who haven’t should make it a priority. Also, Foremen “need to deliver” the message to their teams the importance of completing OSHA 10 training.

“The bottom line is we have tens of thousands of man-hours in the books at LAX, and we want everyone to be available to work on these jobs,” he said. “Plus, we’re not done pursuing new work there.”

Gordon said he expects much of the work at LAX to take place during the third and fourth quarters of this year, which begins in about eight weeks from now.

Plumbing and Piping Members go through CPMCA for OSHA 10 and OSHA 30. Click safety form attached with instructions.

Sheet Metal Members go to Click Safety directly. You pay and complete the course, then the JATC will reimburse you. See links below.

New Shop Rules A Sign of Things to Come

Paramount Studios is back online. And with that news begins the re-mobilization of Field Teams and Fab Shop support sidelined during the six-week work stoppage. But how do we go about it safely?

Company Safety Director Steve Prisk unveiled his action plan during this week’s Round Table calls with Field and Office employees.

“Things are going to operate differently from the last time you were in the Shop,” Prisk said. “We have put a plan in place to protect they guys who work in the Shop, and to protect our business from having to shut the entire Shop down if someone were to be diagnosed with COVID-19,” he said.

The plan essentially divides the Shop into three sections – Shipping & Receiving (located nearest the Office), then the Plumbing & Piping and Sheet Metal Shops, respectively.

While it might not appear much different, the flow of things has changed. Each dedicated work area still has its own access door, but members of each team will be required to use only their assigned door for entry and exit.

Each area is now separated from the others with marked barricades, and each has its own break area and restroom. Each team will be responsible for disinfecting their own work areas. Foremen are to enter the Shop through the Shipping & Receiving door, and once in that section of the Shop will have access to the Safety Training Room and to their mailboxes. Temperature checks, social distancing and face coverings will be strictly enforced. Calling ahead is encouraged. Loitering is discouraged.

“We will keep these teams separated to help protect them and their work areas from contamination,” Prisk said. “And while we look at our mobilization plan for Paramount, we will be looking at what should be implemented there,” he said. “As we begin preparing to come back to work in the Office, whenever that day comes, there will more of this to come. Things are going to look quite a bit different. There will definitely be a ‘new normal’”.

Business Continuity – When it Matters Most

One thing is certain: When this crisis is over U.S. contractors will face some new realities.

Things we’re monitoring include the ongoing health threat of COVID-19; the possibility of a sustained recession; continued disruptions to the labor market and our supply chain; high volatility across financial markets; potential impacts of federal stimulus; and mounting political uncertainty.

Within these challenges we will find opportunities. We’ll continue to take steps to make Xcel the best company it can be. And, we are counting on you to do your part. We’re in this together. We will emerge together. – Executive Leadership Team

UA & MCAA – “Essential, but not Dispensable”

In a video message, UA General President Mark McManus and MCAA President Brian Helm discuss how cooperation, communication and common sense are fueling joint efforts to adapt to new working conditions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The two organizations are working together and innovating to address changing conditions while at the same time protecting our workforce and our industry’s future.