How to manage the working environment

Contractors have learned through trial and error that every project runs differently. Though some components may be standard, some projects may require certain attention to detail regarding the crew’s work. A prime example is projects within the hospitality industry.

“Contractors need to understand that most hotels, unless they are ground up construction projects, are facilities operating 24/7,” said Rick Odorisio, vice president of Hotel Operations for Valley Forge Investment Corp., Philadelphia. His company operates the Omni Hotel at Independence Park, the Crowne Plaza Valley Forge Hotel and several other hotels in the Northeast.

Contractors may have to tread lightly in these types of vertical markets, Odorisio noted. When on-site in a hotel that is in normal operation, workers may not be able to run hammers, drills or turn lights off and on at random, especially in those facilities with occupied meeting centers.

Keep peace   

The best way to ensure a stress-free install at a hotel is to keep in constant contact with the hotel and any general and prime contractors. This way, all teams should be well aware of what sections are deemed off-limits for the day (or week).

“We had one instance where an electrical contractor shut down all of the lights in a main ballroom, and we had that ballroom sectioned off to accommodate three meetings going on at the time,” he said. Simple planning can prevent such mistakes.

Another problem, according to Odorisio, is that some contractors may believe that midday is an ideal time to do hotel work, with the assumption that most patrons are out and hotel occupancy is relatively low. While that might be the case for the rooms, other areas of the hotel are still busy, so minimizing disruptions during the day is just as important. In addition, when it comes to working in guest rooms, it is important for contractors to make sure the room is unoccupied.

Contractors need to work and dress appropriately as well. Identification must be worn at all times in addition to safety clothing and necessary accessories. The facility owner will let contractors know how to enter and exit a hotel, and this is critical to the guests’ overall impression. The hotel may further limit access to workers and electrical contractors at certain areas through the use of access control or security checkpoints.

Plan and plan some more

Odorisio noted that the key to successfully working in these environments is controlled coordination. Sitting down with all involved parties—including the facility owner/operator—to define the scope of work and convey how long contractors intend on working in and around the facility is one of the basics of a good game plan. With open lines of communication, everyone is informed.

Noise and cutting off power, water and other utilities may seem necessary, but peace and quiet is important in a hotel setting. The hotel has the obligation to let the contractor know what is expected. By working together, each party can understand the other’s limitations and responsibilities.

The hotel has a responsibility to its patrons, guests and meeting attendees to provide a setting conducive to its guests’ expectations. Contractors have a responsibility to the facility owner to get the job done properly and on time. Working together, it can happen.

Keeping common sense at the forefront, contractors will find that working in hotels is no different than working in any other type of facility. Though more coordination and planning is involved, most contractors are already highly skilled in that area, so hotels, ultimately, should be no different than any other project.

Stong-Michas, a freelance writer, lives in central Pennsylvania. She can be reached via e-mail at JenLeahS@msn.com.