EPA Makes Strides in Monitoring Stormwater Systems

In the United States, raw sewage overflows and inadequately controlled stormwater discharges from municipal sewer systems sending a variety of harmful pollutants, disease causing organisms, metals and nutrients that threaten our communities’ water quality.  This can also cause beach and shellfish bed closings, stream flooding along with basement backups of sewage.  Through the Clean Water Act, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had a goal by the end of 2016 to visit 213 systems addressing large combined sewer systems with untreated sewage overflows.  Large municipal combined sewer systems are those serving a population > 50,000 people.  At FY 2016, they had visited 203 systems.  They also had a goal to address large sanitary sewer systems with untreated sewage overflow.  The goal was to visit 1103 systems by FY 2016.  They’ve completed 964 systems.  Large municipalities whose sanitary sewer systems produce > 10 million gallons per day (mgd) of waterwater.

It is imperative those working on construction projects or with situations that can impede water drainage or sewer drainage, special preventive measures are taken to ensure responsibility is shown to prevent harmful pollutants from threatening a community’s water quality.  Pavement and roofs prevent rain from naturally soaking into the ground.  Therefore, the water runs off into storm drains, sewer systems and drainage ditches.  This can cause the following

  • Downstream flooding
  • Stream bank erosion
  • Increased turbidity (muddiness created by stirred up sediment) from erosion
  • Habitat destruction
  • Combined storm and sanitary sewer system overflows
  • Infrastructure damage
  • Contaminated streams, rivers and coastal water

On October 27, 2016, EPA’s Green Infrastructure Program released a draft guide, toolkit and technical assistance promoting a comprehensive, community planning approach to managing stormwater.  These are community solutions for voluntary long-term stormwater planning.   This toolkit will include technical and financing resources to walk communities through the long-term stormwater planning process provided in the Community Solutions for the Stormwater Management Guide.

The EPA is developing long-term stromwater plans to serve as a national model in the following areas:

  • Burlington, Iowa
  • Chester, Pennsylvania
  • Hattiesburg, Mississippi
  • Rochester, New Hampshire
  • Santa Fe, New Mexico

The EPA hopes early and effective stormwater planning and management will provide a significant impact for long-term cost savings while supporting human health and water quality.

HB NEXT provides compliance training and management services for stormwater projects.  Understanding the challenges and the solutions for stormwater is critical to keeping your project on track and under budget. Contact HB NEXT today for more information.

Source:  United States Environmental Protection Agency Enforcement and Planning Division

Do You Know the Standards for OSHA and Confined Spaces?


In today’s construction industry, safety on the job is often at forefront of our minds; largely due to the dangerous nature of our work. While tremendous focus will rightfully continue to be placed on injuries and fatalities that arise from the construction industry’s biggest hazards (falls, electrical, struck-by and caught-in-between accidents), we cannot lose sight of the dangers around us that may be less obvious, hidden, or even invisible.

When considering confined spaces and the immediate threats they pose on the job, it is easy to underestimate the dangers associated with entering or working inside of them. Reported deaths related to confined space accidents are generally few and far between; making it even easier for workers to miscalculate a potential for danger. While knowledge of a lack of (frequent) workplace accidents can lead to a false sense of security with a worker, employers must be diligent in ensuring they don’t fall victim to the same “It won’t happen to me” type of mentality.

Prior to the announcement of OSHA’s new Confined Space Standard, the only requirement for the construction industry as it related to confined spaces was training. Even with training as a requirement for employers across the general industry, the injuries and fatalities associated with confined space work in construction continue to occur. After several years of tallying injury and fatality statistics related to confined space operations failed to indicate a positive correlation between safety training and the reduction of workplace accidents. OSHA concluded that a change was warranted for the construction industry. This change, which is now fully outlined in Title 29 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Part 1926 (29 CFR 1926) Subpart AA, highlights several new responsibilities for employers; some of which will apply regardless of whether work is being performed in the construction industry or general industry.

