Top 10 Benefits Of Construction Equipment Telematics

Telematics systems combine GPS technology, on-board diagnostics and monitoring sensors to track, log and report data via cellular networks on the performance and operation of your construction equipment. Data from telematics systems are typically accessed through a web portal and can provide data on a number of machine systems. Common data points include GPS location, fuel consumption, idle times and machine alerts. Equipment manufacturers are installing telematics systems as standard equipment on an increasing number of their product offerings each year.

Telematics Data Benefits

Equipment owners using telematics data are reaping benefits such as improved productivity and reduced operating costs. Here are the top 10 benefits of using this systems to monitor and control your heavy equipment:

Asset Allocation

Telematics data can show you how much each machine is being used on your active sites. By analyzing this data you can determine if you are allocating too much or too little equipment to a jobsite. Perhaps you have an excavator that has been sitting at a project site unused for weeks that could be redeployed to another site. On the other hand, maybe you don’t have enough equipment onsite and your operators are overworking your machines in order to keep the project on schedule.

Using telematics data to understand exactly where and how much your equipment is being used. Over time, this data will help you realize whether you have underused assets that you can divest or whether it’s time to invest in more equipment. By adjusting your fleet size to meet your needs you can reduce equipment rental costs if you don’t have enough equipment or reduce ownership costs if you have too much equipment.

Maintenance & Repair Schedules

Telematics technologies continue to evolve, providing even more data points to equipment owners. Sensors and onboard scales are being incorporated into the design of new machines capturing and reporting data from a number of systems. Everything from fuel consumption to fault codes can easily be monitored.

Integrating the telematics data into a maintenance management program you can better schedule and perform preventive maintenance and repairs. Accurately tracking engine and working hours can ensure you aren’t pulling equipment out of service too early or too late to perform preventive maintenance. Telematics systems can also be used to alert you when equipment isn’t operating at peak performance, which could be an indication that a component is failing and needs to be replaced. Identifying problems early can help extend the life of your equipment and reduce repair and labor costs.

Operator Performance

This data can help you improve the efficiency of your equipment operators and identify bad habits like prolonged idling time. Speeding, erratic movements and overloading a machine are all safety hazards that can lead to rollovers and equipment tipping. By monitoring telematics data, you can identify operators who are overworking or misusing equipment. Correcting this behavior can lead to reduced labor costs, avoid accelerated wear on your equipment and result in safer worksites.

Reduce Theft

With GPS tracking and geo-fencing you can be alerted the moment your equipment leaves the jobsite. You can also use time-fencing to send alerts when equipment is being operated outside or scheduled work hours, which could indicate someone is trying to make off with your equipment. Some systems even allow you to remotely shut down the engine if unauthorized use is detected or prevent it from being started during set hours. With telematics and GPS technology you can track and locate all your equipment from one location so in the event equipment does go missing you can provide the local authorities with its location for faster recovery.

Reduce Fuel Consumption

Reducing fuel consumption is one of the biggest money savers telematics systems have been proven to solve. By monitoring idling time versus work time on equipment you can identify which machines are being left on without any work being done and specify which operators are responsible for wasting fuel. Implementing best practices to reduce idling times will result in better fuel efficiency. Reducing idle times can also extend engine life and reduce repair and maintenance costs.  

Fuel Tax Refunds

The federal government and states collect excise taxes on gasoline and diesel fuel. These taxes are used to fund road construction and highway maintenance projects. Businesses that use fuel for off-road purposes, such as construction equipment, are eligible for refunds on the federal level and by many of the state governments. Telematics data can GPS tracking data along with fuel consumption information to easily provide records of how much fuel was used off-road. Note: Tax credits or refunds are not given if using red-dyed diesel fuel meant for off-road use since it is not taxed in the first place.

Insurance Premiums

Some insurance providers will reduce or eliminate deductibles or provide discounts if your equipment has GPS tracking with geo-fencing alert capabilities installed. Depending on the size of your fleet, this can result in huge savings on your insurance costs. Monitoring and correcting unsafe operating behavior by your employees will reduce the number of accidents on your jobsites, which could also help save on insurance costs.

Job Estimates

Using this data can lead to more accurate job costing and estimates. Telematics can provide you with machine hours and fuel usage to determine operating costs that can be combined with labor costs for more accurate billing. Analyzing past data on previous projects will help you better predict how much a specific task or job will cost on future projects. This will result in more accurate estimates and lead to submitting more competitive bids.

Manage Operating Expenses

It’s important to keep track of the operating costs of your equipment since many owners determine the lifecycle of a machine as being when the operating costs begin to exceed ownership costs. Fuel consumption, preventive maintenance, operator wages, repairs tire/track costs all make up operating costs. Telematics data can help you identify areas where you can reduce operating costs whether it be by reducing idling time or correcting operator behavior to extend component lifecycles and reduce the frequency of preventive maintenance.

Improve Productivity

Having a better understand of how, when and where your construction equipment is being used can lead to increased productivity on the jobsite. Operator performance can be coached when equipment isn’t being operated under normal parameters. Overworking or underutilizing equipment can be better managed by understanding telematics data. Know where each piece of equipment is at all times and how much each one is being used will allow you to better deploy your equipment to the sites where they are most needed.

Telematics Schedule Preventive Maintenance

Telematics will also allow you to schedule preventive maintenance when needed and avoid pulling equipment out of service too early, or worse, too late when costlier repairs might be required.

How Technology Impacts Communication in Construction

9 Ways Technology Impacts Communication in Construction

Misunderstandings between contractors can result in soured relationships and burned bridges, delays and costly mistakes, or, at the extreme, million-dollar lawsuits and even loss of life. So we benefit from any tool that helps avoid these breakdowns in communication.

Here Are Nine Construction Processes

They live and die by the speed and accuracy of information, and a look at the ways technology has changed communication in construction.

Read more

ConstructConnect Acquires SmartBid From JBKnowledge

Last week, ConstructConnect announced the acquisition of SmartBid, a construction bid management platform, from JBKnowledge. The combination of ConstructConnect’s iSqFt bid management platform with SmartBid creates a win-win scenario for customers.

