2017 went by in a flash with lots of excitement around HB NEXT. Tony Middlebrooks, President and Co-Founder of HB NEXT, reflects on the year that saw changes and growth throughout the construction industry.


First, I want to personally thank our customers and our staff for what has turned out to be a record-setting year for HB NEXT. Without the loyalty of our customers and their trust in allowing HB NEXT to support their growth, we would not be able to reach our goals.  Without the dedication and determination of our HB NEXT employees, we would not be where we are today.

HB NEXT is made up of seven unique businesses:

  • Safety
  • Environmental
  • Training
  • Software
  • Legal
  • Utility Services (HB NEXT Energy Solutions)
  • Erosion Control

These businesses are horizontally integrated with each other to allow HB NEXT to offer construction and power utility customers support services.

Below, I highlight and review each business unit for 2017. See the growth and changes over the year.

The Safety Business Unit continues to expand and support all trades in the commercial industry with Mock OSHA Inspections, on-site safety services, safety program development, implementation & updates, and safety support services. Due to increased scrutiny from OSHA in the residential construction industry, we have seen an increased market demand for Safety Inspections & support services with regional and national homebuilders. Additionally, orientation automation has become a major area of focus for mid-sized commercial contractors and large residential contractors.

The Environmental Business Unit continues to support the largest national homebuilder in the US, providing weekly and in some cases daily NPDES inspections and SWPPP writing. We also expanded our NPDES Inspection Services with one of the largest power utilities in Georgia. Currently, we provide boots on the ground services for the entire States of Georgia, Florida, South Carolina and North Carolina with some coverage in Alabama and Tennessee.

The Training Business Unit saw a banner year in the area of Workforce Development and Leadership Training. Currently, we have four workforce development programs in full swing, Westside Works, CobbWorks, The Center for Working Families, & Aerotropolis. As of December 2017, 635 residents have been trained and credentialed through the Construction Ready Program, and we’ve placed 592 into full-time, entry-level jobs, for a placement rate of 93%. The retention rate after one year is about 75% as well. In addition to this, we continue to educate around 5,000 students per year via Public and Private classes, and we opened a satellite office in Columbus, GA.

The Software Business Unit continues to provide internal software development to support HB NEXT services, and they continue to support companies across the nation with cloud-based solutions. We have simplified our Software offerings, and this business unit will continue to evolve rapidly in 2018. As we close 2017, the Software Business Unit is in the middle of launching “CMT Cloud”, a subscription-based product offering for construction material testing firms of all sizes. This offering will officially launch in Q1 2018 followed by a suite of three more subscription-based cloud products.

This year the Utility Services business unit outgrew our corporate office location and is going through a re-brand as we approach 2018. Moving forward this business unit will be known as HB NEXT Energy Solutions. This business unit now has its own dedicated website and a new office conveniently located in Covington, GA. Energy Solutions continues to morph as more power utility companies find out about our services. We recently added the 3rd largest EMC to our customer list. Now, we can proudly say we provide services for 3 of the top 4 EMCs in the state of Georgia and the largest power utility company in the Southeast. Towards the end of 2017, we added an Energy Audit Division and their mission is to help consumers identify residential and commercial energy loss.

The Legal Business Unit has worked on several cases in 2017 to help clients mitigate and in some cases, eliminate OSHA fines imposed on them. This year, we have been able to successfully contest OSHA citations by showing that a different employer was the responsible employer for the hazards and employee exposure at those jobsites. This was one of the trends we found for 2017. However, to make this defense successfully, clients need good contracts and oversight for their subcontractors.

The Erosion Control Business Unit has added several top-tier residential customers in the Jacksonville, Florida area. We continue to be the market leader for erosion control installation and maintenance in Northeast Florida.

In summary, it has been an exciting 2017. We look forward with great anticipation and excitement for 2018. The future looks bright and we have been truly blessed. We value all of our client and vendor relationships. Please contact us if we can help you solve your latest construction challenge.





Practitioner Insights: Don’t Get Stung by an OSHA Citation if Your Subcontractor is Responsible

(The following article is reproduced with permission from Occupational Safety & Health Reporter, 47 osh 48, 12/07/2017. Copyright 2017 by The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. (800-372-1033) http://www.bna.com. Author Andrew N. Gross is a principal, officer and General Counsel of HB NEXT Corp.)