The Big Picture 

The existing confined space standard only requires employers to train their workers who will be exposed to hazards. This effectively exempts employers from having to possess a lot of knowledge about confined space safety. This could include knowledge of requirements for confined space access / egress, testing of atmospheric conditions and methods for worker rescue or retrieval.

The new standard will require employers to better educate themselves before allowing their employees to work in confined spaces. When it comes to safety on the job as it relates to accident prevention, employers will not have the luxury of claiming ignorance to the rules.

Under 29 CFR 1926 Subpart AA, employers must be cognizant of the types of confined spaces their workers are exposed to (manhole, silo, pipe, tunnel, trench, etc.), the potential hazards inside, methods for eliminating those hazards and the applicable rescue procedures. It is also now incumbent upon employers to determine the type of training their employees receive as it relates to confined space operations. This will be one of the greatest areas of vulnerability for employers regarding this new standard, as employers have no one with whom they can share responsibility for work-related accidents. Employers can no longer just purchase training materials for confined space safety, throw a group of employees into a room for a day to watch videos and be satisfied that they have adequately prepared those employees for the hazards that can potentially be encountered in their work.

Regardless of whether the training given to employees is good, bad, compliant, noncompliant, or anywhere in between, ultimately, the responsibility (and liability) now lies with the employer to ensure the correct type of training is delivered to their workers. General confined space training may or may not be sufficient for a company’s needs.

So, what’s next and what does this mean for my company?   

The new confined space standard became effective for all employers on August 3, 2015. There is no grace period for compliance with this new standard. Employers need to be aware of this for confined space terminology, their new responsibilities under the standard and any updates or changes to their company safety documentation. This documentation could include corporate safety manuals, emergency procedures or training materials.

Those who are responsible for safety on construction job sites understand that as a project evolves, the conditions and hazards on the job change along with it. One segment of a job may introduce a vault, pit or boiler as a confined space where another job segment will introduce an excavation that’s over six feet in depth. One confined space may require an entry permit or specialized equipment where another does not. Employers will now have the challenge of not only selecting the proper training for their workers but also ensuring that the training they select encompasses all potential hazards and requirements for the work to be performed. In many circumstances, this could include supplemental training for a job site’s foremen, supervisors or competent persons in rescue procedures / equipment, ladders, trench safety or even fall protection safety.                                   

Understanding different types of confined spaces, the hazards associated with confined spaces and the legal requirements that bind employers is the key to ensuring compliance with OSHA’s new standard for Confined Spaces in Construction. Educating your employees will go a long way towards keeping them safe and will help to protect your company against regulatory citations resulting from noncompliance.

Contact HB NEXT for more information concerning this standard. HB NEXT is your #1 partner for construction service support. Did you know HB NEXT offers Legal Services to keep your company out of the courtroom with violations?

By: Ryan Boling, HB NEXT




hb next construction safety compliance

Handling Heat Related Challenges

Don’t put your employees at risk working in the heat this summer. Take some preventive measures from HB NEXT to avoid a workplace incident on your construction jobsite. Did you know the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has several guidelines for working in the heat, and what to do if there is a heat related incident on your jobsite?

Heat not only can cause heat stroke, it can also cause heat exhaustion and a heat rash or heat stress.  It can increase accidents and injuries when working outside due to sweaty palms, fogged-up safety glasses along with dizziness.  These symptoms can increase job injuries. Workers who are overweight, have heart disease or high blood pressure can be at a greater risk of heat stroke.

Heat stroke occurs when the body becomes unable to control its temperature. This can cause death or permanent disability. Normally, heat injuries occur when the body hits 104 degrees Fahrenheit.

Symptoms of Heat Stroke

  • High body temperature
  • Confusion
  • Loss of coordination
  • Hot, dry skin or profuse sweating
  • Throbbing headache
  • Seizures
  • Coma

First Aid for Heat Stroke

  • Call 911
  • If possible, move worker to a cool place
  • Remove excess clothing
  • Apply cool water to the body

When workers work outside, NIOSH recommends working shorter shifts until the employee is truly acclimated. When employees take time off or go on vacation, upon their return to work, the employee should take extra precaution when working back in the heat. Employees should return fully rested, alert, hydrated and have shorter shifts until they are acclimated back to the hot environment. When working in dangerous areas or elevated areas on a construction site, employees should have a designated buddy to ask how they are doing throughout the day. Taking time to cool down frequently is also recommended and wearing light breathable clothing.