The combination of the iSqFt and SmartBid creates a larger network of construction professionals, both of general contractors looking for subcontractors and of subcontractors looking for more bidding opportunities.

Both the iSqFt and SmartBid platforms will continue to be maintained and developed. This means existing customers will continue to enjoy the same user experience they had prior to the acquisition and will not be required to switch platforms. New features, applications, and integrations will continue to be developed and pushed out to both the iSqFt and SmartBid platforms.

The combined networks of iSqFt and SmartBid will allow customers to build new relationships and strengthen existing ones. At the same time, customers will be able to deliver more profitable projects by leveraging project data and analytics to improve decision making.

Here’s what Dave Conway, President & CEO of ConstructConnect and James Benham, Co-founder & CEO of JBKnowledge had to say about these previously competing platforms together:

“We recognize general contractors need access to as many capable subcontractors as possible in the markets they serve to be positioned for success,” said Dave Conway, President and CEO, ConstructConnect. “The combination of these businesses will provide our customers access to many more subcontractors who have the capacity to complete their projects.”

“Bringing together iSqFt and SmartBid is great news for our GCs and Subs,” said James Benham, CEO of JBKnowledge. “Our General Contractors will have access to a significantly larger pool of active subcontractors as they reach into newer markets and our subcontractors will have more opportunities on which to bid.”

To learn more about ConstructConnect’s recent acquisition of SmartBid and the combination with iSqFt click here.

Data Breaches, Cyber Security and the Construction Industry

Is cyber security a major concern for your construction business? Maybe you don’t think your company is a potential target for a cyberattack. You’d be right too if your company doesn’t use computers to store any information about your business and if you never connect to the internet.

As the construction industry becomes more connected through internet-connected solutions and remotely accessible systems such as Building Information Modeling (BIM), telematics and project management software it creates more opportunities for hackers to launch a cyberattack.

Construction firms have access to a wealth of information that might be desirable to hackers. Intellectual property, proprietary assets, architectural drawings and specifications as well as corporate banking and financial accounts are all prime targets. Access to employee information such as full names, Social Security numbers and bank account data used for payroll are frequently targeted in spear phishing scams. Hackers often go after general contractors and subcontractors as a means to gain access to clients’ networks.

Here are a few examples of how companies in the AEC industry have become victims of cybercrime:

Turner Construction was the victim of a spear phishing scam in March when an employee sent tax information on current and former employees to a fraudulent email account. Spear phishing is an email scam targeted at a specific individual, business or organization. Hackers spoof the “From:” field in an email to make it appear to come from a trustworthy source, say from your CEO or CFO. Typical spear phishing scams include messages requesting personal information on employees such as names and Social Security number, corporate banking account information, or login credentials.

In the case of Turner Construction, the information provided to the fraudulent email account included full names, Social Security numbers, states of employment and residence as well as tax withholding data for 2015. All employees who worked for the company in 2015 were affected by the data breach. Turner, which is headquartered in New York, is one of the largest construction management firms in the U.S. with offices in 24 states.

Baltimore-based Whiting-Turner Contracting, another of the nation’s top construction management and general contracting companies, may have also been the victim of a data breach. In March, the company was notified by an outside vendor that prepared W-2 and 1095 tax forms for the company’s employees about suspicious activity on that vendor’s systems. Around the same time, employees of Whiting-Turner were reporting fraudulent tax filings being made in their names. In addition to employee information, it is also possible that personal information on children and beneficiaries of employees who received healthcare insurance coverage through Whiting-Turner was compromised. Whiting-Turner has 31 offices in 18 states and Washington, D.C.

The construction industry is clearly not immune to cyberattacks. Central Concrete Supply Company out of California, Century Fence out of Wisconsin, Trinity Solar and Foss Manufacturing which makes nonwoven textile products for a number of industries, including construction, were also recent victims of spear phishing scams this year involving employee W-2 tax information.

Close to 100 companies have reported data breaches where employee information was compromised. There are probably many more attacks that either have not been reported yet or have so far gone unnoticed. Targeted companies span a wide range of industries including healthcare, hospitality, financial and retail. Municipalities, school districts and universities have also reported being victims of phishing scams and data breaches this year. Some of the companies you might be familiar that have suffered data breaches this year include Advance Auto Parts, Medieval Times, Sprouts Farmers Market and Mansueto Ventures, publishers of Inc. and Fast Company.

Remember the Target data breach from a couple of years ago? The attackers got access to login credentials for Target’s computer network from one of their vendors, Fazio Mechanical. An employee fell victim to a phishing scam that allowed malware to be installed on the company’s computers. Fazio had access for electronic billing, project management and contract submission and not because they were remotely monitoring and controlling any of the HVAC and refrigeration systems at any of their stores.

A spear phishing attack also led to physical damage at a steel mill in Germany. Malware was downloaded onto a company computer that had access to the plant’s business network. From there, the hackers were able to gain access the production network where they compromised the control systems resulting in a blast furnace not being able to be properly shut down.

Here are a few tips to prevent data breaches and avoid being the victim of a cyberattack:

  • Install security software on you company’s servers and computers that can provide real-time protection and automatically receives the most up-to-date malware definitions.
  • Make sure your firewalls are enabled and updated regularly with security patches.
  • Train employees on security policies and practices. Employees should be required to change their passwords every three months.
  • If employees are using mobile devices to access your company’s network they should be equipped with hardware and software data encryption and passwords or PIN locks should be used.
  • Secure your company’s Wi-Fi network, both at the office and at the jobsite, by encrypting your wireless signal, securing your router with a password and filter MAC addresses of devices so only employees and authorized personnel can access your network.
  • Regularly backup data offsite or with a trusted cloud storage provider.

Most security experts agree that it’s a matter of when, not if, your company is targeted by hackers. Even the most sophisticated networks can be breached so it is also important to have a response plan in place in the event of a cyber incident. Your company should also invest in cyber insurance since traditional insurance coverage such as commercial general liability (CGL) policy might not cover cyber and technology liability.

