Let’s Pause for Safety During May 7-11

This Monday marks the beginning of the 5th annual “OSHA National Stand-Down to Prevent Falls in Construction Week.” On May 7-11, 2018, thousands of construction jobsites across the country will hold a safety Stand-Down event. It’s time ALL industries join construction and take a moment to pause and talk about safety hazards at work.

A safety Stand-Down is a voluntary event to allow for employers to speak with its employees about safety at work. Any workplace can conduct a safety talk, and any topic can be focused on – distracted driving, proper lifting, emergency evacuation, workplace stress, etc. Just because OSHA refers to it as: “Stand-Down to Prevent Falls in Construction Week” doesn’t mean this week is only for construction and the only topic is falls. This week-long tribute to safety was born out of the construction industry and falls are the leading cause of casualties in this industry so I assume OSHA wanted to draw more attention and training to falls hazards.

However, over its brief five-year existence, this has grown and more and more industries are celebrating safety during this week. Every year more non-construction employers are holding Stand-Downs. In fact, OSHA claims that the largest single participant for one stand-down was the United States Air Force in 2015 and 2016, both times reaching more than one million military and civilian personnel.

toolbox talkThe Keystone Contractors Association is a commercial construction trade association. We hope 100% of our members participate in an OSHA Stand-Down this year. We, the association staff, are not construction professionals – we work in an office providing various services to contractors. But our staff of three will conduct our Stand-Down on emergency evacuation. Hopefully we won’t find ourselves in an emergency in real-life, but thanks to this year’s Stand-Down we’ll be prepared. This also shows that any sized employer can hold a Stand-Down.

Following the Stand-Down, employers should visit the OSHA Stand-Down website to download a Certificate and provide feedback on the experience. (https://www.osha.gov/StopFallsStandDown/index.html).  The sharing of best practices is an excellent way to improve safety and protect our workers.

At KCA we believe that teamwork improves safety and we hope that work teams across Pennsylvania will take a moment to focus on Safety during May 7-11!

2018 PA Budget Hearings with DGS

As was the case the last year, the Separations Act was a discussed topic during the Budget Appropriation Hearings with the Department of General Services.

In the Senate, DGS Secretary Topper was asked questions about the Act by Senator Folmer. The gist of the Secretary’s comments related around DGS experiencing increased administrative costs, but they are unsure if total cost is more. DGS would like to continue to study the issue more.

As for the House, Representative Everett led the way with the questioning. Topper echoed his comments from the Senate – increased administrative overhead in the norm for a Separations Act project, but he felt there was a need for more studying of the issue. Everett countered with hints about a new legislative strategy that allows for the current multiple prime delivery system to be used if that’s what the public owner chooses; however, the public owner can also select from other delivery options too.

Personally, I think if the DGS was serious about wanting to study the issue more they should make three phone calls to Pitt, PSU & Temple. When these schools receive state funds they have to abide by the Separations Act and build as the school’s call it: ‘the DGS way’ but when these schools build with their own money they build using Design-Bid-Build with Single Prime; Design Build; Construction Management At Risk; and PSU is even trying IPD. All DGS would have to do is review projects built on these campuses using multiple prime compared to using a variety of single prime. End of ‘we need data’ story.

Click here to hear DGS Topper answer questions from Senator Folmer: https://pasen.wistia.com/medias/6d6hud1x5z

Open Door Policy

In life I’ve heard this line many times: “I have an open-door policy.” Teachers, coaches, employers, politicians, etc.  Many like to throw this line around, but do they mean it? Here’s an example of one individual who meant it, and as a result the rest of us (at least those in Pennsylvania) are better off because of it. Thanks Mike Turzai. Here’s the story:

During the summer of 2016, while living with my family in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, in the McCandless area, I was offered a job in the central PA area. After much thought and discussion with my wife and daughters, we decided to accept the position and move away from an area that has treated us great. We listed our Pittsburgh home for sale and began looking for a home in central PA.

