Avoiding Friendly Fire on the Job: Understanding the Risks Posed by an Undertrained Workforce

When budgets get tight -and let’s face it, most of us have experienced that crunch at one point or another- we naturally start looking for ways to curtail our spending and to eliminate those expenses we deem non-essential, or, just unnecessary altogether.

Nothing triggers the need for a detailed analysis of a company’s finances quite like a blown budget, or, an unexpected loss of revenue / profit can. In construction, budgets are often tight; and, as a result, decisions have to be made frequently that force leaders to make difficult choices between multiple necessities that, of course, are not exactly budget-friendly.

So, what happens then?

Historically (in times of lesser economic prosperity), safety and training-related expenses have been among the first line items on a budget to undergo some type of change. Sometimes, those changes are small, insignificant… Other times, change can represent a total departure from the spending allocated to those expenses and expenditures which are generally considered essential to a construction company’s day-to-day operations. In an industry that suffers from hundreds of fatalities -and even more injuries- annually, can companies really afford to short-fund their budgets for safety and training? Well, surprisingly, the answer is yes; and, depending on who else you ask, the answer is also a resounding NO.

Training in the construction industry can be both economical and budget-friendly; but it is rarely inexpensive for companies to train their employees. When considering the cost of hiring a certified or credentialed trainer, productivity loss (from the workers being out of the office or field) and the cost of paying employees to physically attend training, a company sometimes has to decide whether that safety course is an immediate must-have; or, if maybe it can wait for a while. And, until disaster strikes, that’s (normally) a safe gamble. Until it isn’t…

An undertrained workforce is a potentially unsafe workforce.

In an economic climate where time equals money, construction companies have the exceedingly difficult challenge of meeting intense budget and scheduling demands, while keeping everyone safe; and, without cutting any corners on quality or compliance.

While many of the construction trades offer thorough and ongoing task training for their workforce -which includes some trade-specific safety- that training is often, unfortunately, not focused on compliance with the safety regulations applicable to our industry. This sometimes leads to companies adopting a false sense of security with regard to the training they offer to their personnel. Because turnover in the industry can often force the need for a new associate’s training to be fast-tracked, companies will often pair new laborers with technician or journey-level craftspeople to help those new associates get ‘up to speed’. A common result of crash-course training such as this, is that associates will learn the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of their tasks and responsibilities; but will often neglect -until later- to learn the ‘why’. And, in construction, not knowing the ‘whys’ behind a task can be potentially dangerous; and sometimes, even fatal. The buddy system, while proven successful over time, does have limits to its effectiveness as it relates to educating around accident prevention. Quite simply, you can’t be effectively prepared to manage hazards that you haven’t been trained to recognize, avoid, or eliminate.

Ignorance of the rules is never an acceptable excuse.

While many knowledge gaps can be addressed for workers by spending time with and observing a skilled technician or journeyperson at work, there must be some formal, structured classroom training to supplement and reinforce the training offered on-the-job. As the old saying goes: if it isn’t documented, it didn’t happen.  In the case of unsafe acts / conditions that lead to injuries or fatalities on the job, a lack of job or task-specific knowledge resulting in the harm (or, death) of a worker can be ruinously expensive for a company that is otherwise financially healthy. As many companies are recognizing this and are starting to be proactive in providing essential training for their employees, many companies are still training their employees reactively; and, only when faced with suspended work or legal action, do they really start taking it seriously.

Beware of (and, supportive of) the Newly-Hired Employee

New employees -often being eager to please, and, to demonstrate their value to a company- can inadvertently help or harm a company with their individual level(s) of training (or, lack thereof). Most of us know what it feels like to be asked a question that we don’t know the answer to; but at the same time, not wanting to appear unknowledgeable in front of a group of our peers and/or superiors. And because of this fear, with the nod of a head, many of us at some point in life, have openly proclaimed our knowledge of an unfamiliar task, topic, or rule as if we’ve known it for years. It a bad habit that unfortunately can be exhibited by new employees and seasoned employees alike.