Five of the World’s Greenest Buildings

In honor of Earth Day today, we’re taking a look at some of the greenest and most sustainable buildings throughout the world. Since measuring the greenest or the most sustainable or even the most eco-friendly building is nearly impossible to do, we chose a few of our favorites that highlight and showcase the many ways architects and construction companies are using design, materials and technology to create more sustainable buildings.

The Edge – Amsterdam, Netherlands

theedge

The Edge, Deloitte’s Amsterdam headquarters, earned a Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Methodology (BREEAM) of 98.36 percent, which at the time was the highest BREEAM score ever attained. The Edge was beaten out by the Geelen Counterflow headquarters in Haelen, Netherlands which achieved a BREEAM score of 99.94 percent.

The 430,000+ sq ft building, designed by PLP Architecture, uses 70 percent less electricity than a comparable office building. This was achieved by orienteering the building along the path of the sun and using 65,000 sq ft of solar panels on the roof and facades as well as on the roofs of buildings at the nearby University of Amsterdam. The building is net positive, meaning it make more electricity than it consumes, and any extra electricity is given to the university.

Green elements of the building include Ethernet-powered LED lighting, using collected rainwater to for irrigation and to flush toilets and an aquifer thermal energy system to heat and cool the building.  The Ethernet-powered lights are equipped with sensors that monitor movement, occupancy and temperature for better energy management.

Bullitt Center – Seattle, Washington

bullittcenter

The Bullitt Center was the first office building to earn Living Building certification from the International Living Future Institute’s (ILFI) Living Building Challenge. The Living Building Challenge is easily the most stringent green and sustainable building certification program in existence. There are 27 imperatives that must be met to receive certification, including a requirement that the building be built on a previously developed site which includes greyfields and brownfields. The project also has to achieve net zero water and net zero energy before it can be certified.

The design of the building was inspired by a forest of Douglas fir trees. The 575-panel solar array atop the building is arranged in such a way as to mimic a forest canopy by allowing light to pass through in some areas to the ground below. The solar panels generate about 60 percent more electricity than the building uses each year. Rainwater collected on the roof is stored in a 56,000-gallon cistern located under the building. The collected rainwater is treated to potable drinking standards and supplies the building with all of its water needs. The building features a composting toilet system and all wastewater from sinks, showers and drains gets filtered through the rain garden. The building is constructed mostly of Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified wood which was sourced from local, sustainably harvested forests.

Shanghai Tower – Shanghai, China

S&S2

Shanghai Tower, the world’s second tallest building behind Burj Khalifa, has received both LEED Core and Shell Platinum certification and a 3 Star rating from China’s Green Building Evaluation Standard. The building used locally sourced and recycled materials in its construction. The 120° curvature of the building, which was designed to reduce wind loads, is visually stunning and allowed for lighter materials to be used for the structural elements of the building.

The tower features a double-skin facade that provides additional insulation to the building and houses the sky gardens located in each of the nine vertical zones of the building. Other energy saving measures featured in the building are vertical axis wind turbines, geothermal energy, rainwater harvesting and a blackwater treatment facility. These sustainable measures are expected to save about 178 million gallons of water a year and reduce energy consumption by 22%. Pretty impressive for a 2,073-foot tall structure consisting of 4.5 million sq ft.

DPR Construction’s Phoenix Regional Office – Phoenix, Arizona

dpr

DPR’s regional office in Phoenix is a 16,533 sq ft renovation of a building built in 1972 that previously housed the Castle Boutique Megastore. The project received Net Zero Energy Building certification through the ILFI’s Living Building Challenge as well as LEED-NC Platinum certification. This is in a city where the daily average high temperatures during the summer months are in excess of 100 degrees.

The DPR office utilizes a number innovative sustainability features to help cool the building in the Phoenix heat. There are 87 windows operated by an energy monitoring system to open and close them based on the relative indoor and outdoor temperatures. An 87-foot zinc clad solar chimney creates a convection current that draws cool air into the building and releases hot air out. These two features work with shower towers to regulate building temperatures by acting as an evaporative cooler. The building also features 12 of Big Ass Fans’ eight-foot Isis fans for air distribution and 82 Solatubes that meets practically all of the building’s daytime lighting needs.

The building also features a “vampire” shut-off switch that can be activated by the last person leaving the building and kills power to all power plugs so any electrical device plugged in won’t be wasting electricity. Electricity for the DPR Phoenix building is generated onsite using a 78.96 kW direct current photovoltaic array along with a solar thermal hot water system to generate all the power needed to run the building. DPR’s San Francisco office is also Net Zero Energy Building certified.

Powerhouse Kjørbo – Oslo, Norway

powerhouse

Powerhouse is a collaboration of companies including Skanska, the architectural firm Snøhetta, the environmental group ZERO and others that are dedicated to developing energy positive buildings. The Powerhouse Kjørbo involved the renovation of two 28,000 sq ft buildings built in 1980. To be energy positive, the building needs to generate not only the energy required to operate the building but to also cover the energy used to produce the building materials, construction and eventual demolition throughout its 60-year life expectancy. That’s a high bar to set when you consider how much energy is consumed during the production of building materials and construction of buildings.

The building is using geothermal energy and solar panels which were expected to produce twice the energy used by the building each year. The next two projects planned by the Powerhouse consortium, Powerhouse Brattørkaia and Powerhouse Telemark, will be new construction. The idea of energy positive buildings is unique and is probably the next evolution in creating  greener and more sustainable buildings.

Work Zone Safety: A Shared Responsibility

This week. April 11 – 15, 2016, is the 17th Annual National Work Zone Awareness Week which was started to increase public awareness about work zone safety and is held each April at the start of the highway construction season. This year’s theme is “Don’t Be That Driver!” with a kickoff event being held on Tuesday, April 12, 2016, near the I-75 widening project outside Toledo, OH.