Many mid-tier construction contractors win contracts to supply labor and materials, then subcontract out the entire labor portion. They frequently encounter problems when Occupational Safety and Health Administration cites them for workplace hazards, contending that the labor subcontractor’s employees are employees of the mid-tier contractor.

This is troubling when the mid-tier contractor has no employees working at the job site, and its on-site appearances are limited to project managers checking up on the labor subcontractor’s progress and work quality. The practice of subcontracting out all labor is common in certain trades. In my practice, I see it most often in masonry, roofing, drywall, and framing.

If cited by OSHA, you or your mid-tier contractor client will have to defend a citation alleging responsibility for safety hazards confronted by workers employed by other employers. In defense of the citation, it is vital to be able to show that another employer, presumably the labor subcontractor, is an independent contractor and the responsible employer.

Upon a credible, evidence-based showing, OSHA can and will withdraw the citation. If withdrawn at the OSHA-area office informal conference, there won’t be any need to file a contest and incur the expense and risk of litigation.

There is no ‘‘get out of jail free card’’ inoculating the mid-tier contractor from an OSHA citation, but wise labor subcontractor selection and monitoring, good drafting of the labor subcontract, and proper payroll reporting can limit the mid-tier contractor’s exposure, if not avoid it entirely.

Continue reading to view information in the following areas:

  • Burden of Proof
  • Who Employs the Workers?
  • Selection of Labor Subcontractor
  • Drafting the Labor Subcontract
  • Conduct at Jobsite
  • Dealing with Flowdown Responsibility
  • Multiemployer Jobsites

Practitioner Insights: Don’t Get Stung by an OSHA Citation if Your Subcontractor is Responsible

Contact HB NEXT for more information concerning OSHA citations and other legal matters when staying OSHA compliant. HB NEXT offers decades of experience in solving your safety and environmental construction industry challenges.



HB NEXT Shares Their Knowledge at KSU

For decades, HB NEXT has served the construction industry from training employees on their jobsite to the classroom for industry professionals to increase their skills.  HB NEXT is also known for industry-leading cloud-software solutions since 2005. In 2011, Matrix Engineering partnered HB NEXT to create a cloud-based software platform to streamline the hectic CMT reporting and communication process. This software allowed special inspectors and testing technicians to access critical data while determining compliance, project plans and specifications.

Recently, HB NEXT visited KSU and spoke to construction engineering students about this product, the dire need for more technology solutions in the industry, and the need for young, enthusiastic professionals that know how to use it. “It is critical today’s students understand the importance and the value of a cloud-based software solution while working in the field, especially in today’s rapidly growing construction technology landscape” comment Andrew Middlebrooks. This presentation provided insight into field technology and the importance of construction inspection management to ensure compliance, quality assurance, safety, and control protocols are met.

As the construction industry continues to grow, it is critical that construction firms understand how the customizable software solutions can assist their teams in their day to day operations. As firms hire younger aged employees, their desire to have access to software resources plays an important role in their daily work. Universities across the United States are opening more study opportunities as opportunities continue to open in the construction industry.

HB NEXT is here to help construction firms navigate the myriad of software options available in order to choose the right one for their operation! Contact HB NEXT today.

OSHA New Rule Aims at Reducing Silica Dust Exposure

In September 2017, OSHA enacted a new rule to help protect employees who are exposed to crystalline silica which is a common mineral found in the earth’s crust.  This material is found in many elements like sand, stone, concrete and mortar. Crystalline Silica is also used to make glass, pottery, ceramics, bricks and artificial stone.

The goal of this ruling is to protect individuals who work with these elements indoors or outdoors for more than four hours. These protocols, which have been put in place, are to help reduce the possibility of the employee inhaling respirable crystalline silica. These are very small particles that are 100 times smaller than sand that you’d find on a beach or at a playground. If an employee is exposed and inhales these particles often, they are at an increased risk of developing Lung Cancer, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and or Kidney disease. Currently, there are approximately 2.3 million people in the US who are exposed to silica at work. Do you have a Silica Exposure Control Plan in place in your work environment?