Heat Exhaustion can also occur on a jobsite. It is important workers know the difference between heat stroke and heat exhaustion.

Heat Exhaustion Symptoms

  • Rapid heart beat
  • Heavy sweating
  • Extreme weakness or fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Slightly elevated body temperature
  • Fast, shallow breathing

First Aid for Heat Exhaustion

  • Lay the person down and elevate the legs and feet slightly
  • Remove heavy clothing
  • Drink cool water
  • Take a cool shower
  • Cool the person down by spraying them or a cool water sponge

Protecting your employees during the hot summer months is critical to job safety and employees’ health. The HB NEXT Safety Team is filled with experts to help you on your jobsite with summer heat challenges. Contact HB NEXT today and find ways to solve your heat challenges.



hb next workforce development

HB NEXT Congratulates Bermuda Graduates

HB NEXT would like to congratulate nine individuals from the country of Bermuda for successfully completing the HB NEXT seven-week NCCER Structural Steel Ironworker training program. Bermuda is experiencing a tremendous boom in their construction projects and has a work-force shortage of skilled and credentialed workers. Officials in Bermuda asked HB NEXT to train their citizens for careers in construction. Bermuda officials project 30% of those unemployed will be able to join this program. Now HB NEXT will expand their course offers and will begin working with the local university in Bermuda to provide entry-level training and skills. The program will expand to offer trade skills in areas such as drywall, carpentry, reinforcement steel and other essential construction specialties.

“With these credentials, HB NEXT has given us, now I think I’m in a better position to provide for my family and for that, I’m grateful,“ commented student Barry Walkes. Students attended class daily and trained receiving practical hands-on experience at jobsites in various areas ensuring they had a thorough understanding of the skills. “As we worked through it, I could see the confidence building every week. When they got here, they came in as nine individuals. Today, they leave as a team. They became a strong group over the course of seven weeks. They are going to do great things in the construction industry,” said Raymond Scott, Senior Instructor / Consultant.

HB NEXT is known nationally as the number one partner for compliance and construction support services. With over 200 years of experience, the teams at HB NEXT are experts in safety, environmental, training, software and utility services. HB NEXT has received awards for their metro Atlanta-based workforce development Construction Ready Program.

Contact HB NEXT for more information about their training services.

safety manual

Safety Manuals: The Backbone of Company Safety

Most of what a young person hears growing up in the construction industry today is, “Safety is #1! Safety is #1! Safety is #1!” While it is hard to disagree, any seasoned veteran will tell you that Budget, Schedule, and Quality are also important – if you want to stay in business.

Let’s all be honest, when the economy suffered and many companies were just trying to survive, they tossed off excess weight so they could stay afloat. Unfortunately, sometimes company safety fell into this boat.

Today, regulatory compliance officers are back in full force. We see more citations and more citations PER INSPECTION. Now whenever OSHA shows up, it’s not just about whether the site or location is safe and whether safety is present or not. Now, compliance officers are digging into all the paperwork and procedures of the companies they inspect. Safety Manuals are one of the most overlooked items by companies. When you have to dust off the safety manual when the OSHA compliance officer walks through the door, you’re likely in trouble. Don’t feel bad, because you aren’t the only one.

The safety manual is the backbone of a company’s safety culture and processes. Everything stems from it. It used to be the best manual was the one that made the biggest “thud” when you dropped it on a desk. Now, what is excluded is equally as important as what is included. If you have excess material in your safety manual, you’re placing your company at risk for potential civil charges when accidents occur.

The importance of customizing safety manuals cannot and should not be underestimated. With the increase in Federal and State requirements, your safety manual needs to convey a clear representation of the business functions you are performing.

Custom safety manuals are more likely to meet the requirements of Federal and State OSHA regulations.