This national event began as an internal awareness program initiated by the Bristol District of the Virginia DOT held April 7 – 11, 1997. The following year, the VDOT launched a statewide public awareness campaign to spread the word to promote safe driving habits and how to avoid hazards when traveling through work zones. In 1999, the American Traffic Safety Service Association (ATSSA), the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) got together and signed an agreement to create the National Work Zone Awareness Week with the inaugural event taking place in 2000.

Work zone safety is a shared responsibility between motorists and workers. In honor of National Work Zone Awareness Week, here some tips for both motorists and workers to follow to make sure everyone gets home safely.

Work Zone Safety Tips for Motorists

Don’t Speed. Speeding through a work zone could result in a hefty fine, jail time or the loss of life for you, another motorist or a construction worker. Speed limits in work zones are reduced for a reason and there’s nowhere you have to be that’s worth endangering the lives of others by speeding through a work zone.

Avoid Distractions. You need to stay alert and pay close attention to everything going on when driving through a work zone. This is not the time to be changing radio stations, talking on your phone, texting, eating nachos, practicing on your ukulele or finishing your taxes which are due next week. Heed the advice of The Doors and “keep your eyes on the road, your hands upon the wheel”.

Obey All Signs & Flaggers. When you enter a work zone you’ll encounter a number of those orange traffic signs or flaggers letting you know you need to reduce your speed, traffic patterns have shifted or that lanes are closed and you need to merge one way or the other.  Read them and heed them as soon as possible; it will help traffic flow more smoothly.

Find an Alternate Route. In most cases there is more than one way to get from Point A to Point B for your daily commute. I can think of few alternate routes off the top of my head that would get me to and from work that would avoid any of the active work zones in my area. If you aren’t sure of a way around the construction try using your GPS device or Google Maps to find an alternate route.

Remain Calm. Don’t drive angry. Dealing with work zone congestion can be frustrating. Stop-and-go traffic and long delays in your commute can get anyone’s blood boiling, but getting angry won’t get you to your destination any faster. Try leaving earlier to avoid the morning or afternoon rush.

Work Zone Safety Tips for Workers

Create Separate Work Areas. Road construction work zones are busy areas usually with several work activities taking place at the same time. To avoid accidents use cones, barrels and barriers to clearly delineate specific areas of the work zone such as material storage, areas where heavy equipment is being used, vehicle parking and safe areas for workers on foot to move about in.

Wear Proper Safety Equipment. Proper safety equipment should be worn by all personnel inside the work zone. Personal protective equipment (PPE) including hard hats, steel-toed boots, highly visible clothing and, depending on the noise levels, hearing protection. All PPE should meet or exceed the American National Standards Institute’s (ANSI) developed standards. All highly visible clothing whether it’s a vest, jacket or shirt should be bright fluorescent orange or lime/yellow and also have visible reflective material especially if working at night and should meet ANSI Class 2 or 3 standards.

Be Aware of Your Surroundings. Regardless of what your job duties entail in the work zone you should always be mindful of what’s going on around you. Avoid walking behind any vehicles that may be backing up or into the swing radius of heavy equipment. Whenever possible, face traffic while inside the work zone or have a spotter available when you have to have your back turned. Spotters should also be used to monitor the movement of vehicles and heavy equipment inside the work zone in addition to monitoring traffic in order to alert workers to any potential dangers.

Avoid Blind Spots. There are always vehicles and heavy equipment moving about inside the work zone including dump trucks, compactors, pavement planers, excavators, pavers and rollers. Operators should ensure that all mirrors and visual aid devices are attached and operating properly including backup alarms and lights. If you are on foot and working near these machines while in operation remember that the driver has a limited line of sight. Always stay in visual contact with the driver. A good rule of thumb to follow is that if you can’t see them then they probably don’t see you.

Have a Competent Person on Hand. A competent person should be onsite whenever work is being performed. According to OSHA, a competent person is someone who is “capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards in the surroundings, or working conditions which are unsanitary, hazardous, or dangerous to employees, and who has the authorization to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate them.” A competent person is needed to conduct hazard assessments and regular inspections of the worksite. A competent person is also needed to select the appropriate class of PPE to be used by workers and to approve the appropriate types of traffic control devices. Workers should report any unsafe hazards or equipment to the competent person assigned to the work zone so they can be corrected immediately.

Start Each Workday with a Safety Meeting. In addition to ensuring that all personnel at the jobsite have the proper training required it is also a good idea to have a quick safety meeting before work begins. Since conditions can change greatly from day to day in the work zone workers should be briefed on the work activity scheduled each day and notified of all potential hazards. This is also a good time to ensure that all workers have and are wearing the proper PPE required for the work being done that day.

Have a Site Specific Safety Program. Every road construction project is different and each work zone has its own unique hazards and challenges so creating a safety program geared specifically for the site can go a long way in preventing accidents. The site specific safety program include identifying all hazards and plans to control and mitigate them, schedules to routinely inspect all equipment and material, a plan for first aid and emergency medical care in the event of an accident and safety training schedules for all employees.

Stay Hydrated. Workers performing road construction are susceptible to overexertion and heat-related illnesses. Asphalt absorbs 95% of the sun’s rays and asphalt temperatures can easily be 30° F or higher than the surrounding air temperature. Workers should drink plenty of water or liquids high in electrolytes like sports drinks or coconut water. Workers should also get out of the heat and sun as much as possible especially on extremely hot days to avoid heatstroke, dehydration and heat exhaustion.

OSHA Publishes Final Rule on Respirable Silica Dust

Last Friday, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) published its final rule for occupational exposure to respirable crystalline silica in the Federal Register. This is the final step in a decades-long process to establish specific standards for occupational exposure to silica dust and reduce permissible exposure limits (PELs) for workers. The final rule created two separate standards, one for general industry and maritime and the other for construction.

What is Silica?

Silica, also known as silicon dioxide, is a chemical compound that occurs in nature as a basic component of sand and quartz. Silica is found in a number of building products and construction materials including shingles, asphalt, bricks, drywall, tiles, cement and concrete. Respirable crystalline silica dust is created during work operations involving stone, rock, concrete, brick, block, mortar and industrial sand. Current PELs were established back in 1971 for general industry, construction and shipyards. OSHA claims those levels are outdated, inconsistent between industries and do not adequately protect workers from the health hazards of exposure to respirable silica dust.