Silica is created when one is cutting, sawing, grinding, drilling and or crushing stone, rock concrete or brick materials. The dust particles are inhaled into one’s lungs.  If your employees have a work practice of four hours shifts or less, plus operate and maintain tools with integrated water delivery systems with manufacture specified flow rates to feed water to the blade, then you are not required to put in additional measures to control silica particles.

OSHA has set these protocols if an employee is not using a water element with their cutting. According to OSHA, employers who do not use control methods must:

  • Measure the amount of silica that workers are exposed to if it may be at or above an action level of 25 μg/m3 (micrograms of silica per cubic meter of air), averaged over an eight-hour day.
  • Protect workers from respirable crystalline silica exposures above the permissible exposure limit of 50 μg/m3, averaged over an eight-hour day.
  • Use dust controls to protect workers from silica exposures above the PEL.
  • Provide respirators to workers when dust controls cannot limit exposures to the PEL.

“OSHA estimates that the Final Rule will save over 600 lives and prevent more than 900 new cases of silicosis each year, once its effects are fully realized. The Rule is projected to provide net annual benefits of as much as $7.7 billion to society in terms of reduced costs associated with preventing and treating silica-related illnesses.”

HB NEXT is here to serve construction firms as they navigate these new protocols to ensure their employees are working in a safe environment. Do you have a Silica Exposure Control Plan? The Team at HB NEXT is here to assist or write your plan for you to keep your firm OSHA compliant. From training to jobsite inspections, the HB NEXT Team can eliminate situations which will cause OSHA penalties and fines for non-compliance. With decades of experience in OSHA compliance, Ask HB NEXT to help your construction firm navigate this new ruling. Contact us today.



Construction Opportunities Soar

Construction industry opportunities break decades of records. It has taken many years for the economy to rebound from the economic downward spiral of 2008. This job market is expected to propel even further with the latest hurricane disasters bringing even a greater demand for home, commercial building, and restoration to the marketplace. Take a look at where the job market rests today.

Today, there are more unfilled jobs in the construction sector since February 2007. According to the BLS Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) and NAHBS, the number of open construction jobs increased to 247,000 in August 2017. This is a 34% increase since August 2016. Based on a 12-month average basis, this increase equals a 2.7% rise in open positions. Over the last year, 80,000 jobs were added by home builders and industry employment increased by 710,000 jobs since the low of the Great Recession. Texas and Florida job opportunities are expected to rise scientifically with rebuilding efforts due to Harvey and Irma.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) found the not seasonally adjusted (NSA) national construction unemployment rate was 4.7% in September, which is down 0.5% from a year ago and is the second lowest September rate on record behind the 4.6% rate in September 2000. Construction unemployment rates were also down in 41 states on a year-over-year basis while rates rose in nine states, according to an Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) analysis. Furthermore, the construction industry employed 173,000 more workers than in September 2016.

The states with the lowest estimated NSA construction unemployment rates are

  1. Colorado, 2.3%
  2. Nebraska, 2.4%
  3. North Dakota, 2.5%
  4. Idaho, 3.1%
  5. Massachusetts and Wyoming (tie), 3.3%

The states with the highest estimated NSA construction unemployment rates are

  1. Pennsylvania and Rhode Island (tied), 6.3%
  2. Illinois, 6.7%
  3. Connecticut, 6.8%
  4. New Mexico, 8.2%
  5. Alaska, 10.4%

The outlook for construction job opportunities is exploding at the collegiate level as well. Virginia Tech held a job fair for their spring graduates in which construction firms were invited to meet the graduates. The response was so great, Virginia Tech had to turn away hiring firms due to capacity limits. During the job fair, each construction degree graduate received a minimum of five employment offers. Many people may not think of universities offering construction degrees but those fields on are the rise.

As the opportunities continue to expand in the construction industry, so does the training needs of each employee, contractor, and sub-contractor in the areas of safety and compliance. HB NEXT brings decades of experience to these employees and firms as they grow. The regulations and recordkeeping to keep projects compliant can be overwhelming and very costly if ignored. “At HB NEXT, our goal is to provide construction firms / general contractors with the tools to keep their employees safe, their records and data easily accessible in the field and help them stay compliant along their project. We do this over and over for firms nationwide and are very excited to see all of the opportunities opening up in the construction industry putting people back to work and enriching lives,” said Business Development Manager Tony Cann.