People seldom seek opportunities to be publicly identified as someone who doesn’t know what most everyone else in the room already knows. This can be tolerated somewhat in low-risk environments (take classrooms, for example) where the likelihood of danger to a person’s life or health is not high. In construction, there are potential dangers to life and health at seemingly every turn. Consider confined spaces in construction, which is largely considered a safety-sensitive topic. In a classroom, if an instructor asks a trainee if they know what constitutes oxygen-rich and oxygen-deficientin a confined space -and that trainee replied, “yes”, but truthfully, did not know- regardless of whether that trainee knew what those terms meant, there’s a good chance that their life or health wouldn’t be threatened in that classroom due to their lack of knowledge with regard to confined spaces. Now, let’s say that same trainee goes to work the next week, and is asked by his or her supervisor to enter a confined space on a job site. Let’s also assume that this trainee still does not have a clear understanding of how oxygen levels in a confined space affect entry requirements; but, being eager to please, jumps right in the confined space to perform his or her work without testing or ventilating the atmosphere prior. A traditional four-function calculator might be insufficient in helping your Safety Director compute the different ways things could go wrong in that scenario… See the difference?

In conclusion, untrained or undertrained workers can be as much of a danger to themselves, as they are to the people around them. New associates who learn things the wrong way, may end up becoming leaders in your company who teach others to do the same. The couple to few thousand dollars a company might save in foregoing training for their associates will pale in comparison to the potentially several thousand to millions of dollars a company may stand to pay out, in OSHA penalties and legal settlements following a major injury or fatality that occurred on their watch. Responses in a court case such as, “I didn’t know” or, “I was never told about that”, are more likely to significantly harm one’s legal defense, than they are to help it. Try seeing what reaction you might get from a compliance officer, prosecutor, judge, or parent of a child that died on your job, when you claim ignorance or attempt to rationalize why you never sufficiently trained your personnel. Or, you can choose to be proactive-

HB NEXT 2018 – A YEAR IN REVIEW

2018 proved to another great year for HB NEXT. Tony Middlebrooks, President and Co-Founder of HB NEXT, reflect on the year that saw changes and growth across all 7 of the companies operating business units.

“I want to personally thank our customers and our staff for what has turned out to be another 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.”

In 2018, we continued to demonstrate to our customers and the market, how HB NEXT brings together expert labor and deep industry knowledge enabled with real-time data and technology to deliver innovative solutions to our construction, utility and general industry customers. At the core of everything we do is Sequence, our SaaS (Software as a Service) technology platform which powers all of HB NEXT’s professional services and operations. Additionally, HB NEXT licenses various industry specific versions of Sequence directly to end-use customers and service-based companies throughout the US.

As one of the nation’s premier cloud-based solutions for construction and general industry, our SequenceSM Software products have continued to evolve rapidly in 2018.

To enhance our professional services and deliver unique data tools to our clients, HB NEXT has upgraded the internal software solutions that we use in our daily operations.

Additionally, we have expanded our Software offerings to include four subscription-based products (SafetyCloud, StormCloud, OSHA 300 Cloud, and CMT Cloud). As we move into 2019, these products are set to emerge as the preferred SaaS solutions for construction and general industry.

Beyond our Software Services, HB NEXT has 7 business units that bring together the power of SequenceSMwith years of hands-on industry experience to help our clients works smarter, safer and cheaper. The 7 business units are: Safety, Environmental, Training, Legal, Energy Solutions, EMC Green, and Erosion Control (specifically in Northeast Florida). Each of these business units work together across clients and industries allowing HB NEXT to offer construction, general industry and power utility customers an unparalleled set of technology enabled services.