Health Hazards

OSHA estimates that about 2 million construction workers are exposed to silica dust. Inhalation of crystalline silica dust can lead to bronchitis, silicosis and lung cancer. Silicosis is an occupational lung disease that can cause scarring of the upper lobes of the lung, inflammation and fluid buildup. There is no cure for silicosis as it is an irreversible condition however treatment is available to improve lung function and reduce inflammation. Sufferers of silicosis also have a higher susceptibility to contracting tuberculosis.

A Brief History

Back in 1974, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommended that a standard for occupational exposure to crystalline silica be established with a PEL of 50 μg/m3 for a 10-hour shift. OSHA published an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking later that year seeking public comments and input from stakeholders on whether a new standard was warranted. In 1998, OSHA finally got around to moving occupational exposure to crystalline silica to the pre-rule stage. It wasn’t until September 2013 that a proposed rule was finally published. The agency held numerous stakeholder meeting and had to extend the comment period both before and after the 14-day public hearing. OSHA received over 2,000 comments on the proposed rulemaking.

New Construction Standard

The final rule establishes a new standard for the construction industry and reduces the current PEL of respirable crystalline silica from 250 micrograms per cubic meter of air (μg/m3) averaged over an 8-hour period down to 50 μg/m3. OSHA claims the new rule will save the lives of 642 employees and prevent 918 cases of moderate-to-sever silicosis a year across all industries. It’s estimated that approximately 2.0 million construction workers will be affected by the final rule.

The construction standard establishes specified exposure control methods for to protect employees when working with materials containing crystalline silica. These engineering and work practice control methods cover 18 specific equipment/tasks commonly found in construction work. OSHA has acknowledged that conducting exposure assessments can be burdensome which is why they are emphasizing the use of the control methods as opposed to the alternative exposure control methods which would require firms to determine if workers will be exposed, or reasonably expected to be exposed, to respirable silica at or above the action level of 25 μg/m3. As long as employers fully and properly implement the prescribed controls, they won’t have to demonstrate compliance with the PEL since those controls provide an equivalent level of protection.

Other requirements in the construction standard include having a written exposure control plan that will be implemented by a competent person who will conduct regular and frequent inspection of jobsites, materials and equipment. The standard covers all occupational exposures to respirable crystalline silica in construction work where the action level will be met. As with all other Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), employers are required to provide appropriate respirators to employees when they are required to use them. Employees who use a respirator for 30 or more days a year are entitled to employer-provided medical surveillance.  There are also requirements for hazard communication, training and recordkeeping. 

A Controversial Rule

Shortly after OSHA announced the proposed rule back in 2013, a group of 11 national construction industry trade organizations announced the formation of the Construction Industry Safety Coalition in order to oppose the proposed rule. The coalition includes the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) and the American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) among its members. CISC membership quickly grew to include 25 organizations.

The CISC argued that the proposed rules were not technologically or economically feasible for companies to abide by and suggested OSHA focus on enforcing compliance with existing exposure limits.  By their estimates, OSHA also grossly underestimated the cost to implement the new rule. According to the CISC, the new rule will cost the construction industry $4.9 billion per year, which was about 10 times higher than OSHA’s estimate.

Important Dates

The final rule goes into effect on June 23, 2016, which is 90 days after being published in the Federal Register. Compliance with all provisions of the new rule will begin one year from the effective date. The only exception is for certain requirements for laboratory analysis which won’t be enforced until two years after the rule goes into effect.

In Other OSHA News

Last week, OSHA also published a final rule to make revisions to their eye and face protection standards. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) standards for construction refer to outdated consensus standards from the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). The new rule also modifies the language in the construction standard for eye and face protection to match up with the general industry standard.

Fatal Four: Avoiding Construction’s Deadliest Hazards

Construction is one of the most dangerous industries to work in. One out of every five worker deaths last year was in construction, a percentage that has remained fairly constant over the last several years. The four leading causes of construction worker fatalities are falls, electrocutions, being struck by objects and being caught in or between objects. OSHA has dubbed these the “Fatal Four” and in 2014, they accounted for 508 of the 874 construction worker deaths.

The total number of construction fatalities has been on the rise the past couple of years, after declining for six consecutive years which ended in 2012. The fatal injury rate per 100,000 workers has declined the past three years, going from 9.9 in 2012 to 9.7 in 213 and 9.5 in 2014. Construction employment has been on the rise which would account for the rise in total deaths but a slight decline in the fatal injury rates. Employers still need to do a better job of mitigating these four types of hazards to better protect their workers.

Falls

Falls are the leading cause of all construction worker deaths. In 2014, they accounted for 348 of the 874 fatalities in construction. Looking at the most cited OSHA standards violations for the construction industry in Fiscal Year 2015 (October 2014 – September 2015) and it’s no surprise that falls were the cause of nearly 40% of all construction worker deaths.

Six of the top 10 most frequently cited violations deal with protecting workers from fall hazards. The top four have consistently been the most cited standards for the past several years. They are:

  1. Standard Number: 1926.501 – Duty to have fall protection.
  2. Standard Number: 1926.451 – General requirements for scaffolds.
  3. Standard Number: 1926.1053 – Ladders.
  4. Standard Number: 1926.503 – Training requirements for fall protection.

The other two that made the top 10 were Standard Number: 1926.453 – Aerial lifts and Standard Number 1926.502 – Fall protection systems criteria and practices at No. 9 and No. 10, respectively.

In construction, fall protection is required for all employees working at a height of six feet or more above a lower level. It is also required when working at any height directly above dangerous machinery or equipment, including impalement hazards such as rebar. There are exceptions to this rule. When working on scaffolds the height for requiring fall protection is 10 feet.

OSHA has outlined three prescribed methods of providing fall protection to workers: guardrails, personal fall arrest systems and safety nets. Of the three, guardrails are the only method that actually prevents falls. The other two methods are designed to prevent a worker who has fallen from coming into contact with a lower level.