The HB NEXT Team offers expertise in safety orientations and safety manuals to kick off your next project with your new employees. HB NEXT is your number one partner for safety, environmental, training, software, and legal needs. Contact us today for more information.










Benefits of Incorporating Safety and Teambuilding Into Your Project Kickoff Meetings

Getting off on the right foot is important when construction firms begin new projects. When project expectations are not met, projects will have issues and disputes. Whether it is budget, schedule, or quality, it is critical all expectations are outlined as well as informing the crews of project-specific safety issues. Most Pre-Construction / Kickoff Meetings just cover the basics. Yet by enhancing these sessions, one can have a strong impact on the overall health of your future projects.

As with any new project utilizing temporary employees or subcontractors, getting personnel to work together as a team can also present some challenges. Collaboration, innovation, and creativity will flourish in an environment where teambuilding is fostered. These items are critical for maintaining the spirit and motivation required to keep projects moving forward. HB NEXT has developed an 8-hour Safety Training & Teambuilding Course designed for general contractors (GC) and their subcontractors. HB NEXT Training Manager Ryan Boling sees many benefits for offering this course at the beginning of a project. “The Safety Training & Teambuilding Course is beneficial for any general contractor or specialty contracting firm that is or will be working on a construction project with several trades / subcontractors,” said Boling.

“This course can serve as a project ‘kickoff’ meeting or as training for initial jobsite orientation, providing a consistent safety message. The course has been referred to by former trainees as a miniaturized version of an OSHA 10-hour course combined with several other custom curricula developed by HB NEXT. The class covers OSHA compliance, jobsite safety, soft skills, leadership, project management considerations, and more,” commented Boling.

Clients have reported seeing an increase in cooperation and cohesion amongst different trades on the job which, in turn, has a positive effect on productivity and morale. This course gives GC representatives / owner’s representatives a chance to meet face-to-face with the subcontractors who will be performing work on their jobs. Also, when utilized as, or, in conjunction with, a project kickoff meeting, it provides an opportunity for the tradespeople on the job a chance to meet each other in person, before working together on an active jobsite with several distractions and the ongoing pressures associated with meeting schedules / budgets.

This course discusses common problems that occur in the field and allows there to be an up-front discussion about the ways to handle them as a team. This gives the GCs a better chance at resolving job conflicts more effectively when they occur.

This course also incorporates all of the GC’s company / job specific safety requirements and rules. When offered by a GC, it helps to improve overall safety on the job, allowing subcontractors to gain an understanding of the GC’s specific job expectations before setting foot on the project. This means less potential for accidents, incidents, injuries, and problems associated with the jobsite safety and compliance with local, state and federal regulations.

HB NEXT is committed to serving construction firms through safety training, counsel, OSHA reporting and any environmental issues that may arise on the jobsite. Contact HB NEXT today to enhance your next pre-construction or project kickoff meeting.


Understanding OSHA 300 and Their New Changes

No one wants to see an accident or an injury occur on their jobsite, but the reality is they happen daily across the US. OSHA requires documentation when these accidents occur. The construction industry is expected to file OSHA 300 forms yearly. The new OSHA electronic record keeping applies to construction companies with 20 or more employees.  It requires them to electronically submit injury and illness incident data. Initially, the 300A summary form was to be submitted to OSHA electronically by July 1, 2017. This deadline has since changed to December 1, 2017. HB NEXT Safety Expert Jon Lovejoy explains a few key components of OSHA 300 Recordkeeping.

Q.  What are the OSHA 301, 300 & 300A reports?

A.  The 301 Form is an injury and illness incident report containing all pertinent information. This may be similar to a worker’s compensation first report of injury. OSHA 300 Form is an injury and illness recordkeeping log of work-related injuries and illnesses. The 300A Form is a yearly summary of statistics for work-related injuries and illnesses.

Q.  What are the new changes and deadlines for OSHA 300A?

A.  A new deadline for certain employers has been extended from July 1, 2017 to December 1, 2017. All construction companies with 20+ employees must submit their OSHA 300 A Summary electronically.

Q.  Who does it apply to?

A.  Establishments with 250 or more employees that are currently required to keep OSHA injury and illness records, and establishments with 20-249 employees that are classified in certain industries with historically high rates of occupational injuries and illnesses.

