Pennsylvania’s Top Construction Stories of 2017

The news was overwhelming in 2017. From healthcare mergers and insurance coverage to gender inequality to natural disasters to international relations to political squabbling…. Every time you looked at your phone or watched the nightly news there appeared to be another breaking news crisis being reported. Meanwhile the construction industry kept chugging along, adding jobs to the payrolls and improving the quality of life. That’s not to say that 2017 was just another typical year for the construction industry. No not at all. Last year we experienced some remarkable events.

Below are the top Pennsylvania construction stories of 2017 according to me. I kept them brief so you can breeze through it quickly, but if you want more information on any item listed please don’t hesitate to contact me at 717-731-6272 or Jon@KeystoneContractors.com.

Lastly, let me know what you think. What construction story in your mind did l leave off my list? Or what item did I list that is not a big deal?

Enjoy and keep in mind they are not listed in any particular order:

Amazon H2 Fever

After an announcement that it would build a second North American headquarters, online retail giant Amazon snagged 238 bids for its “HQ2” and the construction industry was on the edge of its seats wondering if this massive project would be built in their region. But I think construction professionals and the general public also were hoping that any sort of tax incentives included in the bid would not hurt their region too much in the future. Pennsylvania had numerous sites submit a bid. For more on Amazon H2 and the crazy amount of incentives click here:   http://www.businessinsider.com/amazon-hq2-cities-developers-economic-tax-incentives-2017-10/#memphis-tennessee-60-million-1.

 

Silica Standard Arrives

After a lengthy extension to review input from industry stakeholders, OSHA’s new silica standard went into effect on September 23, 2017. What that means for the construction industry is that contractors who engage in activities that create silica dust, such as cutting, grinding/ blasting concrete, stone and brick, must meet a stricter standard for how much of that dust workers inhale. The same goes for the employers of the tradespeople working around such activities. Numerous trainings were held and educational materials were produced to prepare the industry for this new standard. Many organizations, like KCA, even teamed with OSHA to host informational roundtable discussions. For more information please contact the KCA or visit: https://silica-safe.org/regulations-and-requirements/osha.

 

Opioid Crisis Continues to Plague Construction

The opioid epidemic is hurting America. Scary stats when you consider that our country makes up 5% of the world’s population, yet we consume 80% of the opioid supply and we are losing 100 people a day. The construction industry has been suffering along with most every other industry too. While it is not an easy task to find the stats by industry, insurance underwriter CNA estimates that 15.1% of construction workers have been affected by the opioid crisis. Much like the rest of society, KCA finds these stats unacceptable and we are doing something about it. Our plans are currently developing and we could use your help to implement them. If you want to join the fight to help Pennsylvania’s construction industry tackle the opioid epidemic, get in touch with us. This offer is extended to all – KCA members, nonmembers, organizations, etc. Together, we can make a difference.

 

USGBC releases LEEDv4 and AIA Updates its Contracts

Both of these items are similar in that in both instances two groups – U.S. Green Building Council and AIA National – worked with their respective memberships and industry stakeholders to update something that is of value to the construction industry. The USGBC issued its updated version of LEED version 4 and AIA issued its 10-year update of its contract documents. Both are also similar in that while they might have been updated in 2017, the industry can still use the previous version a little bit longer to have time to get acquainted with the newer version. The overall sentiment is that both are improvements from the previous version, encouraging collaboration in construction. For more information on LEEDv4 click:  https://www.usgbc.org/leed-v4-old-new and for information AIA contracts: https://www.aiacontracts.org/.

 

Philadelphia is Carrying Good Times into 2018!

By all accounts, 2017 was a great year for the construction industry in the City of Brotherly Love. But 2018 is going to a new level in Philadelphia. More than 8 million square feet of development is forecasted in Philly. To put this into perspective, during 2017 Philadelphia finished 3.3 million square feet of construction. A big chunk of this upcoming work will come from Aramark’s new headquarters, uCity Square on Market, and One Franklin Tower in Logan Square. For more information click here:    https://philly.curbed.com/2017/11/30/16715170/philadelphia-new-construction-analysis-2018.

 

Separations Act Gets Some Attention

As stated in my blog last week, the Separations Act had some memorable moments in 2017. To read this post click:   https://wordpress.com/post/buildingpa.blog/267.

 

Federal Tax Legislation Helps Construction Industry

Before ringing in the New Year, Congress passed a comprehensive tax reform legislation that will lower rates, spur economic growth and have a positive impact on construction businesses for years to come. The AGC of America put together a comprehensive chart to illustrate the benefits of this tax reform package:  http://images.magnetmail.net/images/clients/agca/attach/1218_House_Senate_Tax_Reform_Comparison_v6.pdf.