Our Safety business unit’s unique Compliance Partner Program (CPP) that provides turnkey outsourced safety, saw a growth of nearly 50% in 2018. In this program, HB NEXT virtually manages a company’s safety program at a fraction of the cost of traditional in-house management. The compliance partner program brings together software, field & professional services, legal, and training to create an affordable bundled package that saves our customers money while giving them more safety tools and resources. Aside from this, we continue to service commercial, general industry, and residential clients with mock OSHA Inspections, loss control, full-time on-site safety services, and safety program development, implementation & updates. 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, manufacturing companies, and large residential contractors. Overall in 2018, our Safety business helped over 500 companies improve employee safety and reduce the cost of on-the-job incidents and accidents.

The Environmental business unit continues to support some of the largest national homebuilders, plus many other companies in the US, providing weekly and in some cases daily NPDES inspections and SWPPP preparation. 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 six workforce development programs in full swing. As of December 2018, almost 1000 students have been trained and credentialed through the Construction Ready Program, and we’ve placed 930 into full-time, entry level jobs, for a placement rate of 93%. Also, 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 second training location in Covington, GA.

The Legal Business Unit has worked on several cases in 2018 to help clients mitigate and in some cases, eliminate OSHA and EPA fines imposed on them. This year, we have been able to successfully contest OSHA citations by showing that a different employer was the responsibleemployer for the hazards andemployee exposure at those jobsites. This was one of the trends we found for 2018. However, to make this defense successfully, clients need good contracts and oversight for their subcontractors.

This year the HB NEXT Energy Solutions business unit outgrew our corporate office location and completed a re-brand. We launched a web-site for this business unit. www.hbnextenergy.com.The business unit is located in Covington, GA. Energy Solutions, continues to morph as more power utility companies find out about our services. We recently added the second largest EMC to our customer list. Now, we can proudly say we provide services for 4 of the top 5 EMCs in the state of Georgia and the largest power utility company in the Southeast. In addition, we added a telecom services group that worked on the renovation of Phillips Arena that is now the State Farm arena. In late 2018, we began a state-wide small cell network deployment for the largest power utility company in Georgia, and this project will have tremendous growth in 2019.

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.

The EMC Green www.emcgreen.com was launched in 2018 to offer our EMC and Power Utility partners a company that they can trust to perform an in-home Energy Analysis to their residential customers to help them lower their power bill. The company quickly evolved into an energy efficiency focused renovation company, offering window replacement, insulation, automated thermostats, roofing, gutters, siding and solar solutions to clients all across Georgia. In its first year EMC Green helped over 250 customers reduce their energy usage, lower their energy bills and increase the comfort of their homes.

In August we held our annual company dinner at the Gwinnett Stripers ballpark and want to give a special thanks to our corporate sponsors (Ginn Chevrolet that provides our fleet of over 50 vehicles, HR Strategies that provides and handles our payroll and 401K, and Sterling Seacrest that provides our corporate insurance) that helped us make this possible.

In summary, it has been an exciting 2018. We look forward with great anticipation and excitement for 2019. The future looks bright and we have been truly blessed. We value all our client and vendor relationships. Please contact us if we can help you solve your latest construction challenge.

2018 OSHA Review & 2019 Outlook

2018 became a year of finalizing previously updated standards, as well as a launch pad for increased legal ramifications for certain violations of OSHA rule, specifically excavation cases and silica cases. HB NEXT is committed to supporting construction firms in understanding and complying with OSHA regulations.

HB NEXT Senior Instructor/Consultant Raymond Scott reviews some of the 2018 OSHA changes:

  • With the new Silica Rule fully enforceable as of September 2017, and OSHA initiating multiple cases around the country, a new trend has already emerged involving lawyers beginning to advertise to file lawsuits against employers over silicosis claims.
  • Requirements for SDS will be harmonized in 2019 to match updated UN standards.
  • After the operator certification component of Subpart CC was pushed back to November of 2018, OSHA has confirmed that the Crane Standard will become fully effective on February 7th, 2019. The operator must be licensed by type or type and capacity.  Employers will still be required to provide proof of training on the crane assigned to an operator, as well as evaluation of the operator’s skill.
  • The push for criminal penalties continues in cases of severe injury or death, related to excavation cave-ins, paralleled by continued outreach by OSHA for these types of job site conditions.
  • As residential construction volume continues to grow, so will OSHA’s focus on home builders, especially with fall protection citations.
  • With electronic reporting of form 300A fully in place, qualifying employers will have to meet the March 2 deadline from 2019 forward.
  • With the new administration’s pro-business approach, we still expect to see a slowdown in new regulation over the next few years.On a related note, OSHA’s operating budget was reduced slightly, with only minor adjustments to its programs.