Here is a list of those companies:


Q.  What do these changes mean for the industry?

A.  This tells us that OSHA is embracing more automation and may be the first step in moving all recordkeeping information online. This is why many companies are moving towards electronic recordkeeping now.

Q.  What are the options for tracking accidents?

A.  OSHA offers guidelines at this Injury Tracking Application (https://www.osha.gov/injuryreporting/ita). HB NEXT has developed a for use comparable platform like OSHA which is called OSHA 300 Cloud. This platform is used by firms across the US to track their accidents and injuries. Email alerting, completion tracking and automatic missed workday calculations make it simple for a company to complete and submit required information quickly and accurately.

Ask HB NEXT for a demo on 300 Cloud. Start simplifying your OSHA 300 Recordkeeping process. HB NEXT is here to help construction firms stay compliant and increase profits. They offer safety training and software platforms to help your firm stay compliant. For more information on OSHA 300, take a look at  https://www.osha.gov/recordkeeping/finalrule/





Why Conduct a Safety Orientation?

Working in the construction industry, safety is critical to ensuring your employees go home to their families. Workers move from jobsite to another and often times, they’ll miss a Safety Orientation Training. According to the National Safety Council, in 2013 approximately one-third of the nonfatal occupational injuries or illnesses which involved time away from work were suffered by workers with less than one year on the job. Nearly one-quarter of those cases resulted in the employee losing 31 days of work. HB NEXT Safety Expert Jon Lovejoy explains a few key components of conducting a Safety Orientation.

Q.  Why do Orientations?

A.  Once an owner/employer decides to invest in his/her company’s safety program, it becomes more valuable and effective when employees are given the opportunity to learn what is actually in it. Orientations explain what the company policies are, but they should also be used to allow employees to ask why…oh, and by the way, it kills two birds…it’s training – document it.

Q.  Any legal requirements?

A.  There’s no real legal requirement, but OSHA does provide guidance for developing safety programs in accordance with its regulations and standards. Safety Programs must provide employee involvement. From understanding their responsibilities, to knowing what the rules are, feeling empowered to help improve the program, the Orientation is a good place to begin employee involvement.

Q.  What does it do for the employer and employee?

A.  For the employer, they’ll get a better ‘acknowledgment’ from employees by having them sign off…reduces the “you never told me that” situations.  For the employee, they’ll learn things they can do – and need to do – to help protect themselves and the company…like inspection documents, training sign-ins, disciplinary documents.

Q.  How can automating an orientation help the employer?

A.  It’s easy to ‘implement’ a safety program for the entire company, all at once, if everyone can be brought in at one time…automation helps with consistent and cost-effective delivery in different locations, as well as with each new-hire.

Ask HB NEXT for your guidance for conducting your next Safety Orientation. Don’t miss the opportunity to engage with your employees and ensure they’ll return home safe after a day’s work. If you need assistance with creating or automating your Safety Orientation or creating your Safety Manual to have an orienation, please contact HB NEXT.

Staying Safe In Flood Debris Removal

As the U.S. enters the hurricane season, many people begin to volunteer their time trying to make a difference and help their community. It is important as cleanup efforts are underway across the U.S., the employers and workers stop and evaluate a flood situation before debris removal begins. By taking this time and having one conversation with your team, you can prevent further accidents & incidents and keep everyone safe.

OSHA has issued the following steps as a protocol when working in a flood area.

  • Conduct pre-incident disaster response planning and ensure that emergency workers know the plan.
  • Assess the workplace to determine if hazards are present or are likely to be present.
  • Provide protective equipment to prevent slips, trips and falls including:
    • Foot Protection (e.g., steel toe work boots)
    • Heavy Duty Gloves
    • Head protection
    • Personal fall protection
    • Long pants
    • Shirts with 4’’ sleeves
  • Train workers to identify hazards, including those that require protective equipment, and how to prevent accidents & incidents
  • Be on the lookout for dangerous animals. It’s very common for hurricanes to displace wildlife. This includes: snakes, insects, rodents, and alligators.

Here are some other ways to prevent slips, trips and falls.