13718711_10210116936505814_3209318682083209466_n
It’s signed! During the summer of 2016, we accepted the position of Executive Director for the Keystone Contractors Association. From this moment on, it was time to start the relocation process. 

We had three offers the first day our home was on the market (McCandless is an awesome place to raise a family and Michelle Petty is a great realtor). We accepted an offer that was best for us, but the buyers could not close on the purchase for at least two months, which turned out to be good for us in that we could live in the home for longer than we expected to, and it gave us time to find the perfect place to live in central PA.

While we were living in the McCandless home, the buyers continued to prepare to buy it and an inspection was part of this process. More than a week after the home inspection was conducted, we received an email from the buyer’s real estate agent that contained the results of the inspection. I remember it like it was yesterday. It was a Sunday evening when the email arrived; it was a lengthy, 50-plus page report with bold, red-highlighted items that the inspector deemed as important; and a few pages into the report I saw a line that made my heart sink: “GAS LEAK detected not safe to live in.” Since I was living in the home, with the four people who are my world, I was speechless…wait WTF did I just read?!?!?! We left right away and spent the night at my aunt’s home, a few miles down the road.

The next morning, I was busy on the phone. I called the gas company first (Peoples Natural Gas was amazing as they arrived right away, and they had the gas leak issue resolved within the hour). Then I proceeded to speak to my realtor and an attorney friend of mine. I wanted to know why, if my family was in harm’s danger, did the home inspector not alert us. The response I received was that home inspectors are not legally obligated to notify anyone of unsafe conditions, like gas leaks. My first thought was that you would think a member of a society/country would feel morally obligated to let someone know about this, but unfortunately this was not the case. Then I called my Pennsylvania State Representative Mike Turzai.

Turzai is a friendly guy who you speak with at the North Allegheny High School Football games or you see walking down the streets in your neighborhood. He told me a few times over the years, while living in the district he represents, to not hesitate to contact him if I encounter any issues: “my door is open let me know if I can help.” So, I thought I’d take him up on the offer to see if he could help. Yes, my issue was resolved when I called him, and my family moved back in our home after the gas leak was fixed, but I do not want any other family to have to go through what I went through and fortunately for the rest of Pennsylvania, Turzai agreed and did not want anyone else to go through this serious issue either.

After thoroughly understanding the issue, Turzai and his staff were able to assist in modifying a home inspection piece of legislation that at the time was moving through the 2015/2016 Pennsylvania legislative session. Time ran out on this piece of legislation and when the session ended on December 31, 2016, the home inspection legislation died.

When the new year arrived, the Pennsylvania legislature introduced a new home inspection bill for the 2017/2018 session and the provision that we inserted requiring home inspectors to notify residents immediately if they are living in unsafe conditions carried forward to the next session as well. House Bill 1001 recently passed in the House of Representatives and it is now in the State Senate. While it’s a comprehensive bill that affects many aspects of the home inspection process, I for one am glad that it spells out how home inspectors are to act when encountering threats to health and safety.

One would think that a home inspector would notify a homeowner if they were living in an unsafe condition, but I found out that is not the case. It’s a good thing Mike Turzai has an open door policy and listens to the people he represents.

Remembering (& Helping) A Mentor

The benefits of being a mentor are well known. You can position your company, industry, etc. for a better tomorrow as you pass down your knowledge and information to future leaders. I hope that mentors don’t ever feel like it’s a thankless job helping the next generation. Sure, there might not be immediate payback, but being a mentor can be extremely rewarding when the mentor sees the protégé blossom into an industry leader.

I have been extremely blessed when it comes to mentors assisting with my professional development. After the Navy, I enrolled and graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a dual degree in Journalism and History – not your typical degrees for the construction industry. However, some people saw something and cultivated me to succeed in this industry. There are too many to name, but today I’d like to focus on one individual – Dwight Kuhn.