Staying abreast of OSHA regulation changes is critical to providing a safe work environment and minimizes the impact on project budgets before fines are imposed. HB NEXT is here to serve in a support role for clients, or clients can fully outsource their safety program to HB NEXT through the turnkey Compliance Partner ProgramContact HB NEXT today for any questions regarding your OSHA compliance situation.

Keeping up with OSHA Recordkeeping: Things to Know

Sorting through OSHA recordkeeping rules to decide if an employee’s injury or illness is recordable or non-recordable can be one of the toughest aspects of a safety administrator’s job. Some recordkeeping questions are more difficult than others.

All employers that are covered by the OSH Act are covered by standard 1904. However, most employers do not have to keep OSHA injury and illness records unless OSHA or the Bureau of Labor Statistics informs them in writing. For example, employers with 10 or fewer employees and business establishments in certain industry classifications are partially exempt from keeping OSHA injury and illness records.

Each February 1st through April, employers must post their 300A in an area generally accessible to employees a summary of the injuries and illnesses recorded the previous year. Also, if requested, copies of the records must be provided to current and former employees, or their representatives. The records must be maintained at the worksite for at least five years.

How does electronic submission work?

OSHA has provided a secure website that offers three options for data submission:

  1. Users can manually enter data into a webform.
  2. Users can upload a CSV file to process single or multiple establishments at the same time.
  3. Users of automated recordkeeping systems, such as OSHA 300 Cloud, will have the ability to transmit data electronically via an API (application programming interface).

The Injury Tracking Application (ITA) is accessible from the ITA launch page, where you are able to provide the Agency your 2018 OSHA Form 300A information. The date by which certainemployers are required to submit to OSHA the information from their completed 2018 Form 300A is March 2nd, 2019.

On July 30, 2018 the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to eliminate the requirement to electronically submit information from OSHA Form 300(Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses), and OSHA Form 301(Injury and Illness Incident Report) for establishments with 250 or more employees that are currently required to maintain injury and illness records. So only an employer’s OSHA Form 300A information is required to be submitted.

Things to Remember:

  • Remember, 300 logs must be maintained throughout the year, updated within 7 days of date of injury
  • Even if you are under jurisdiction of a state plan, you must submit electronically. See your state office for any additional specific requirements
  • Remember, even if you are selected / asked to participate in annual BLS survey, you must still submit electronically to OSHA
  • 300 logs and 301 forms do not need to be submitted electronically (keep in mind previous year 300 logs, along with 300A summaries, can be requested at any time by OSHA)
  • Electronic submission of 300A applies to employers with:
  • Submit 2018 300A By March 2nd, 2019 by using the ITA launch page

Common Mistakes

Employers often make mistakes related to their annual injury and illness recordkeeping duty allowing for possible citations and penalties imposed by OSHA. Four common mistakes made by employers are:

  • Not having an appropriate management representative “certify” the 300A form
  • Not posting the 300A form for years in which there were no recordable injuries
  • Not maintaining a copy of the “certified” version of the 300A form
  • Not updating prior years’ 300 Logs based on newly discovered information about previously unrecorded injuries or changes to injuries that were previously recorded.

The requirement of completion, certifying, and posting the 300A annual summary form is separate and apart from the electronic data submission requirement of OSHA’s new Electronic Recordkeeping Rule.  Employers should not confuse submission of injury and illness data to OSHA electronically with the requirement of certifying and posting the 300A annual summary form.

If you have any questions or struggles with your company’s OSHA Recordkeeping, please contact HB NEXT for assistance. HB NEXT also offers OSHA 300 Cloud, for quick and easy electronic recordkeeping.