  • Where possible, avoid walking on wet/slippery surfaces; wipe off the bottom of wet footwear
  • Use flashlights or helmet lights to stay clear of holes or floor openings, wet or slippery surfaces, and debris or equipment
  • Do not step on any surface until you have visually inspected it to ensure there are no holes or weak spots and that it can support workers and their equipment
  • Never carry equipment or loads in your hands when climbing ladders
  • Wear backpacks and tool belts to hold equipment and keep both hands free
  • Use fall protection when walking or performing emergency response activities near unprotected edges of elevated surfaces
  • Use communication devices, particularly hands-free devices, for contacting employers/incident commanders and other workers about slip, trip and fall hazards

HB NEXT is here to keep your workers safe and provide training and consulting in flood situations. Flooding due to hurricanes is not typically an item included in a company’s safety manual. Therefore, companies do not typically train their workers on how to recognize and prevent these hazards. Your jobsites might get flooded, and you need to take proper action to prevent accidents and incidents. Ask HB NEXT for assistance as you try to keep your company compliant. Contact HB NEXT today if you need any help. Please be safe this hurricane season.

Gearing for Success through Training and Education

Skilled tradespeople are becoming rare commodities in our nation’s workforce. There are though career opportunities galore available for capable, trainable individuals who can be developed into future skilled tradesmen and tradeswomen. Outside of having a passion for your trade and possessing the right work ethic, what makes these opportunities more readily available -both in the short-term and long-term- is training; industry and job-specific training, which often results in credentialing, and/or certification. Today, many students view the culmination of their high school or college careers as the ‘light at the end of the (educational) tunnel’. “I’ve put my time in, and now, I’m done with learning!” Sound familiar? What many fail to realize though, is the process of learning and growing as both a person and a professional, is ongoing. It does not end with earning a diploma or degree.

Training is a process, not an event.

Regardless of whether you are preparing for a career in the power industry, construction, automotive repair, criminal justice or cosmetology, you will require some training or continuing education in order to obtain a job, maintain a job, and ultimately, to advance within a career. You will have to be trained how to perform your duties safely and in compliance with government regulations, all while adhering to your organization’s written policies. Professionals don’t have the luxury of ignoring the requirement for continuing education- just ask any doctor, lawyer, accountant or other licensed professional you happen to meet. You’ll soon learn that even with all the knowledge you’ve obtained thus far, changes will invariably occur in business. Technology will advance, methodologies will be redefined, existing laws will be amended, new laws will be enacted, and you will require training to interpret these changes and maintain current education levels in your area of expertise.

In today’s economic and legal landscape, companies simply cannot afford to not provide training to their employees. In various industries like construction, manufacturing, or transportation, where there can be a high degree of danger involved in the day-to-day operations, a lack of training can quickly result in serious injuries, illnesses or even fatalities. The collateral (financial) damage that results from these incidents, can sometimes be significant enough to force a company to permanently close their doors for business. It is the existence and prevalence of such danger in the workplace, that makes training such a high priority not only for companies but also, for governmental agencies like the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). They are legally responsible for both setting and enforcing safety and health standards for the workplace. Without training, sadly productivity suffers and accidents happen. People get hurt unnecessarily and companies end up losing hard-earned money that could have otherwise been spent on employee incentives, pay increases or other worthwhile investments. In the end, nobody wins in the absence of training.

As you learn and grow in life as well as in your career, you will begin to see through the ups and downs, good times, bad times, trials and tribulations, training regularly occurs along the way. It doesn’t always occur in the workplace or in a classroom setting. Training can come from a teacher, relative, family friend or another party that’s interested in your overall success. Do yourself and your future industry a favor; take full advantage of training and educational opportunities when they are presented to you. They won’t always come free of charge. Pay close attention to the lessons being taught by your instructors, superiors, community leaders and elders. Apply them to your work and everyday life where appropriate. If you pay really close attention, you’ll realize that all of us – as inhabitants of this planet Earth – have been surrounded by ‘trainers’ and have been ‘training’ in some form or fashion, for our whole lives. Sometimes, we just have to open our ears and listen a little more closely to recognize the lessons when they’re being offered.

HB NEXT offers training and certification in a variety of OSHA safety areas. Let HB NEXT come to your jobsite and prepare your crew. HB NEXT also offers a workforce ready training division. Take a look at their workforce development success. Ask HB NEXT today for your training solution.


By: Ryan Boling, Training Operations Manager