Outsourcing Your Employee Training: Educational Revolution, or Evolution?

Why partnership with a third-party education provider could be one of the best decisions you’ll make

If you have worked in the construction industry for long enough, there’s a good chance that you’ve heard the saying -or some variation of- “an educated workforce, is a safe workforce”. It’s difficult to argue; given that, at the heart of most incidents, is a lack of sufficient training.

All companies experience challenges with their training, from the initial on-boarding and orientation of their newest employees, to the continuing education and certifications of their senior-most leaders. In a perfect world, employees would regularly seek to satisfy their job-specific training without financial encouragement, demonstrating initiative, professional curiosity, and a genuine interest in their own personal and professional development. In the real world, many companies have to pay their employees while they learn how to do their jobs; and, this creates an economic condition that unfortunately goes hand-in-hand with some risky and potentially dangerous decision-making.

To train, or not to train?

Budgets will be budgets; and, it’s universally accepted that in the spirit of self-preservation, companies will cut expenses in one area, to realize gains -or, alternatively, to alleviate pains- in another. When you’ve gotten away with avoiding a responsibility (more than a few times), it’s easy to think that you can continue to avoid it, right? Where many companies fall short with regard to their employee training, is not exclusively attributable to consistency in execution, as some might be inclined to presume. Yes, it’s true- many companies procrastinate; and, in other cases, blatantly ignore their responsibility to provide formal job and hazard-specific training to their employees. However, the trouble with employee training in many companies is generally not an issue of employer desire, as much as it is an issue of employer flexibility and versatility. And, that degree of flexibility / versatility has to be considered in terms of both manpower and finances.

If you were to publicly poll the owners of a hundred different companies, you likely would not have difficulty counting close to a hundred resounding ‘YES’ replies, assuming the question was centered around the safety of the workforce being a company’s highest priority.

Now, take that same group of one hundred owners, and change the question to be centered around whether the training of the workforce should be a company’s highest priority. Would you count a similar number of ‘YES’ replies?

They are both of critical importance to a company- safety and training, aren’t they? Is one more important than the other? Can either one be achieved without at least mentioning the other? These are some of the questions and decisions that business owners have to wrestle with, to balance compliance along with the well-being of the workforce and the health of the company finances. Most all companies desire to adequately and effectively train their employees. Not all companies find this responsibility to be convenient or budget-friendly, because they lack the overall flexibility and versatility to respond to training needs either pro-actively, or, with a sense of urgency. Training either costs too much; or, a company cannot spare the manpower to schedule training; or, sometimes, you’ll even see a combination of both. Sadly, in these cases, both the company and the employees suffer. Silently, the industry at-large, also suffers. So, what’s the solution, then?

Lean on Me?

Again, budgets will be budgets.

A simple solution (on the surface) for a company to shield themselves from training costs that exceed their budget, is for that company to exclusively deliver their employee training in-house. This approach yields several benefits; yet, also, may carry with it some obscure pitfalls that can have a balloon-like effect on budgets.

In theory, the most experienced personnel within a company are the most logical choices to train and develop the workforce. However, typically, that vast experience also represents the busiest and least flexible personnel within a company. And, unfortunately, experience does not directly translate in a classroom environment to capability, willingness, readiness, or (here we go again) desire. You may have the smartest, most highly-trained, credentialed and certified leaders in the country managing operations for your company. A field superintendent in construction can have over three decades of experience building structures, while at the same time, having zero years’ experience in a classroom environment teaching others how to build structures.

In a nutshell, great builders… great leaders… great managers… don’t always make great teachers. You can save plenty of money by not paying ‘outsiders’ to train and develop your personnel; but, how much may it end up costing you to educate -and, motivate– one of your own to step into that potentially (and likely) unfamiliar role? How long will it take them to become proficient in this new role? How quickly can you replace their production? How effective can your company training program, or, your safety and health program really be, with inexperienced trainers educating the employees of your company?