Custom safety manuals should include standard information, plus your industry-specific and job-specific information. It includes but is not limited to Safety Policies & Procedures, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) requirements, a Training Prescription for all of your employees, and all forms of proper safety documentation.

Now, back to the “Safety is #1” statement…

Safety is #1. There is a difference between safety and compliance. Safety is what we do on the job to ensure we are protecting our employees from harm. Compliance entails the steps we take to ensure we are in accordance with Federal, State, and “Company” laws and regulations.

Compliance is where many companies are struggling, and it is where regulatory agencies focus their efforts. Even though companies are being safe on the job, high-dollar fines are still being issued to companies for being out of compliance. You see, without a safety manual tailored to your specific business operation, there is little to no proof of compliance. The safety manual is the most critical piece. It is where company compliance standards are set and processes are laid out.

Finally, do not forget about documented enforcement, i.e. – employee reprimands or other written methods of performance management for failure to follow safety policy. Without enforcement, a safety manual is barely worth the paper it’s printed on.

So, when was the last time you took a good look at your manual? Let HB NEXT help you get your safety manual in compliance. Ask HB NEXT.

– Tony Cann

Business Development Manager, HB NEXT

HB NEXT Expands Workforce Development to Bermuda

HB NEXT Expands Workforce Development to Bermuda

Atlanta, GA:  HB NEXT, a construction compliance and support services firm, is excited to announce they have been asked by Bermudian workforce development government officials to train citizens for careers in construction. Bermuda is working on many important construction projects, including a new international airport, with projects for new hotels and a new convention center not far behind. In response to these needs, HB NEXT is deploying a seven-week program for structural steel/ironworker training, which will aid in creating a sustainable construction workforce in Bermuda.  Upon conclusion of the structural ironworking program this summer, HB NEXT will then set course towards the expansion of their award-winning, metro Atlanta-based workforce development program Construction Ready. They will work closely with a local university in Bermuda to provide entry-level training and skills for new construction workers.  Seeking to replicate the workforce development efforts and the example set by the Construction Ready program, Bermuda is looking to HB NEXT to train and develop their local college educators; these, in turn, will train students in preparation for placement into entry-level construction opportunities on the island.

Bermuda’s population is approximately 65,000 people, with an unemployment rate of 6%.  The country is going through a rapid construction boom.  Projections indicate over 400 available jobs on the international airport project alone.  With HB NEXT’s Workforce Development Programs, Bermuda residents will be able to learn a skill, earn credentials and become readily employable in the construction industry.  Bermudian officials project that 30% of those unemployed will be able to join this program.  This will reduce the unemployment rate and enable the use of (local) skilled labor for the ongoing development and maintenance of their communities.

Bermuda’s Minister of Home Affairs, the Hon. Patricia Gordon-Pamplin, commented, “This is another initiative that the Department of Workforce Development and the Construction Association of Bermuda have successfully implemented to equip and train Bermudians for jobs in the industry.  Based on the findings of the team, it was determined that more local credentialed Structural Steel Erectors are required in Bermuda. This opportunity serves to minimize the issuance of work permits over time. Upon completion of the program, participants will be in a stronger position to apply for work opportunities. The demand for credentialed professionals today is unprecedented.  Local and overseas organizations are placing greater emphasis on the importance of certifications. These individuals will undoubtedly become pace-setters and role models to their peers in the industry.“

As the HB NEXT program grows among citizens in Bermuda, it will expand into other trade skill areas such as drywall, carpentry, reinforcement steel and other essential construction specialties.  HB NEXT CEO Mark Hornbuckle commented, “We are very excited and honored to assist the country of Bermuda with bringing our Workforce Development Program to their country.  It is great to see this program change people’s lives and communities grow together.  Our team will work to ensure these students are trained and equipped with the necessary skills and safety training to perform their job with confidence and quality work. We’ve been successful here in the Atlanta metro area training people and placing them into construction jobs.  We know our formula can be successful in Bermuda as well.”

HB NEXT is known nationally as the number one partner for compliance and construction support services.  With over 200 years of experiences, the teams at HB NEXT are experts in safety, environmental, training and utility services.  They offer compliance software and legal services to keep your projects compliant and on track.  HB NEXT is a strong force in training and expanding workforce development programs.