Guardrails are typically used on unprotected edges, scaffolds and around openings such as skylights and elevator shafts. The top edge of guardrail systems should be 42 inches (+/- 3 inches) from the walking or working surface. The top rail should be able to withstand 200 pounds of force and the middle rail should be able to withstand 150 pounds of force to prevent falls.

Personal fall arrest systems are made up of three main components: full-body harness, connecting device and anchorage. The minimum breaking strength for connectors, D-rings and snaphooks, and vertical lifelines and lanyards that make up the connecting device is 5,000 pounds for each component. Personal fall arrest systems should prevent a worker from falling any further than six feet and should prevent the worker from making contact with a lower level. Personal fall arrest systems should be inspected before each use and after any fall to ensure they are free of any damage and in proper working order.

Safety nets should not be placed further than 30 feet below a working surface and be positioned as close as possible to the work area. Safety nets must extend a minimum of eight feet out horizontally from the working surface. A minimum breaking strength of 5,000 pounds is required for all border ropes on a safety net. Safety nets must be able to successfully absorb a drop test with a 400-pound bag of sand.

The top three sources of fall fatalities in 2014 were roofs at 30%, ladders at 25% and scaffolding at 16%. Roofers have the highest fatality rate in construction at 46.2 per 100,000 workers. Employers are responsible for providing fall protection, ensuring safe ladder use and ensuring proper scaffold construction designed by a qualified person and overseen by a competent person. Employers are also required to provide adequate training to all employees exposed to fall hazards.

Electrocutions

Electrocutions, death by electric shock caused by exposure to lethal amounts of electrical energy, were the second leading cause of construction worker deaths in 2014. Electrocutions accounted for 74 deaths, or 8.5% of all construction worker fatalities. Common causes of electrocutions include improper extension cord use, contact with energized sources and contact with live overhead power lines. De-energizing or simply maintaining a safe distance are the easiest methods to prevent electrocutions from power lines.

The most cited violations in construction that can lead to electrocutions include 1926.405 – Electrical wiring methods, components and equipment for general use; 1926.404 – Electrical wiring and design; 1926.501 – Duty to have fall protection and 1926.413 and 1926.403 which are general requirements regarding equipment and worker protection, respectively.

Employers should establish an assured equipment grounding conductor program to cover all temporary receptacles, power cords and equipment. Detailed records of all tests and inspections. Visually inspect all power tools, equipment and extension cords for cuts, frays and exposed bare wires. Ensure that ground prongs have not been removed or become defective Conduct continuity tests on all equipment grounding conductors.

All receptacle outlets not part of the permanent wiring of the structure are required to be protected by ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs). GFCIs monitor the electrical current flow from hot to neutral and will trip the circuit to shut off the electricity if an imbalance is detected. To avoid accidental electrocution implement lockout/tagout procedures when equipment and circuits are not being used. A qualified person is required to ensure that all equipment and circuits are de-energized before a lock and/or tag is applied. A qualified person should be available when it is time to remove locks and tags and re-energize equipment and circuits.

Death can occur from exposure to as little as 50 – 100 milliamperes of current. The maximum current that a person can grab and release a live wire is only 16 milliamperes, any higher and they will not be able to release their grip. Paralysis of respiratory muscles occurs when exposed to 20 – 30 milliamperes of current. Most 120 Volt circuits carry 15 to 20 amperes of current. 15 amperes of current is 300 times what is necessary to cause death. Other causes of death from electrical hazards include burns, arc flash and blasts, explosions and fires.

Struck by Objects

Being struck by objects was the cause of 73 worker deaths, 8.4% of all construction fatalities in 2014. A wide range of hazards can cause injuries and fatalities, everything from falling tools to accidental nail gun discharges to being hit by vehicles or construction equipment. The four most common struck by hazards in construction: flying objects, falling objects, swinging objects and rolling objects.

Employers should alert all workers of areas where there is greater potential for struck by accidents to occur limit access to those areas. OSHA requires that employers provide employees with proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). All PPE should meet current American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standards. OSHA is in the process of issuing a final rule to update their standards on eye and face protection in construction to be more in line with current national consensus and ANSI standards. PPE should be inspected prior to each use to ensure that it’s in proper working condition and free from any defects or damage.

Struck by Rolling Object Hazards – Rolling object hazards typically involve being struck by a vehicle or heavy equipment while it’s in motion. They also include any object that rolls, moves or slides on the same level as a worker. Equipment operators generally have limited or no visibility when operating in reverse. Workers need to be made aware of areas where heavy equipment is being operated so they can avoid them. Struck by accidents involving heavy equipment often occur when operators have not received proper training on how to safely operate the machinery.

Struck by Falling Object Hazards – Falling object injuries typically occur when tools and materials get knocked off from unprotected edges by employees working at height. Employees should be prevented from working or walking in areas where work is being performed overhead. Toeboards and screens should be used to keep tools and equipment from falling to a lower level. Debris nets and catch platforms can be used deflect falling objects.

Struck by Flying Object Hazards – Examples of flying object hazards include thrown tools or materials, accidental nail gun discharges and using unguarded power tools. Workers should stay out of the line of sight when a nail gun is being used. Avoid working on the opposite side of a wall of plywood or sheetrock because misfires have enough force to easily penetrate both materials and kill someone on the other side. Inspect power tools before use to ensure protective guards have not been removed and are in good condition. Workers should always wear eye, face and head protection when using power tools or working near them.

Two of the most cited OSHA violations in construction involve the standards for head protection and eye and face protection. Issuing workers proper PPE and enforcing their use can go a long way in protecting workers from flying and falling hazards.

Struck by Swinging Object Hazards – Swinging object hazards generally occur when something causes loads being mechanically lifted to sway. Accidents can also occur when a worker enters the swing radius of a piece of heavy equipment like a crane. Employees should never be allowed to walk under a suspended load. Barriers should be erected to keep employees from accidently stepping inside the swing radius of heavy equipment.