We all need somebody to lean on, don’t we?

In construction, carrying loads, even very heavy ones, can be made easy when the proper conditions, personnel and equipment are in place.

Employee training is not terribly different; which begs the question, “Why purchase the help, when you can grow it organically?”

While keeping employee training in-house may be a cost-effective solution, without a proper, manageable training and credentialing program in place, companies expose themselves to levels of risk that can very quickly render their cost-saving efforts ineffective. Naturally, companies with greater financial latitude, have greater maneuverability to avoid the financial pitfalls. One easily overlooked pitfall for companies who elect to keep their training in-house, is legal liability. In construction, when accidents happen and people get hurt -outside of providing the appropriate medical care- assignment of responsibility (or, blame, rather) is generally at the top of the list of consequent actions.

When your people get hurt; and, it is determined that you were responsible for delivering their training, you can rest assured that the wolves of compliance will feverishly pursue the root cause, starting at your establishment’s front door. If your safety and training programs are underdeveloped when faced with managing an employee injury or fatality, you can prepare to buckle up for a long, uncomfortable and expensive ride through the legal system. Or, you can choose to partner with an expert that understands your company operations, has the experience to relate to your struggles, understands the industry you work in, and, one that has an assortment of products, services, and solutions that can be quickly adapted to fit your company’s varied degrees of flexibility and versatility.

Well, what’s the best solution for my company?

In conclusion, the mechanics of your company training program can be, and should be, uncomplicated.

A company’s workforce must be sufficiently and regularly trained to maintain active compliance with the federal, state, and local rules applicable to their operations. You have a responsibility to offer initial training; and, you have a responsibility to offer re-training, when necessary. Simple, right? With the pace at which the construction industry is currently moving, agility in training deployment is critical to keeping the workforce safe; and, providing them with the ongoing training and education that is relevant to their work, and current with the most up-to-date industry rules and regulations.

For companies that do not have full-fledged training or education departments, manufacturing that agility internally, is not as simple (or, inexpensive) to achieve as it might appear. To address this challenge, companies have to make an honest self-assessment of their program(s). Some companies may benefit more from having electronic or online training options, because their crews lack the flexibility to attend training during a regular work week. Some companies strongly believe in, and demand instructor-led training for their employees. Some companies would be more than happy to incorporate both types of training to build versatility into their existing program; but have limitations imposed on their budgets which preclude that ability. Some companies lack the technological capabilities or square footage to deliver training to their employees in an appropriate setting.

The list of restrictions and limitations are seemingly endless; yet, the requirement to operate safely while in compliance never really changes, does it?

The most effective solution for your company, will be the one which enables you to quickly respond to your employees’ training needs, without sacrificing your budgets, schedules, quality, leadership or productivity. As the industry evolves and continues to integrate technology to improve operational efficiencies and increase profits, your ideal training solution may be in the form of online training, instructor-led training, or -what you can expect to see gain popularity in the future- the adoption of pre-developed course-ware customized to your company’s operations and/or brand.

If your company needs help implementing or evaluating its current training program, HB NEXT can help. To learn more about solutions for optimizing your company’s training program, please contact HB NEXT today.

Electrical Safety: Aware and Prepared

The month of May is recognized as Electrical Safety Month; and, although electricity is a power that should always be understood and respected, it is often taken for granted, leaving countless victims in its wake.

Did you know that electrical hazards cause more than 300 deaths and 4,000 injuries each year among the U.S. workforce?

Electrocution ranks sixth among causes of workplace fatalities in America. Nearly half of the approximately 175 deaths caused each year in the electrical trades occur in construction, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Electricity is the cause of more than 140,000 fires each year; and, contributes to approximately $1.6 billion in property damages.

OSHA confirms that construction workers are most commonly killed by falls, blows or crushing from heavy objects, and electrocutions. So, how do we protect ourselves from this danger? We can start by pre-planning, inspecting and eliminating potential hazards.

