2016 has been filled with controversial law changes affecting contractors, like the first increase in OSHA fines in 27 years, OSHA’s new injury reporting rule, and new overtime pay rules. Industry groups have submitted comments hoping to ease the pain on contractors, but have not had any success overturning any of them. The next challenge facing contractors started with the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order signed in July 31.
For all federal construction contracts totaling $500,000 or more, labor and materials included, the Fair Pay Act seeks to hold contractors accountable for following the 14 federal labor and employment laws and any equivalent State laws by forcing them to disclose any violations from the previous 3 years. The 14 labor laws are:
- the Fair Labor Standards Act;
- the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970;
- the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act;
- the National Labor Relations Act;
- 40 U.S.C. chapter 31, subchapter IV, also known as the Davis-Bacon Act;
- 41 U.S.C. chapter 67, also known as the Service Contract Act;
- Executive Order 11246 of September 24, 1965 (Equal Employment Opportunity);
- section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973;
- 38 U.S.C. 3696, 3698, 3699, 4214, 4301-4306, also known as the Vietnam Era Veterans' Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974;
- the Family and Medical Leave Act;
- title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964;
- the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990;
- the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967;
- Executive Order 13658 of February 12, 2014 (Establishing a Minimum Wage for Contractors)
Effective October 25, 2016, federal agencies will have the ability to disqualify contractors if they have violated any of 14 laws. The new rule is over 500 pages long and a real thrill of a read (you can read it in its entirety here), but the change is mostly in the enforcing of the previous laws, rather than adding any new laws. The rule will be slowly rolled out in phases, giving prime contractors and subcontractors a chance to gather all the appropriate information and ease into the new rules.
The Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) have issued a statement, referring to the new rule as “blacklisting,” claiming the rule “will increase costs for taxpayers, threaten the livelihood of millions of Americans who work for responsible federal contractors and cripple the federal procurement process with needless uncertainty, delays and litigation.”
The Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), much like the ABC, fears the rule may scare away many construction firms due to the possibly “subjective nature” of disqualifying contractors. An agency labor compliance advisor (ACLA) position was created by the new order and the advisor will be responsible for reviewing companies’ labor violations and deciding whether or not they are qualified. The AGC made clear, in a press release, that they value honest companies and would not honest firms competing against a company that saves money by cutting corners, but they don’t want to see qualified contractors be blacklisted without clear cut guidelines.
In the same press release, the CEO of AGC explained further, “While there are many flaws with this new measure, one of its biggest is that it gives federal officials enormous discretion to decide which firms should be singled out for punishment. For example, it allows a federal contracting official to give greater weight to the same safety violations depending on which firm was accused of committing them. Such subjective criteria opens the door to punishing federal contractors based on which political, social or labor causes they support, instead of their safety performance or treatment of workers.”
While some have seen the new laws as a hindrance, others are seeing opportunity. James Boland, the president of the International Union of Bricklayers & Allied Craftworkers, stated in a press release, “This country is founded on the principle of fairness, and the Order and its implementing regulations weave that basic principle into federal contracting and procurement processes. The Fair Pay and Safe Workplace regulations will create a mechanism for bad actors to right their wrongs, and for employees to get the fair pay they worked hard for.”
By disqualifying contractors who may not have been following the rules in the past, Boland argues that employees will finally getting the fair pay that they deserve. It also opens the doors for contractors who are following the rules to win more bids.
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Construction companies rely on two main assets to get their jobs done every day: their people and their equipment. Without either component, you will not be able to serve your customers well. You wouldn't think of sending your people to a site without proper insurance coverage and safety gear, yet if you are operating your fleet without fleet tracking, then you are putting those valuable vehicles at risk. Here are some ways that fleet management systems protect your assets, and therefore your business, from serious financial loss.
Working in the construction industry, especially at construction sites, involves a high risk of injury. Some of the most common injuries that construction workers are exposed to may result from falls, falling objects, building collapses, and fires or explosions. Some injuries result in burns, amputation, lacerations, cuts, eye injuries, and broken bones among other things. Considering the high risk of injuries in this line of work, worrying about finances is the last thing you need if an injury occurs that could keep you away from work for a while. Salary loss and medical bills pile up very quickly during such times. Workers compensation is designed to address such eventualities. In the US, the program currently covers over 130 million people. The average wages paid to covered people are in excess of $ 6 Trillion per year.
The NFL is a cash cow and nothing makes that more evident than the soaring costs to build the newest NFL stadiums. The past four stadiums to open were the Minnesota Vikings’ US Bank Stadium (watch timelapse here), the San Francisco 49ers’ Levi’s Stadium, the New York Jets/Giants’ MetLife Stadium, and the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium. All four surpassed $1 Billion in construction cost. The first stadium to open after the Millennium was the Cincinnati Bengals’ Paul Brown Stadium, which only cost a miniscule (relatively) $455 million ($626 million in 2016 dollars) to build. The oldest stadium still in use by any NFL team is the Oakland Raiders’ Coliseum, which was completed in 1966 and cost $25.5 million ($186 million in 2016 dollars). That stadium also spent $200 million ($302 million in 2016 dollars) in renovations in 1995 and 1996. As you can see, dollars spent on NFL stadiums have increased significantly in the past few decades and there’s no end in sight.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has created a lot of jobsite safety rules since its creation in 1971. Some of those rules have become outdated, due to a variety of reasons, or have caused unnecessary confusion for companies due to wording. Earlier this month, OSHA proposed 18 revisions to existing rules, with many affecting the construction industry.
There’s no doubt that drones are the hot technology item for the construction industry. They allow you inspect your overall site more quickly, take aerial photos for marketing and documentation, measure tonnage and volume of on-site stockpiles, and even monitor employee productivity. Now, one company has designed a drone that can safely inspect structures for damage and detect cracks as small as .0039 inches wide (.1mm), when fitted with an HD camera.
Not all demolition videos can be implosions and that’s OK, because each type of demolition is its own art form. Sometimes contractors are bound by the constraints of the job, especially when located in an area with a large concentration of pedestrians and other public areas. That was the case for the construction site of the future One Vanderbilt Tower in New York City, which just completed the demolition of five different buildings covering an entire city block.
The number one goal on every construction site should be that all workers make it home safe at the end of the day. The sad reality is that hundreds of construction workers are killed on the job site every year. Last year, contractors were working on an indoor activity center for a high school in Argyle, Texas, when the 30 foot tall structure quickly collapsed, killing one man in the process.
Construction work can be a workout in and of itself many times. The hours are long, the tools and materials are heavy, but that’s not stopping a young worker in central China from adding some additional exercises to his daily routine.
2016 has been a big year for OSHA, as the organization has raised the cost of fines for safety violations for the first time since 1990. Made, effective in August, fines were raised 78%, making the cost of a serious violation $12,471. The construction industry is by far the most affected by OSHA regulations, as it accounted for 43.3% of all citations, 52.92% of all inspections, and 44.16% of all penalties assessed from October 2015 to September 2016. Of all specific types of contractors, roofing contractors account for the largest quantity of citations (6,924), following by framing contractors (3,810), and masonry contractors (2,501).
“They don’t build ‘em like they used to,” as people love to say. That phrase could definitely be applicable to the 93 year old Broadway Bridge in Little Rock, Arkansas, that refused to fall even after it was lined with explosives. This certainly isn’t the first time a demolition has failed and it’s probably not the last.