To learn more about HB NEXT, visit:  www.hbnext.com


Staying Ahead of the Shrinking Workforce

Staying Ahead of the Regulatory Curve and the Role of Workforce Development in the Future of the Construction Industry

The construction industry’s growing shortage of skilled craft workers during the past two decades is well documented. While many studies indicate economic factors as the root cause of this issue, the decreasing availability of industry related workforce development such as high school and other craft/trade instruction programs, as well the stigma of not attaining a four-year college degree, have also played a major role. The growing problems with our secondary and higher education infrastructure are a completely different subject for later discussion.

The construction industry workforce development was born out of the necessity for companies to strategically plan for the replacement of their aging and retiring workforce. Traditionally, the journeymen taught the apprentice everything from the craft to what you needed to watch out for from a safety perspective. When the journeymen retired, the apprentice carried on the work and over time the cycle repeated. Most apprentices learned how to do their jobs not necessarily through the corporate safety manual or other corporate based education/training or regulatory code manuals. They learned in the same way their bosses did in the ‘good old days’ … they were mentored by the journeyman and eventually became a journeyman themselves.

Up until recently, construction companies’ requirements or failures for implementing occupational safety did not necessarily render the company or individual (financially) responsible to their federal or local government. Projects had to be executed quickly and often times the focus on workplace safety and/or other regulatory compliance took a backseat to increasing profits. As the growing consumer advocates and both federal and state governments drive massive expansion of the regulatory environment (from job related safety to financial reporting and tax) the complexion of the construction and other industries workforce compliance requirements have changed drastically.

Current construction projects must be profitable in order to sustain the industry and support growth across this nation. These companies must operate in an ever evolving and complex web of regulatory requirements under OSHA, the Department of Labor, the Department of Health and Human Services, etc. Unfortunately, “higher education” institutions traditionally focus on the four-year degree programs geared towards business management, marketing, accounting and do not produce highly specialized and skilled workers that  the construction and other industries need to actually do “the work”. Workforce development through revamped high school or youth related programs (i.e.: SkillsUSA and CEFGA), as well as restructured technical college programs or private company education/training (i.e. NCCER based) are the only way to successfully replenish our retiring workforce. Fortunately, formal workforce development programs like those listed above are again emerging as the standard.

With increased regulatory/compliance enforcement, rapidly advancing construction related technologies and the rate of workforce retirement, the need for skilled craft workers is greater than it has ever been. The recent economic crisis that formally began in 2008 did not help as many skilled workers in construction were forced to find work elsewhere and have left the construction industry altogether. Uncertainty and doubt have exacerbated the development gap in skilled workers as young talent willing and able to assume future careers in construction have continued to rely on a college degree for “better” and more secure job opportunities. Many of these college graduates are beginning to see that some of their contemporaries who, for example, chose to become a welder under a corporate sponsored training program are not only easily able to find work, but they’re making significantly more per year than most college graduates. The welder is also not saddled with the average $60,000 in college loans that postgraduates now faces. With the expectation that the industry’s skilled workforce shortage will get worse before seeing tangible signs of improvement, companies should act now on “strengthening their bench” with a plan to stay ahead of an ever-changing regulatory curve.

So, how do you stay ahead of the curve?

Having a substantial pool of skilled, credentialed craft workers is mission critical to the longevity and success of the construction industry. This requires careful planning. Education, credentialing and compliance are among the chief weapons at a company’s disposal to combat an impending deficit of skilled craft workers in an industry that is both highly demanding and dangerous.

Here are some simple truths we must face.

  • Regulations require employers to reasonably educate, but also to continuously update their employees on all aspects of the activities in which they are expected to engage. Failure to comply with industry regulation is a very effective method for disposing of a company’s hard-earned profits.
  • Worker requirements in the construction industry are ever changing. With the advent of technology platforms such as ISNetworld, Owners and Contractors are now requiring proof of or certification based training for other qualifiers for specific job/project consideration. As a result, companies are now requiring credentialed craft and/or management training to qualify personnel for not only advancement opportunities within their own organizations, but also on job opportunities for those outside the organization. Credentialed training offers nationwide recognition and portability of acquired skills that many otherwise legitimate training courses cannot and historically, have not been able to provide.