 

Harrisburg has Big Plans in its Sights

During 2017 two mega projects having been moving closer to the bidding/construction stages. The one project, the Federal Courthouse, has been in the works for the better part of the past decade, but it received a big boost early in 2017 when it received funding authorization. Since this funding announcement, the GSA has been moving quickly on this $200 M-plus, 243,000 square foot Federal Courthouse project. This project has encountered a few snags this past Fall, but hopefully it will break ground soon. Here is a blog post I wrote about this project: https://wordpress.com/post/buildingpa.blog/51.

Another project on the mega scale includes the vision that Harrisburg University has in constructing the tallest building in Harrisburg. In the Fall of 2017, the school announced plans to build a 36-story, $150 M mixed-use tower that will feature 200,000 square feet of educational space that includes fitness center, conference space, hotel, and housing for 300 college residents. For more information:  http://www.cpbj.com/article/20171115/CPBJ01/171119902/harrisburg-university-plans-to-build-citys-tallest-tower.

Are You Ready For OSHA’s New Silica Standard?

The enforcement of OSHA’s respirable crystalline silica standard that applies to the construction industry begins on September 23, 2017. After some delays to allow OSHA to conduct additional outreach and to provide educational materials and guidance to employers, the date is almost upon us. Are you ready? If not quite there yet, KCA can help.

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Since it could be debated that this is one of the most complex standards the construction industry has faced, it was understandable that it seemed as though a silica event happened daily throughout the country. At the Keystone Contractors Association, we wanted to host one more educational event on this topic to assure construction employers are prepared. This week we hosted a facilitated discussion led by OSHA’s Dale Glacken, Compliance Assistance Specialist for the OSHA Harrisburg Area Office. This discussion included commercial construction professionals from both general contractors and subcontractors based throughout the Commonwealth.

Here are the key takeaways from this discussion:

  1. List – Prior to project commencement, make a list of all potential silica hazards. Add the tasks that will need to be performed on a project where workers could be exposed to silica. Will sandblasting be performed on this project? What about jackhammering, concrete drilling, brick/concrete cutting, concrete mixing, chipping/scraping, etc.? Just think about the project and what construction activity needs to happen as you reach milestones along the way.
  2. Assessment – After your list is created, go down each activity and assess each one. Provide the details for each item to understand them better – how much time will it take, what tools are needed, how many people, etc.?
  3. Controls – While working off the list created earlier and the details on each item, think now about how to control the silica exposure for your workforce. What PPE is needed? Do the tasks have to be completed near other workers, or for example can blocks be cut away from others in an enclosed area? What are ways that dust be controlled? At this point you may want to refer to the table 1 of the OSHA silica standard to assist you in determining if you’re in compliance: https://www.osha.gov/silica/SilicaConstructionRegText.pdf.
  4. Plan – Led by your company’s silica competent person, create the project specific plan, which includes specific controls for each activity that could potentially expose workers to crystalline silica. This plan should highlight scope of work to be completed, control methods, and housekeeping. Housekeeping is important in a silica plan, just as it is important in every aspect of safety. I’ve noticed that a clean jobsite, tends to be a safer jobsite. Also while developing the plan, think about if areas should be restricted to limit silica exposure. But don’t just create a plan and let it collect dust, make sure to implement it and carry out those competent person inspections, plus refer to the plan throughout the project to make sure it is being carried out and workers are protected.
  5. Training – As highlighted in the plan, training plays a vital role. In this plan, training should focus on tasks that expose workers to silica. Along with making sure tools and PPE are made available, make sure too that training is available for those tools and PPE; proper use is necessary and don’t assume someone knows how to use something. The copy of OSHA’s Silica Standard should be readily available to all workers.
  6. Medical – Making sure workers are healthy, and keeping them healthy, is important to this new standard. If a worker is to wear a respirator for more than 30 days per year, medical surveillance is required by the employer. This examination must be completed within 30 days of assignment unless the employee has had an examination within the last three years. Then periodical medical examinations should be offered at least every three years, or more if recommended by a health care professional. The employer will maintain a medical surveillance record on each employee.

Along with the rousing discussion, this KCA silica event also featured plenty of resources on the topic. KCA has each resource that was discussed, as well as numerous other silica resources that can help your company. Please do not hesitate to contact the KCA for help. To reach KCA call 717-731-6272.

NOTE: Comments were made during the event that many small businesses that work in the construction industry may not be prepared for the silica changes. Many KCA contractor members extended an invite to subcontractors who did not even know about this standard. If you encounter firms that need help, please let them know the KCA is here for them. We can schedule a time to stop by their operation or if they’d like we can simply provide them the resources needed on OSHA’s New Silica Standard.