BSQS&P Explained

HB NEXT’s consulting is based on BSQS&P (Budget-Schedule-Quality-Safety-&-People). Our expertise has led us to find and recommend corrective action based on BSQS&P. That is why every decision we make is based on this philosophy.

These next 4 examples will give you a better understanding:

1. Construction Industry

As a new professional getting into the construction industry, all they hear today is Safety is number 1… Safety is number 1… SAFETY IS NUMBER 1! After a while, a person would think that the Budget, Schedule, and Quality are number 2. We don’t want that now, do we?

2. Business Owners

How about the business owner who has to hire a variety of “Business Consultants”?

First, he hires a Budget Consultant who comes in and says, “There is NO WAY you can afford to work overtime on this job.”

Next, in comes the Schedule Consultant who tells the business owner, “You have to work 7 days a week to finish this job!”

After that, the Quality Consultant comes in and says “I don’t care how long it takes. You have to ensure to meet this specification!”

Then, here comes the Safety Consultant…and what do you think they say? “SAFETY is number 1! Who cares about budget or schedule? PEOPLE’S LIVES ARE AT STAKE!”

After all is said and done, here comes the HR Consultant to tell you that “You need to take care of the people.”

We are the BSQS&P Consultant. Rather than looking at one narrow perspective, we tackle issues with knowledge of what will be best as a whole.

3. Legal Issues

HB NEXT has the unique ability to look at legal issues unlike any other consulting company. After a fatality or a citation, everyone always says they “could not get the individual to do it safely”.

The opposing attorney says:

“How did you get them to meet your budget and cost? What did you do when you found a contractor working without an approved change order? You stopped the work!

What if you found them working in the wrong flow or the wrong sequence, not meeting your schedule? You stopped the work!

What did you do if you found them painting the wall the wrong color or using the wrong material, not meeting quality standards? You stopped the work!

But you could not get them to do it safely?! NO, you could have used the same methods for BSQ to get Safety completed.”

4. Field Supervisors

Walk up to any Field Supervisor and ask them, “Who is in charge of this job?” He will proudly pat his hand on his chest and say, “I am. This is my job.”

However, when the Manager / Owner says…

…“I need to talk to you about a budget problem”
Supervisor says: “I did not bid or price it!”

…“I need to talk with you about a Schedule problem”
Supervisor says: “I didn’t say I could get it done in that time frame!”

…“I need to talk with you about a Quality problem”
Supervisor says: “I can’t see it from my house!”

…“I need to talk with you about a Safety problem”
Supervisor says: “That’s the Safety Coordinator’s Job!”

…“I need to talk with you about a Personnel problem”
Supervisor says: “That is the Human Resources job!”

At this point, what is left to be, “in charge” of?  The water barrel?

NO… you are in charge of BSQS&P!

HB NEXT gets it… and that is why we base every decision, recommendation, and solution around the philosophy of BSQS&P.

Meeting the Ongoing Need for Soft Skills Training in Construction

Why managerial power and authority are no longer enough to guarantee safety and drive productivity in today’s workforce

There was a time -in the not-so-distant past- when fire-breathers ruled the landscape of professional business.

For decades, supervisory and management personnel for various industries have been hired on the basis of their (often fierce) ability to motivate workers, by any means necessary, to accomplish the financial objectives and goals of a business. In fact, this type of leadership has been glorified, giving life and longevity to sayings of which you’re likely familiar:

“My way or the highway”, “take it or leave it”, or, “there are other fish in the sea”, are a few that come to mind, implying that in most situations, an employee is left with little or no choice but to accept the decision-making of their superiors; or, suffer the risk of potential job loss. Now, some credence can be lent to this philosophy of ultimatum, as, there are (some) circumstances in business in which argument or even polite disagreement with the status quo is simply not allowed.