On the surface, a successful formula for keeping ahead of the curve seems pretty simple since everything is clearly spelled out, right? … WRONG! Educating the workforce through credential based training, follows a sea of complex rules and regulations from OSHA, DOL, HHS, IRS, etc. Then, add the demands of meeting the budget in an economy that puts more and more pressure on profit margins, maintaining quality control and have absolutely no accidents on the jobsite is a daunting prospect!

Positioning your organization for success has become an uphill battle. To economically overcome these hurdles, workforce development must be carefully planned, highly organized and efficient from a time and cost perspective. When a company assumes the cost paying an employee to attend job-specific training, paying for that training and absorbing lost productivity of that employee as a result, there must be a benefit to recouping that “investment”. This is one of the main reasons why credentialing will play such an instrumental role in the way companies develop and retain their workers moving forward.

Innovations in construction based education and training are making it possible for companies to find and hire talented candidates from different age groups and with varied skill sets. These candidates are developed into productive members of the industry. Many credentialed can also be converted into college credits. Apprenticeship programs are also gaining popularity as they offer a blended approach of classroom instruction and practical application of learned skills and competencies. Earnings-conscious employers are realizing the long-term benefits of having their employees take a vested interest in their personal growth and marketability which these apprenticeship programs help to accomplish. Incidentally, apprenticeship programs can and should include credentialed curricula.

The threat of a prolonged workforce shortage is real but does not have to be reality. Given all this, there are several questions you need to ask yourself while preparing for the future.

  1. What is your plan for educating your employees in a changing industry?
  2. How will you keep your company profitable and in regular compliance with increased regulatory enforcement on the horizon?
  3. How will your company prepare for the expected drought of available skilled workers?

Answers to these questions are critical to your business survival during a potentially tumultuous period for the construction industry. Again, staying “ahead of the curve” requires advanced preparation/planning and a cogent strategy. The most important requirement is having an educated, compliant, continually developing and stable “bench”/workforce.

– Mark Hornbuckle


What is NCCER?

NCCER is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) education foundation created in 1996 as The National Center for Construction Education and Research. It was developed with the support of more than 125 construction CEOs and various association and academic leaders who united to revolutionize training for the construction industry. Sharing the common goal of developing a safe and productive workforce, these companies created a standardized training and credentialing program for the industry. This progressive program has evolved into curricula for more than 70 craft areas and a complete series of more than 70 assessments offered in over 4,000 NCCER-accredited training and assessment locations across the United States.

How NCCER helps you

NCCER develops standardized construction and maintenance curricula and assessments with portable credentials. These credentials are tracked through the NCCER registry allowing organizations and companies to track the qualifications of their craft professionals and/or check the qualifications of possible new hires. NCCER’s registry also assists craft professionals by maintaining their records in a secure database.

NCCER’s workforce development process of accreditation, instructor certification, standardized curriculum, registry, assessment and certification is a key component in the industry’s workforce development efforts. NCCER also drives multiple initiatives to enhance career development and recruitment efforts for the industry.

HB NEXT instructors are NCCER certified. Don’t risk your training to individuals who can’t deliver the best safety and compliance training programs to your crews.

Which Training Style Is Right For You?

HB NEXT is proud to offer two different training styles to accommodate your individual or company’s preferences and needs. All training is done in a face-to-face manner, in-person classes.

Benefits for Public Classes

  • Most popular courses are offered
  • Open enrollment class options from a posted class schedule
  • Great option for additional individual training
  • Cost effective for a few attendees

Benefits for Booking a Private Class

  • Small groups or large groups
  • Private classes may tailor a specific  subject matter towards your crew.
  • Client may pick date and location
  • Typically the price is lower (Classes are priced in groups up to 10, up to 15 etc.)

How does your company utilize a rainy day? Reserve rainy days for your employees to receive training. Ask HB NEXT for a list of classes that you may reserve.