Here are some safety tips:

 

Indoors:

  • Check electrical cords for fraying or cracking. Replace cords that may be damaged, and don’t overload electrical outlets.
  • Remember extension cords are intended to be temporary; they are not intended as permanent household wiring.
  • Don’t run cords under carpets or rugs and don’t tack or nail cords to walls or floors.
  • Keep electrical appliances and tools away from water. Never reach for or unplug an appliance that has fallen into water; instead, turn the power off at the breaker before you unplug the appliance or remove it from the water.
  • Never put anything other than an electrical plug in an outlet. Use outlet covers or caps to protect children.
  • Keep your home’s electrical system in good repair. Contact a licensed electrical contractor if you have flickering lights, sparks, non-functioning outlets, or need wiring repairs or upgrades.
  • Use Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) protected outlets whenever possible.

Outdoors:

  • NEVER touch downed power lines!
  • Always call your local utility, or, 911, if you observe any power lines down.
  • Watch for overhead lines every time you use a ladder, work on roofs, trees, or when maneuvering elevated loads. When enjoying time at home or away from the workplace, be sure to keep kites, model airplanes, and metallic balloons away from power lines.
  • Know what’s below before you dig. At least 2 days before starting any digging or excavating project, contact 811, the National One-Call Center, to have underground utility lines, pipes, and cables marked for free.
  • Avoid planting trees underneath power lines or near utility equipment.

Remember, any electrical device used on a house wiring circuit can, under certain conditions, transmit a fatal current. While any amount of current over 10 milliamps (0.01 amp) can produce painful to severe shock, currents between 100 and 200 mA (0.1 to 0.2 amp) are lethal.

ALWAYS make sure you have plan when working around electricity.

Let’s avoid workplace complacency this month by making sure that safety is top of mind while performing any electrical task!  Electrical safety concerns can often be avoided and with the help of a On-Site Safety Consultant, you can be sure that electrical safety won’t be a problem.  If you have any questions feel free Ask HB NEXT.

Underground Utility Damage Prevention: Know What’s Below

Working around buried utilities is a very challenging task. Every 4 minutes an underground utility is struck and damaged by mechanized equipment, potentially causing harm to persons, property and causing the interruption of utility services. The Common Ground Alliance, a stakeholder-run organization dedicated to protecting underground utilities reports approximately 379,000 utility damages occurred in 2016, resulting in an estimated cost of 1.7 billion in property damage as well as countless number of injuries and deaths.

Why are there so many underground utility strikes?  According to the Common Grounds Alliance there are several re-occurring causes: Notification not made to the One-Call-Center, Insufficient locating practices, unmarked facilities, mis-marked utilities, inadequate utility marking, inadequate excavation practices, improper bidding of jobs, improper equipment used during digging, digging with mechanized equipment without first exposing buried utilities using manual digging methods, and the list goes on.

Utility damages impact everyone directly or indirectly. Contractors are affected in terms of a break down in safety, profitability, insurability, productivity, legal and civil liabilities. Utility Owner/Operators are affected in terms of utility repairs and loss of resources. Lastly, everyone is inconvenienced by the interruption of vital utility services. In the state of Georgia alone, between 2015 – 2017 an estimated average of 29,257 utility damages occurre each year.

Excavators, locators, utility owners and the Utility Protection Center all share equal liability in the avoidance of utility strikes. There are some best practices that should be adopted to mitigate damage and avoid utility damages which are:

  • Start at the very beginning: Employees should be trained properly on locating underground utilities and the correct use of equipment and digging techniques, including when to use radar to detect the presence of underground lines and hand-digging and soft-digging techniques. They should also emphasize the correct type of equipment to use for every situation during the excavation.
  • Contractors should follow job site checklists and provide adequate on-site supervision as well as ongoing safety awareness and training.
  • Estimate jobs properly: Job estimates should include costs for allowing the time to locate underground utilities and verify marking, document 811 marking, dig around lines, use radar and have downtime in the event of a strike.
  • Review the site plans and call 811 at least 48 hours before digging. Check the Positive Response Information System to verify excavation request has been processed.
  • Review flags and markings prior to starting the job to determine the proper equipment for the job.
  • Identify, if possible, whether there may be additional lines that are not on site plans and/or are not marked.
  • Document the job site with photographs prior to commencement of digging, taking photos of flags and markings and showing the scale of where you’re digging.
  • Don’t assume the depth of utilities. Digging at a deeper depth than marked utilities does not always solve the problem. If you are not sure, dig slower and use manual tools to expose the utility and determine the tolerance zone.
  • If a utility damage occurs cease excavation, contact 811 and the utility owner, and conduct a damage investigation.
  • Most importantly, use your industry knowledge, common sense and always keep a focus on safety!

The cost of utility damages is a trickle-down effect that is paid by us all. Having a clear excavation plan and knowing what’s below can save lives, money time and property. For a guide on Underground Safety & Damage Prevention click here.

Remember, before excavating on any track or parcel of land, “know what’s below”. If we all do our part everyone wins.  If you have any more additional questions or want to learn more about preventing underground utility damage, check out our Damage Prevention (GUFPA) (811) class.

Does your contract require an onsite safety manager?

Over time, we have learned that project managers and safety directors alike have limited resources to identify and provide short-to-medium-term onsite safety solutions for their projects that are cost-effective; and, that can offer the credentialing and expertise required to meet a variety of project specifications.

In the midst of a booming construction market with a high demand for safety professionals, you simply don’t want to wait until post-bid to determine rates and availability.

 

Advantages to using a third-party for onsite safety are:

1. Frees up supervisory personnel to concentrate on budget, schedule, quality and personnel.

2. With safety as their primary focus, third-party providers are typically more up-to-date on OSHA regulations and updates.

3. They typically have broader experience with managing various types of safety issues.

4. They are typically more ‘in the know’ as to OSHA’s current focus in the industry.

5. They have often seen multiple methods for achieving both safety and compliance objectives, in various circumstances.

6. Eliminates potential for conflict of interest between production and safety personnel.

7. Third-party professionals are less likely to ignore violations due to relationship, friendship, etc.

8. They can spend more time in the field identifying unsafe acts and unsafe conditions, since they are not having to spread their time across multiple projects like a typical safety director would.

 

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Many employers feel that job site safety eats into their bottom lines, profits and productivity. While the cost of providing a safe job site for your employees does come with a price tag, on the contrary, consider the cost of one job site accident. Injured employees, workers compensation costs, increased Experience Modification Rates (EMR), higher insurance premiums and OSHA citations can all eat away your company’s ‘pot of gold’.

Onsite Safety Consultants can help protect your workers, your company, and your investments.

Contact HB NEXT today to learn how we can help staff an Onsite Safety Coordinator for your next project!

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.

Scaffold Safety

Over our 20 years in business, HB NEXT has seen almost everything! We have seen that most construction workers are familiar with scaffolds, but a majority of workers are unfamiliar with the safety inspection that needs to be performed before working on scaffolds.  Below, you will find a comprehensive list of inspection practices and ‘must knows’ for using scaffolds.

Supported Scaffolds:

  • Inspection by competent person is required before each shift or any occurrence which could affect scaffold structural integrity.
  • Any part of damaged or weakened scaffold shall be repaired, replaced, or removed from service until repaired.
  • Legs, posts, frames, uprights shall rest on baseplates and mudsills (or other adequate firm foundation). Footings shall be level, sound, rigid and capable of supporting the loaded scaffold without settling or displacement.
  • Scaffolds and components shall not be loaded in excess of maximum intended loads or rated capacities, whichever is less.
  • If scaffold platforms are more than 2ft above or below a point of access, ladders, walkways, integral prefabricated access frames, personnel hoist, etc. shall be used.Crossbraces shall not be used as access.
  • Fall protection will be provided for employees at 10 ft or more.
  • Falling object protection for employees will be provided by the use of hardhats, as well as toeboards, screens, barricades, or canopies. You must wear hardhats 100% of the time.
  • Guys, ties, and braces shall be installed per manufacturer recommendation when scaffold reaches a 4:1 height to base width ratio, and must be installed at least at each end with a maximum interval of 30’.
  • Distance from power lines per OSHA standards (based on insulated/non-insulated lines and voltage) must be adhered to (minimum 10’ clearance).
  • Working on scaffolds in storms or high winds is prohibited unless determined safe by a competent person. Working on scaffolds covered in snow, ice, or other slippery material is prohibited except to remove.
  • Supported scaffold poles, legs, posts, frames, and uprights shall be plumb and braced to prevent swaying and displacement. Where uplift can occur, the frames shall be locked together vertically by pins or equivalent means.
  • Unstable objects shall not be used to support scaffolds or platform units.

Suspension Scaffolds:

  • Must be inspected by competent person prior to shift. Defective components shall be replaced.
  • Capacity must be its own weight plus 4 times maximum intended load.
  • Suspension rope must support 6 times maximum intended load when scaffold operated at rated load of hoist or 2 times rated load.
  • Fall protection will consist of PFAS and guardrails.
  • PFAS secured to separate anchorage than platform to create an independent life line.
  • Direct connections must support 4 times tipping point of scaffold at rated load or 1.5 times tipping moment at stall load of hoist whichever is greater.
  • Counterweights cannot be of flowable material and must be secured in place during use.
  • Tiebacks shall be equivalent in strength to the suspension ropes.
  • Tiebacks shall be secured to a structurally sound anchorage on the building or structure.

Aerial lifts:

  • Must meet ANSI requirements
  • Lift controls tested prior to use each day.
  • Only authorized personnel may operate.
  • Employees must stand firmly on floor of basket.
  • Harness and lanyard shall be attached to basket when working from aerial lift.

 

At HB NEXT, safety is our priority, and scaffolds are no exception.  Keep your personnel safe on the jobsite by creating a Safety Program or customized training program for your company.  If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact HB NEXT.

Timing is Critical When Confronting the Possibility of an OSHA Citation

Dealing with OSHA can be extremely taxing on you and your company if you do not address citations in a timely manner. It is extremely important to understand what steps you need to take and the timeframe that you have for action.  HB NEXT’s legal counsel, Andrew Gross, discusses all the necessary steps companies need to take when confronting the possibility of an OSHA citation.

“OSHA Citations must be addressed as soon as received in order to determine and engage effective defense preparations. If you’ve done your homework, prepared properly, and assembled supporting records, OSHA can and will withdraw the Citation at the Informal Conference in the Area Office that issued the Citation. If withdrawn, there won’t be any need to file a Contest and incur the additional expense and risk of litigation.

Citations must be resolved by settlement or contested in writing within 15 business days of receipt. In states where OSHA standards are enforced by a state agency, there are similar short timetables. These deadlines are absolute and can almost never be modified.

Better still, don’t wait for a citation to appear in the mail. When you learn that OSHA has inspected your jobsite, begin your own investigation immediately. Promptly determine whether the facts support a citation, and if so, whether you may have a valid defense. The time to get the facts is while they are still fresh in everyone’s mind. HB NEXT can help assess your situation and assist in planning an appropriate defense in anticipation of a citation.

Don’t forget to take immediate corrective and enforcement action, if indeed you determine that employees were exposed to a hazard. Employees or subcontractors who violated Company rules should be disciplined in accordance with Company discipline policies. If all else fails and there is no likely defense, proactive remediation and enforcement of your safety policy shows good faith and can reduce the penalty.”

If you have any further questions or concerns about OSHA citations, please contact HB NEXT! We have a team of professionals that can assist with all of your legal needs.