Take safety around electrical devices as an example:

Have you ever considered why most electrical appliances are manufactured with warning labels that stress the importance of users never operating the appliance either in or near water? The science and dangers of electrical conductivity most certainly predate the advent of modern technology; so, naturally, we don’t wish to be constantly reminded of the things we already know. Plenty of people have done it without incident, so as long as you’re really careful, it’s perfectly safe to blow-dry your hair while listening to the radio in the bathtub, right? Manufacturers don’t affix warning labels to potentially dangerous products just because it’s a universally-accepted ‘best practice’. They do it, because if they fail to, people may get hurt or even lose their lives. Rightfully so, it’s not a business decision that’s open for debate.

No business is exempt from the rigors of managing safety, risk, budgets, schedules, and personnel; and, the construction industry has never been an exception to this. So, out of sheer necessity to prevent injuries and save lives, the industry was forced to adopt an often inflexible, no-nonsense approach to safety. Over time, this need manifested into generations of ‘fire-breathing’ project managers and superintendents being hired to run construction projects, backed by the wholehearted support of company owners, who, for many years in this industry, appeared to value profit over people.

As the old Bob Dylan song goes, ‘the times they are a-changing’. Acceptable workplace conditions have also changed; and, adaptability to these changes is becoming more important than ever. Soft skills are emerging to the forefront of leadership training, as the days of ‘my way or the highway’ -while still visible in the rearview mirror- are slowly becoming a remnant of the past. With increases in job injuries and fatalities, workplace violence, discrimination lawsuits and employee turnover, companies are having to endorse new methods for engaging, motivating, and retaining their valuable employees. Companies in the construction industry have begun to embrace the reality that while profits will always be a high priority, the costs and operational impacts associated with injuries, fatalities, civil suits and turnover can quickly erase those profits, while simultaneously threatening a company’s reputation and viability.

Soft skills such as interviewing methods, diversity and inclusion training, and conflict resolution techniques are helping immensely in the workplace to bridge a communication gap that historically, has been the primary responsibility of a company’s Human Resources personnel. For companies that do not have full-fledged HR departments, however, soft skills training for both employees and managers alike is becoming an indispensable component of policy administration and adherence, (effective) performance management, and harmonious workplace relations. In today’s fast-paced and demanding work environments, the almighty dollar continues to drive budgets and schedules.

However, this does not mean that safety takes a backseat to productivity.  

While there will always be appropriate places and times in business for more draconian styles of leadership, the companies who are making the effort to integrate this training into their employee development practices, over time, will enjoy more of the fruits of their labor (AKA – profits) as compared to the companies who ignore the importance and necessity of soft skills. Increased work demands place a premium on employee productivity; and, as such, companies have less time to address all employee concerns through a Human Resources team. Soft skills are affording companies greater freedom, latitude, and flexibility with their human resource efforts, while empowering their leaders to more effectively resolve issues before they snowball into larger (and, usually, more expensive) problems.

Keep in mind, that the cost of employee development is an ongoing expenditure. You can decide to spend money on the front end with training; or, you can spend it on the back end replacing employees, negotiating citations, legal fees, or worse. So, the inevitable choice lies with you. Will you choose the iron fist, or the gentle hand? Will you empower your leaders to breathe fire, or will you teach them to extinguish flames before they spread? Your profits will likely tell the tale-

Tips on Construction Training Programs for a Skilled Workforce

By: Guest Contributor – “Raphaelson & Levine Law Firm” –  https://www.raphaelsonlaw.com/ 

A recent survey from the Associated General Contractors of America revealed that nearly 80 percent of construction businesses have a hard time finding qualified skilled labor. With the existing
skills gap between labor job openings and the talent needed to fill them, companies and general contractors often find themselves with two options, hire under-qualified workers or require their skilled workers to work longer hours. It goes without saying, both options can have serious repercussions, especially when it comes to job site safety.

While an emphasis on workforce development aims to bridge the talent gap, there are three ways construction companies can take action now to further develop their skilled workforce and competent employees.