Caught in or Between Objects

Getting caught in or between objects rounds out the list of OSHA’s Fatal Four. In 2014, they were the cause of only 12 construction worker deaths. These are similar in nature to being struck by objects, the difference being these fatalities are the result of crushing injuries rather than the initial impact. Caught in or between accidents occur when someone is caught, crushed, squeezed, compressed or pinched between two or more objects.

Getting caught in moving parts of machinery and power tools are common types of caught in accidents. Safety guards that are missing or have been intentionally removed are the most likely cause. Loose clothing can get caught in moving parts and pull workers in. Equipment should be de-energized when not in use, especially when making repairs, performing routine maintenance or changing accessories.

Heavy equipment is commonplace on constriction sites and can lull workers into a false sense of security. Never allow workers to place themselves in between a moving vehicle and an immovable object such as a wall. Caught in or between accidents can also occur when you are behind the wheel of heavy equipment. Never overload or overwork a piece of equipment since it can lead to tip overs. Always wear seatbelts or safety restraints when operating equipment. The cabs of those machines are designed and reinforced to protect the worker. Jumping out or being flung out could result in being crushed underneath tipping equipment.

Unprotected trenches and excavations are another leading cause of caught in accidents. Trenches deeper than five feet must have protective systems in place. A professional engineer is required to design protective systems for trenches or excavations over 20 feet deep. Sloping, benching and shoring trenches can be used to prevent collapses. Trench boxes and shields protect workers from being buried alive or crushed by cave-ins.

Heavy equipment should not be used near trenches with workers inside. They can cause cave-ins and even fall into excavations if they get too close to the edge. OSHA requires trenching and excavation work be inspected by a competent person. The competent person must be trained on the requirements of the OSHA standard, the use of protective systems and soil classifications. They are responsible for identifying and eliminating any hazards before workers enter the area and while work is ongoing.

Nearly every accident at the construction site is preventable when proper planning and safety procedures are established. The keys to keeping workers safe are ongoing training, providing proper safety equipment and identifying and eliminating existing and potential hazards. A strong safety program takes work and requires buy-in from all employees. For more information, be sure to check out our 8 Tips To Building A Stellar Safety Program.

 

How Construction Companies Can Beat A Growing Labor Shortage

Is your construction firm planning to increase headcount in 2016? That could prove to be a difficult task. According to a recent survey by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), 71 percent of firms indicated they plan to increase headcount this year. Unfortunately, 70 percent of firms reported having a hard time finding qualified workers and 52 percent stated worries over worker shortages was their biggest concern for their business.

The recession led to the loss of over 2.3 million jobs in construction from 2007 to 2011. A little less than half of those lost jobs have been gained back. Most of the workers that were let go during the recession either aged out of the workforce and retired or moved on to greener pastures in other industries. The median age of people working in construction is 42.7, while the average age in 1985 was 36. About 44 percent of all people employed in construction is age 45 or older. Compare that to the less than 9 percent that are 24 or younger. Individual companies and the industry as a whole needs to step up their efforts in order to attract more youth to jobs in construction.

In order to attract top talent you have to establish your company as an employer of choice, both within your industry and your local area. Offering competitive wages and benefits like health insurance and gym membership reimbursement to your employees is just the beginning. Remember, you’re competing for employees just like you compete for work.

Set your firm above your competition by creating a strong company culture that values its employees and empowers them to have their voices heard and is backed by a strong leadership team. Engage your employees by offering opportunities that are both challenging and rewarding. Be the first place a candidate applies to when seeking a new job rather than being their last resort.

Construction firms need to increase their investment in training and development of the workforce. Make sure you are making opportunities such as training and continuing education courses available to both your new and existing employees. Offer to reimburse employees for classes once they’ve successfully completed them. Potential employees want to know that there are advancement opportunities and multiple career paths to move up within an organization.

Retaining good employees should be as important to your company as recruiting them. You want to keep the good workers once you’ve hired them. This means investing in them and their continued growth and success with your company. People want to feel like they are contributing team members as opposed to just employees who show up to do a job. Show your employees they are appreciated and valued. Keep employees motivated by recognizing and rewarding them for their hard work and dedication to your company.

“Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.” – Richard Branson

Seldom will a job candidate walk through your door with all the prerequisite skills, education, training and work experience listed in your job posting. Remember, skills can be trained, a strong work ethic typically cannot. If you’re willing to put the extra time into training a new hire make sure they have the right attitude, integrity, are reliable and willing to put in the same amount of effort you are investing in them.

Conduct background checks, drug screenings and pre-employment assessment tests on potential new hires before you make that job offer. Make sure the candidate is a good fit for your company by asking for references.  Contact them to get an idea of what kind of employee your candidate will be. One of the best questions to ask a reference is whether they would hire/rehire the candidate.

Even after you’ve done your due diligence and made a job offer, not everyone you hire will be a good fit for your firm. This will be evident after the first couple of months they are on the job. Sometimes businesses are hesitant to let someone go considering the time and money that went into recruiting and training an employee. Don’t continue to spend your time and money on an employee who isn’t working out.

Construction firms need to look to the future by offering internships and co-ops to local high school, trade school and college students. Reach out to your local universities and community colleges that offer courses of study in the construction industry. More and more companies are setting up training programs with community colleges and vocational schools to offer training programs to meet their needs.

Consider getting involved in youth programs aimed at getting kids interested in construction careers. The ACE Mentor Program and MAGIC Camps, which stands for Mentoring a Girl in Construction, are both great programs to get involved with. The National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) Education Foundation (NEF) offers a number of education programs for both adults and young people. Their Block Kids program introduces grade school children to careers in construction. They also have a CAD/Design/Drafting Competition and an Accessory Structure Project competition for the high school level. You can learn more about the NEF programs here.

Find local apprenticeship programs, or consider starting your own registered apprenticeship program so you can offer industry specific training programs that that can benefit your company.  This creates an additional pipeline to tap into when it comes time to hire a new employee.

Don’t forget to look to veterans and active-duty military who will soon be transitioning to civilian life and looking to start new careers. There are a number of programs like Helmets to Hardhats, Veterans2Construction and Veterans in Piping are all geared to attracting and training veterans for careers in construction.