Dwight saw something in me and always took the extra time to thoroughly explain construction topics to me. We were part of an industry group comprised of experienced leaders that met in the evenings to discuss construction best practices; I was the lone individual who was not an “experienced industry leader,” but I kept good notes and ran good meetings so I was involved. The next day, after our meetings, my head was spinning when I tried to comprehend all the topics we discussed the night before. More often than naught I found myself calling Dwight for an explanation. He always had time for those phone calls.

But the special thing about Dwight was, it wasn’t just me that he spent time with. He really cared about the next generation and getting them engaged. As I mentioned earlier we had a group of current industry leaders that focused on best practices, but to be honest – this book of recommendations was dated and archaic. A few members of this group decided that we needed a complete overhaul. But it was Dwight who made the breakthrough suggestion that we needed: let’s involve the industry’s future in this activity.

From Dwight’s idea we invited young, up-and-coming industry leaders to the table to serve on small task forces that included a few principles from architectural firms and executives from construction companies. I think the small group suggestion made it less intimidating and everyone was engaged. Sure we updated a few best practice recommendations, but more importantly his suggestion may have expedited the development of current leaders from Pittsburgh’s design and construction industry, people like; Sean Sheffler, Associate at LGA Partners; Anastasia (Herk) Dubnicay, Executive Director of ACE Mentor Program of Western PA; Gino Torriero, CEO of Nello Construction; Jen Landau, Project Manager at Landau Building Company; Kristin  Merck, a promising architect who opted to launch a successful photography business; to name a few. Plus, that little scribe who used to hound Dwight for help the morning after meetings is now Executive Director of the Keystone Contractors Association.

Please note, that exercise that grouped young and experienced leaders happened around ten years ago so I’m pretty sure my memory is leaving people off that are really successful today. Sorry. But the one thing I am sure about is that Dwight touched many people in a positive way during his career. We can all show him thanks by participating in the Dwight Kuhn Replenishment Blood Drive, which is this Thursday, November 2, 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM at the Master Builders’ Association. Even if Dwight did not touch you during your career, you can show your support of the mentorship process by giving blood. For more information on this blood drive or on Dwight, please contact Michael Kuhn at mkuhn@jendoco.com.

The reason for this blood drive is that during an annual routine physical in April of 2017, Dwight was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML). AML is a blood and bone marrow cancer that can quickly spread to other parts of the body. To date, Dwight has undergone three treatments of intense chemotherapy and has needed 40 units of blood and 40 units of platelets. His AML is currently in remission, but he has myelodysplastic syndromes, a precursor to AML. He continues to need blood transfusions every two weeks to keep his strength. If you would like to help, visit www.centralbloodbank.org then click “Make an appointment” and search with group code: Z0021025.

IMG_2510

Looking for a Good Construction Article to Read?

What does a four-time NFL Super Bowl Champion, a public relations specialist, and a human resources expert have in common? Each has been featured in the Keystone Contractors Association Construction Industry Articles of Interest webpage.

When I came on board at the KCA I expressed a desire to place a strong emphasis on education and the sharing of best practices. I was right at home with the KCA membership as they too feel strongly about education since it’s a vital aspect of career development. Members devoted time to creating our educational programming. Some topics were better suited for an in-person seminar/ presentation, while other topics were better in an article format. With the latter in mind, we created an online format.

During the past few months of its existence, we have been fortunate to have such intelligent and motivated professionals wanting to be featured on this new resource. We are extremely pleased to feature such diverse and important topics on this website. Sami Barry of Helbling & Associates, penned an article on women in the construction workforce; Tom Kennedy, UPMC consultant, wrote about Integrated Project Delivery from the Owner’s perspective; Rocky Bleier, Vietnam Veteran, Steeler Legend and Owner of RBVetCo, authored an article about teamwork in construction; plus, Jason Copley of Cohen Seglias, and Joseph Bosik of Pietragallo Gordon Alfrano Bosik & Raspanti, wrote separate articles about the Mechanics’ Lien Law.

