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.
What do you think? Tell us in the comment section below!
Caterpillar is not resting on what made it successful in the past anymore and probably for good reason. The equipment manufacturing giant recently bought Yard Club, a heavy construction equipment sharing company, looking to take advantage of the recently popularized sharing economy. Earlier this month, Caterpillar invested $2 million in Fastbrick Robotics, an Australian robotic technology company.
Augmented and Virtual Reality has always been designated for large headsets. Even with recent developments in the construction industry, like Microsoft Hololens and the DAQRI Smart Helmet, if you want to experience AR, you have to get used to wearing something you’re not used to around a job site. As cool as both of those technologies are, it seems that the ole trusty smartphones and tablets have been overlooked. A Danish BIM company has developed a smartphone and tablet application that leaves the headsets behind.
Just last November, a massive Five-Alarm fire rocked a multi-story residential building that was almost 80% complete at the time, completely destroying the project. This month, yet another multi-story residential tower that was almost complete caught fire, making it the 5th in 5 year to suffer the same fate. At least 3 of the previous 3 fires have been ruled as arson but, up to this point, no arrests for any of the previous arsons have been made.
Buildings are demolished all the time in order to make way for new construction. The buildings that are demolished have usually lived out their useful life and are no longer functional. Recently a demolition video resurfaced, which shows a 27 story building in China being imploded. The strange thing is that, since it was finished in 1999, the building had never even been used.
In January of 2017, OSHA released a final rule which greatly reduced the allowable exposure to beryllium, a mineral that can cause deadly lung disease. While not as commonly encountered in the construction industry as other substances that cause terrible lung diseases, like crystalline silica and asbestos, beryllium is linked to a disease called chronic beryllium disease, which kills around 100 people each year. It’s commonly found in coal slag, which is used for sandblasting. According to the New York Times, OSHA estimates that 11,500 construction workers would be affected by OSHA’s reduced exposure limit.
There are a lot of people that would be pretty unhappy with whoever tears down a 98 foot tall, 105 year old tree to make room for a building expansion. In order for most projects to work financially, however, many trees are uprooted and replaced with smaller trees. That’s not what happened with what is believed to be the state of Idaho’s largest sequoia tree, however.
Many contractors and repair technicians live out of their truck and Milwaukee Tool knows this. That’s why they’ve just released an M12 and M18 battery charger that plugs into the c12V DC outlet in your truck or van! As added security, the charger will automatically shut down if it senses that your vehicle’s battery is getting too low. Smart and ultra-convenient.
We know a lot of you out there could use this charger, so we teamed up with Milwaukee to give YOU the chance to WIN one! There are 4 ways to enter below!
As recently highlighted by several multi-story building fires, contractors should always be prepared in the event a fire starts on a job site. There have been dozens multi-story building fires in the past few years and many were started when the building was topped out. In most cases, the project was completely destroyed, leaving developers and owners to deal with years of delays from insurance claims. A massive five-alarm fire at an Oakland construction site is one of the more recent examples.
It’s pretty amazing all of the things that smartphones can do right now. While some wish phones would go back to “just making dang blasted phone calls, like the good ole days,” it’s clear that phone’s will always be more than that moving forward. Through apps and other attachments, phones can now turn into a thermal imagine camera, an x-ray vision scanner to see what’s behind walls, a laser measure, and now an augmented reality tape measure.
In a year that OSHA can’t seem to enforce any new rules, it appears to have found a way to remove a rule from its books. As announced last week, OSHA has removed monorail hoists from Subpart CC – Cranes and Derricks in Construction. Employers are still required to follow other OSHA regulations regarding the hoists, but this rule should help clear up some inconsistencies.