Implement Personalized Training and Frequent Assessments to Improve Safety

Although you need to take continuous training as a serious issue, keep in mind that not all workers will be at the same level. This is the primary reason why you should consider personalized training programs and regular assessments that will help you understand and assess individual strengths and weaknesses. The primary objective of personalized training is to help each employee work on their weaknesses so that at the end of the process you have a highly productive and united team of employees. Additionally, such training will enhance safety at the construction site.

Provide Apprenticeship

Providing apprenticeships opportunities is a good way to train to prospective construction workers while getting labor from those individuals who are dedicated to learning. These programs are mostly used in crafts to provide the apprentice with more knowledge about career selections. Also, these programs help in teaching technical skills, ethics, and leadership to construction workers and can be used to assess the worker’s overall skill level.

Strive to Create Mutually Beneficial Relationships

This means that your training programs should aim to promote both the worker and the employer. Well thought out training programs will allow your construction workers to fit well in their work environment and become innovative while also reducing chances of an on-the-job accident that can cost time and money. They will strive to create a safe working environment that is challenging but achievable which will make them feel part of the company.

This creates job satisfaction which will make your construction workers comfortable which will make them stick around longer. Employers will also learn how to accomplish their tasks without committing mistakes and will know how to deal with the challenge of construction safety issues.

HB NEXT Launches Storm Cloud

HB NEXT is excited to announce the official launch of Storm Cloud, a multi-tenant cloud software platform that is set to redefine how environmental compliance is managed across the country.

Since 2005, HB NEXT has built custom software for individual companies. However, this year we are packaging some of our most popular products into affordable, out-of-the-box solutions that can be enjoyed by the masses. This is the first of four cloud products that HB NEXT will be launching this year.

Storm Cloud is the first affordable SWPPP software product built for SWPPP / NPDES inspection companies, home builders, & erosion control contractors. This launch represents a new benchmark in the industry. Now, companies of all sizes can deploy robust, industry-proven software to easily manage environmental compliance data.


CLICK HERE
to learn more about Storm Cloud.

 

 

2017 OSHA Regulation Changes Review

2017 saw a year of changes and modifications to OSHA regulations as the safety industry tries to support the labor workforce in keeping their work environment a safe place to be. HB NEXT is committed to supporting construction firms in understanding and complying with OSHA regulations. HB NEXT Senior Instructor/Consultant Raymond Scott reviews some of the 2017 OSHA changes.

  • The year saw the end of the silica controversy and the adoption of the new standard.  We have seen the industry struggle to even come close to achieving the new standard.  Fortunately, OSHA gave us the T-1 table. If followed, this relieves us of meeting the standard. The first round of lawsuits were concluded Dec 22, 2017, with the courts upholding OSHA. For the time being, we are stuck with the standard. The biggest issue may lie in the B-reader test being used. This is the same procedure used in “black lung” and asbestos testing.
  • Subpart CC had the operator certification pushed to November 10, 2018.  Note, this does not relieve the employer from the responsibility of ensuring operator training.
  • Residential construction continues to be OSHA’s focus with over 6000 fall protection citations issued to home builders.
  • Electronic reporting of form 300a got off to a slow start due to technical issues on OSHA’s end with the filing date extended to December 15, 2017.  Next year, we will have until July 16, 2018. Moving on from 2019, we will have to meet the original March 2 deadline.
  • OSHA has finally recognized the importance of safety training for first and second line supervisors in leadership. It is sorely needed, and they are encouraging it in their Outreach Training 500, 502 Classes.
  • We have seen OSHA starting to push the residential industry to address attics and crawl spaces as confined space.
  • With the new administration’s pro-business approach, we expect to see a slowdown in new regulation over the next few years with a possible review of existing rules.

Staying abreast of OSHA regulation changes is critical to providing a safe work environment and minimizes the impact on project budgets before fines are imposed. HB NEXT is here to serve in a support role for construction firms’ safety and compliance business units. Contact HB NEXT today for any questions regarding your OSHA compliance situation.

 

 

 

HB NEXT 2017 – A YEAR IN REVIEW

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.