The newest articles come to us from Christopher Martin, President of Atlas Marketing, and Thomas Williams, Partner at Reager & Adler PC. Mr. Martin’s article is on crisis communications. As an expert in this field, adding his insights to this serious topic was a no brainer. As a result of his interest in educating the construction community, we are in the talks now to create an educational program to prepare construction companies in responding when a crisis happens. Mr. Williams’ input is on a new contract provision being inserted by the Pennsylvania Department of General Services for construction services. Due to the potential ramifications of this new governmental clause, the KCA is leaning towards hosting an educational program on this subject matter too and it’s nice to know we have Mr. Williams if we go that route. Thanks to the proactive, and knowledgeable, input from both professionals KCA is able to educate the construction industry on serious topics.

If you want to be added to this resource, and position yourself as a construction industry expert of a specific topic, we’d like to hear from you.

To view the KCA Construction Industry Articles of Interest visit: https://keystonecontractors.com/industry-articles.

My Favorite Moment from My First Year at KCA: The Meeting that Changed It All

As I celebrate my one-year anniversary at the Keystone Contractors Association, I recall the meeting that changed it all for the KCA. I started at the KCA during the fall of 2016 and, after a three-month transition period learning from Mr. McDonough, I became the Executive Director of the KCA.

We held two KCA Board meetings and some KCA Committees met during the first six months after the transition period. Despite not having much to go by as far as a comparison goes, it just felt like the KCA get togethers were business as usual – nothing special. Then it happened.

For those first two Board meetings, I thought we were accomplishing what was expected of us – financials were in line, Association was humming along with minimal issues, etc. But I could sense that each of us, the entire Board and I, that we wanted to do more. What I did next could be viewed as unconventional, and if it failed could be viewed as a lousy idea, but what happened was magical.

We held a Board meeting with no agenda. I sat in a room with twelve construction executives, successful ones too that run their own construction company. Their time is extremely important. When the meeting started I said: “for today’s meeting, I want to know what’s on your mind: what work related topics do you want to discuss? What challenges do you face in running your company? Look there’s no agenda today. I’m hopeful that we’ll have a lively discussion in any direction we all want to take it. So, who wants to start it off?” The room went silent and then I continued: “This meeting could last two minutes or it could last two hours; it all depends on all of us.”

Again, silence. I really started to doubt my idea for this meeting and then one Board member said: “Does anyone else in the room have trouble finding qualified workers?” The ice was broken. From that point on it was as if the levee had broken. We discussed a wide gamut of issues affecting construction company owners from safety inspections to leadership development to community service to managing millennials to construction legislation. You name it and we discussed it. We went over our self-imposed two-hour limit too.

For each topic, we would spend ample time discussing it. Board members would offer each other advice on addressing an issue and collectively we would discuss if it’s something the KCA should look into addressing. This agenda-less meeting was succeeding on various levels. As the ‘new guy’ I got to see how the Board members interacted and you could sense the strong relationships that existed among them. Plus, I got to understand what issues are facing the membership and I could create a strategy to address issues that were appropriate for the KCA to get involved in.

One major KCA initiative that came to life as a result of our agenda-less meeting is our efforts in workforce development. KCA talked about this issue in the past but there wasn’t much action. We are currently working on a strategy to address the serious construction worker shortage issue that exists with both labor and management. This strategy will feature activities that stretch from grade school to middle school to high school to college to post education. While this comprehensive plan is being created, the KCA has begun implementing some actions already. This week we’re addressing students from Harrisburg High School about careers in the construction industry.

I share this agenda-less meeting story because I believe in sharing best practices. It worked for me and I’m not saying it may work for others, but if considering and you want more details let me know. If you’d like to share your management strategies with me, please feel free to contact me at 717-731-6272 or Jon@KeystoneContractors.com.

IMG_2476
It’s always nice to leave a meeting and see a KCA member building a better quality of life. JC Orr is the General Contractor for the PA Housing Finance Agency in Harrisburg. This project is being built to achieve LEED Platinum and Passive House Certifications.