Staying Safe: The Top 10 OSHA Violations of 2015

Workplace safety and injury prevention is a consistently vital topic for construction company owners and managers. By studying information provided by the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), builders can learn where the top OSHA safety violations occur.

top OSHA safety violationsAt the 2015 National Safety Council Congress & Expo, a national gathering of safety experts, business leaders, and safety organization representatives, OSHA announced its list of the ten most common safety violations it encountered in fiscal year 2015.

The ten top OSHA safety violations of 2015, as announced at the NSC Congress and reported by Sandy Smith on the EHS Today website, are as follows:

  1. Fall Protection: Involves standards for fall protection and protecting employees walking or working on horizontal or vertical surfaces above 6 feet (6,721 violations).
  2. Hazard communication: Involves communicating information about chemical hazards to workers (5,192 violations).
  3. Scaffolding: Involves standards for building scaffolding and protecting workers from falls or falling objects at scaffold heights of 10 feet or higher (4,295 violations).
  4. Respiratory protection: Involves standards for establishing respiratory safety programs and properly using respiratory safety equipment (3,305 violations).
  5. Lockout/tagout: Covers procedures for protecting workers from hazardous energy, such as electricity, during repair and maintenance of machines and equipment (3,002 violations).
  6. Powered industrial trucks: Involves maintenance and operation of powered trucks, such as forklifts and motorized hand carts, plus training for use of this type of equipment (2,760 violations).
  7. Ladders: Covers requirements for all types of ladders (2,489 violations).
  8. Electrical – wiring methods: Involves wiring, insulation, and grounding of equipment, along with the use of temporary wiring and splicing (2,404 violations).
  9. Machine guarding: Involves covers and equipment designed to protect workers from moving parts on machinery, sparks, flying chips, and similar hazards. (2,295 violations).
  10. Electrical – general requirements: Involves general safety requirements for workplace electrical systems (1,973 violations).

Construction Monitor provides the data on industry trends and developments that managers and owners need to keep their employees safe and on the job. Contact us today for more information on the top OSHA safety violations of 2015 and how you can improve workplace safety in all of your projects.

Top Sustainable Features in New Homes

As the demographics of new-home buyers shift to younger and more energy-conscious purchasers, builders are recognizing that energy efficiency and sustainability are becoming major considerations in home purchases.

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) reports that energy efficiency, represented through energy savings and decreases in electricity bills, is a high priority with many new-home buyers.

sustainable features in new homesThis trend is being driven by the entrance of more millennials into the housing market, according to information on the NAHB website.

Younger buyers tend to be more concerned about sustainability and energy efficiency and have demonstrated a willingness to pay more for new homes with these features—up to twice to three times more, according to the NAHB.

The top sustainable features in new homes include:

  • Energy Star certification: This certification, from the government’s Energy Star program, certifies a home as being as energy efficient as possible.
  • High-efficiency appliances and HVAC systems: High-efficiency appliances and heating and cooling equipment can slash monthly energy costs by a substantial percentage. In many cases, these devices can pay for themselves in energy savings alone by about the halfway point of their expected functional lifespan. Geothermal heating and cooling is an especially efficient option.
  • High-efficiency windows: High-efficiency windows, including windows with low-e glass, are designed to be tightly sealed, preventing air and energy loss around the window, its frame, and its casing. Low-e glass helps keep heat in during the winter and out in the summer.
  • Renewable energy options: Some houses can be equipped with solar panels that can produce a substantial portion of a home’s energy via sunlight.
  • Programmable thermostats: Electronic programmable thermostats provide a high level of control over HVAC system operation and can provide significant energy savings.
  • Low-flow fixtures: Low-flow faucets, showerheads, and other fixtures reduce water usage while still providing plenty of water for daily use.

Construction Monitor helps construction firms keep up to date with the latest trends and developments throughout the residential housing industry. Contact us today for more information on the most desirable sustainable features in new homes and how you can more effectively offer these features to your customers.

Boost Profitability with Work-in-Progress Reports for Construction Firms

Staying on top of your billing is one of the most important things you can do for your company’s bottom line and your own peace of mind. Work-in-progress reports for construction firms are designed to provide the financial information you need to monitor your billing and maximize your profits.

Keep Your Finances on Track

work-in-progress reports for construction firmsA work-in-progress report clearly shows you whether you’re over-billed or under-billed on the jobs your firm is currently working on. Over-billing is the more common problem. Contractors often bill aggressively to compensate for payment delays that can run up to 75 days. This strategy may seem logical, but by billing too aggressively, you can end up over-billing. Over-bill too often and you’ll run out of billable money before you cover your project costs.

By under-billing, you’re liable to overlook potential losses and overestimate profits, which can lead you to plan for purchases using money you don’t actually have.