We’re already seeing reports of construction delays due to worker shortages in states like Florida, Georgia and Texas. This issues are only going to get worse and spread to other areas of the country, especially for construction companies that aren’t being proactive and creative in their recruitment efforts. The December 2015 Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) had the seasonally adjusted rate of job openings in construction at 207,000. That’s the highest level since February 2007. The entire construction industry needs to pull together to develop a fundamental change in its approach to attracting more people to careers in construction.

Construction Industry Gears Up For The Drone Revolution

Construction Industry Gears Up For The Drone Revolution

Chances are you’ve probably seen them hovering over a construction site, capturing photos and collecting data. Maybe your firm has even used them to do some surveying or to monitor progress on a job. We’re talking about drones, or more correctly unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and construction firms are realizing the many benefits this technology can provide.

UAVs can be equipped with high-speed HD cameras capable of taking stills and video to provide aerial imaging which can then be used to create maps and 3D models of construction sites. LiDAR, laser scanning, and other sensors are also being used to map and model sites. UAVs can operate autonomously using predefined flight paths they can be flown manually using a remote control, some can even be operated using a smartphone or tablet.

Construction firms that are currently using airplane and helicopter services to provide their aerial imagery are going to see huge cost savings by either purchasing and operating their own UAVs or by hiring out the work to a company equipped to provide imaging with UAVs.

UAVs are going to play a significant role in the construction industry. Mapping and surveying of sites, performing building inspections and jobsite safety are all areas that will benefit from the use of UAVs. Video footage taken with UAVs can be used to create 3D images of real-time construction progress. That information can be compared against the architectural plans and construction schedule to accurately monitor the progress of a project. Not only will this help to keep projects on schedule, but it will also be able to determine if construction work is deviating from the design. On excavation and site work projects, UAVs can be used to calculate volumetric measurements to compare how much dirt has been moved each day.

Two areas that UAVs could help improve, worker safety and worker productivity, will probably receive the most pushback from workers over privacy concerns. Construction site are already closely monitored by safety managers, site superintendents and construction managers so this shouldn’t be a major issue. UAVs could cover an entire site in a fraction of the time it would take a person walking and stopping to monitor work and making note of potential safety hazards. Ideally the technology would be used to better protect workers and to identify ways to make workers more productive. UAV’s can be fitted with tablets to enable video-conferencing which could lead to better communication on the jobsite.

UAVs could also be used once everyone has left work for the day. Surveillance UAVs could be deployed to monitor the site for trespassers and would-be thieves. These could be deployed automatically fly along a preprogrammed route to hover above a construction site, possibly eliminating the need for numerous security cameras.  Alerts could be immediately sent to owners, GCs and local authorities if unauthorized access is detected.

Research on construction-related applications is being done to determine additional ways UAVs can best serve the industry. A number of construction firms, UAV manufacturers and universities are conducting studies and doing performance tests to see how UAV’s can handle on tasks such as bridge inspections, roof inspections and even performing physical work such as welding.

Companies like Krespy and Precision Drone are making UAV systems for commercial use in industry like agriculture, mining and construction. Phoenix Aerial Systems makes both UAVs and LiDAR mapping systems that can be used in conjunction with each other or separately. Surveying and navigation equipment manufacturers like Topcon and Trimble are also providing UAVs for the construction industry.

Skycatch, a startup out of San Francisco, has worked with construction firms like DPR and Bechtel to develop their UAVs for construction use. The company’s UAVs are being used in conjunction with Komatsu’s Intelligent Machine Control equipped dozers and excavators as part of that company’s SmartConstruction service which provides autonomous site work solutions to customers. AEC software solution firm Autodesk is an investor in Skycatch. Autodesk is partnering with the company to integrate their software to make use of data collected by Skycatch’s UAVs.

If you’d rather outsource your UAV aerial imaging, there are companies that can do the work for you. In addition to providing an experienced operator with a UAV and cameras or other imaging hardware, you have the added benefit of them being fully insured. Companies like Image In Flight, which provided imaging solutions for construction of the new Sacramento Kings arena, and DroneBase have been cleared to operate UAVs commercially.  If you’re wanting to try your hand at operating your own UAV, DJI’s Phantom 3 Professional is a great entry-level system that won’t break the bank. For about $1,300 you can get one bundled with everything you need to get started including a 4K camera.

Before you rush out and purchase a UAV for your construction business you should know that operating UAVs for commercial purposes is not currently legal. In order to use one on your next construction project you would need to apply for and be granted an exemption under Section 333 of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Modernization and Reform Act of 2012. A recent check of the FAA website shows that over 3,300 exemptions have been granted for commercial use. Over 450 of those exemption cover use by companies on construction sites.

Last February, the FAA issued proposed rules for commercial use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), which is the term they use for drones and UAVs. Under the proposed rules the aircraft must weigh less than 55 lbs. and a visual line-of-sight (VLOS) must be maintained without the assistance of any device such as binoculars or onboard cameras. The maximum allowable airspeed would be 100 mph and the maximum altitude for operating the UAV would be 500 feet above ground. Weather conditions would have to allow for three miles of visibility in order to fly a UAV. You can get a rundown of the proposed rules here.

Operators would be required to pass an aeronautical knowledge test and obtain an operator certificate. UAVs would need to be registered and would be required to display identification markings the same as any other aircraft.

Required registration went into effect for all newly purchased UAVs weighing over 0.55 lbs., regardless of whether it’s for recreational or commercial use, starting on December 21, 2015. People who owned and operated UAVs prior to that date have until February 19, 2016 to get registered. Failure to register your UAV can result in civil penalties up to $27,500 and criminal penalties up to $250,000 and/or three years in jail.

Final rules for commercial are expected to be published this year, possibly as early as June. Adoption won’t skyrocket, but once the new rules are in place you can expect to see UAVs showing up at more construction sites. Some construction firms will probably even start placing job advertisements for experienced UAV operators.

Are you ready for the drone revolution? Let us know in comments section below.