With a more accurate, up-to-date view of your finances, you’ll be able to resolve problems and take advantage of trends as they happen, rather than waiting until the year’s end after the books are closed.

WIP reports also protect your company’s future. Uncontrolled over- and under-billings not only wreak havoc with your finances, but also reduce the trust sureties and lenders have in your company’s management. That, in turn, can hinder your company’s growth.

Get the Most from Your WIP Report

Work-in-progress reports for construction firms are most beneficial when prepared monthly. You’ll need to track variables such as costs to date and billed to date amounts. Many accounting software programs include a WIP report feature. Update the percent-complete field weekly and the system performs the calculations for you. Alternatively, you can use Excel, but you won’t get the same level of detail as you would with accounting software. Once you know whether you’re over- or under-billed for the month, you can make a WIP adjustment to correct the situation.

To learn more about work-in-progress reports for construction firms, contact us at Construction Monitor.

Brooklyn Leads the Country in Apartment Construction

An apartment construction boom in the New York borough of Brooklyn is adding thousands of new dwellings to the area’s housing supply, reflecting trends in U.S. apartment construction in metropolitan areas nationwide.

More than 6,000 new apartment units are under construction and are expected to be ready by November, 2016, according to analyst Nick Fitzpatrick, writing in an article on the Forbes website.

U.S. apartment constructionFitzpatrick, a multifamily analyst with Axiometrics, a housing analysis firm specializing in apartments and student housing, notes that just over 2,000 more units are expected to become available in the Brooklyn market in 2017.

The 2016 numbers represent a substantial increase over the 969 apartments that came into the Brooklyn market in 2015, Fitzpatrick reported.

Why Brooklyn?

Fitzpatrick cites “Brooklyn’s hipness and trendiness” as a contributing factor that makes the borough an appealing site for developers. He also identified the expansion of well-paying jobs in the Brooklyn Tech Triangle and throughout Brooklyn as a key economic force behind the substantial expansion.

Average effective rents in Brooklyn, according to data from October 2015, are just above $3,800 per month, Fitzpatrick reported. This indicates an increase of 4.8 percent over the average effective rent in October 2014. Average effective rent is represented by the asking rent price minus concessions.

Occupancy rates throughout Brooklyn’s apartment market remain high. Fitzpatrick noted that existing apartments were 97.4 percent occupied as of October 2015. Demand for new housing continues to increase throughout the borough, serving as another driving force behind the substantial apartment expansion.

Beyond the Borough

Overall, the New York Metro area is experiencing a substantial growth in housing, with Brooklyn representing the largest part. Fitzpatrick reported that the New York area is expected to add more than 24,500 apartments in 2016. This significant growth puts New York at the top of the list of booming metropolitan areas nationwide.

Construction Monitor provides the most recent data on housing stats and building trends to construction companies, contractors, suppliers, and other industry participants. Contact us today for more information on the latest in U.S. apartment construction and for additional details on the Brooklyn and New York Metro markets.

Is Paperless Really an Option in the Construction Industry

Paperwork may seem like an inevitable inconvenience, but with the growth of technology in the construction industry, paper documents are becoming less and less necessary. Used wisely, technology can let you break free from the hassle and clutter of paper files.

technology in the construction industryBuilding Plans

Digital plans, such as BIM models and augmented reality, put every part of your project at your fingertips no matter where you are in the world. All authorized team members contribute to a single plan, so everyone has access to the most up-to-date version. That means fewer errors and delays caused by confusion over outdated plans. Because everyone on the team can share their input and solicit ideas from each other at their convenience, collaboration happens faster and more often.

Project Management

Every construction project requires countless pages of documentation and keeping it all organized drains your time and resources. Construction project management software lets you organize, update, and review all your documentation on one single platform. You can manage your schedule, budget, bidding, building plans, contracts, and other aspects of your projects without a single printed page.

Employee Timesheets

Mobile timesheet apps let your workers clock in and out right from their smart phones, and let supervisors easily monitor every worker. With some apps, timesheets can be completed at the end of each day, and the data sent to your accounting system. There’s no time lost and no risk of error as there is when entering hand-written records. As a plus, when your labor costs are updated daily, you can track job costs by the day for greater accuracy.

Document Storage

The use of technology in the construction industry in a huge space and time-saver for many companies. By storing your documents online in a cloud storage solution, you’ll save office space and keep your documents safe from fire, floods, and theft. You and your team members can instantly access any document from wherever you are at the moment. Try that with an office full of filing cabinets.

To learn more about how your company can benefit from technology in the construction industry, contact Construction Monitor.

New Report: Construction Spending on the Rise for 2016

Spending on U.S. construction is expected to continue to increase in 2016, though at a slower rate than seen in 2015, according to a new report.

Fitch Ratings predicts continued stable growth for construction spending throughout the United States in 2016. The company presented its findings in its 2016 outlook report, cited in an article on the website Business Wire.

U.S. construction spendingHowever, growth rates for 2016 are expected to be lower than those experienced in 2015. Fitch notes that construction spending increases in 2015 were particularly strong.

Even if the 2016 growth rates don’t equal those from the previous year, Fitch still sees a healthy expansion for building services and home products over the next twelve months.

The Business Wire article notes that Fitch expects new home and commercial construction to expand 8 percent in 2016. Home improvement and public construction spending is anticipated to experience moderate growth, fueled in part by the recent $305 billion highway bill.

Building materials companies could see an increase in revenues of 5 to 7 percent in 2016, according to the Fitch report. Improvement in profit margins, better cash flow among customers, and reduced debt is also expected to help boost the income of building materials suppliers.

Despite the good news on U.S. construction spending, Fitch warns that there could be some factors that have the potential to keep the expected growth to a slower rate. The Business Wire article quoted director Robert Rulla as saying that construction industry labor shortages, higher labor costs in general, and delays in beginning and continuing projects could slow 2016’s expected spending growth.

Fitch Ratings is a division of Fitch Group, an international leader in financial information services. Fitch Ratings focuses on credit ratings and business information and research.

Construction Monitor provides up-to-date information that helps builders and contractors plan for their future, including important industry news and data on construction starts. Contact us today for more information on developments in U.S. construction spending and how they can affect your company now and in the future.

How Vision Statements for Construction Companies Boost Success

When individuals decide to start a company in the construction industry, it’s usually for some specific reason. It could be because someone believes they can do a particular type of work better or want the independence that being a business owner brings. However useful these reasons are, companies can help improve their chances of success by developing and following a vision statement. Here is a brief introduction to developing vision statements for construction companies.

  • vision statements for construction companiesDefine your real reason for being in business: You’re in business to make money, no doubt. But there are many ways of making a living that don’t involve working in the construction industry. What, specifically, draws you to work in construction? You have to go beyond superficial reasons such as “I like it” or “it pays well” to find a reason that resonates with you. Maybe at heart, your reason was to “construct buildings that are safe, aesthetically pleasing, and that serve the needs of the public.” This can form the basis of an effective vision statement.
  • Test several possible statements: An important tool such as a vision statement will likely take significant amounts of thought. Write several different statements that could be accurate for you and be willing to change and adapt your statements as you work your way toward the one that best defines your business philosophy and goals. Let your management team and employees help you define the content of the statement.
  • Live your statement: Once you have established your business statement, use it to guide your business relationships, activities, and decisions. If you have a well-defined vision statement on hand when developing new business, you’ll be able to tell relatively easily if potential projects fit with your vision. Take on projects that accurately reflect your company vision and business philosophy.

Construction Monitor is a leading source of data and advice for companies in the construction industry Contact us today for more information on the importance of vision statements for construction companies and how such a statement can help you better understand your business and what it takes to make it successful.

Weathering the Winter on Construction Sites

A hardy construction crew may be used to working outdoors in less-than-ideal conditions, but there will almost always be a period of time during which the weather makes it impossible to keep moving forward on a project. Whether it’s snow and ice, extremely cold temperatures, heavy rains, or other weather phenomena, winter weather impacting construction projects is inevitable. Here are a few ways you can prepare to ensure the least impact on your schedules.

  • winter weather impacting constructionPlan for adverse weather: You know adverse winter weather is coming sooner or later, so include planning for winter in projects that will be underway during the colder months. Build a reasonable number of off-days into your schedule to accommodate temporary shutdowns because of weather.
  • Understand local climate trends: Research the local climate to get an idea of how severe the weather can get and how it can affect your projects. This is especially beneficial if you are working in a geographical zone outside of your home area. Find out as much as you can about expected low temperatures, average snowfall, the likelihood of ice storms, and other relevant data. Keep in mind that even the most accurate long-term records can be contradicted by unexpectedly severe weather.
  • Be willing to work on the weekend: If your project is delayed by winter weather during the week, a reasonable accommodation is to work on the weekend to make up for lost time. Make sure this procedure doesn’t violate any union rules or other agreements. Be aware, also, that employees may have already made weekend plans that could interfere.
  • Shift to indoor projects: If the weather makes it impossible to work outside, shift your attention to indoor projects until outdoor conditions improve. Keeping a few indoor projects available for this type of situation is a good idea during the winter.

Construction Monitor provides up-to-date information on the construction industry, such as data on building permits, housing starts, and best practices. Contact us today for more information on dealing with winter weather impacting construction progress and how to make sure your employees and equipment are protected when the temperatures drop.