Friday, November 22, 2013

OSHA Issues Proposed Rule to Improve Workplace Safety and Health

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued a proposed rule to improve workplace safety and health through improved tracking of workplace injuries and illnesses. The announcement follows the Bureau of Labor Statistics' release of its annual Occupational Injuries and Illnesses report, which estimates that 3 million workers were injured on the job in 2012. 

The public will have 90 days, through Feb. 6, 2014, to submit written comments on the proposed rule. On Jan. 9, 2014, OSHA will hold a public meeting on the proposed rule in Washington, D.C. 

The proposed rule was developed following a series of stakeholder meetings in 2010 to help OSHA gather information about electronic submission of establishment-specific injury and illness data. OSHA is proposing to amend its current recordkeeping regulations to add requirements for the electronic submission of injury and illness information employers already are required to keep under existing standards, Part 1904. The first proposed new requirement is for establishments with more than 250 employees (and who already are required to keep records) to electronically submit the records to OSHA quarterly. 

OSHA also is proposing that establishments with 20 or more employees in certain industries with high injury and illness rates be required to submit electronically only their summary of work-related injuries and illnesses to OSHA once a year. Currently, many such firms report this information to OSHA under OSHA's Data Initiative. 

OSHA plans to eventually post the data online, as encouraged by President Obama's Open Government Initiative. OSHA believes timely, establishment-specific injury and illness data will help the agency target its compliance assistance and enforcement resources more effectively by identifying workplaces where workers are at greater risk and enable employers to compare their injury rates with others in the same industry. 


(From NRCA)


Trenton H. Cotney
Florida Bar Certified Construction Lawyer
Trent Cotney, P.A.
1211 N Franklin St
Tampa, FL 33602

Thursday, November 21, 2013

NRCA Releases Hazard Communication Program

In preparation for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA's) recently revised Hazard Communication System (HCS), NRCA has released NRCA's Hazard Communication Program: Know the Signs, a comprehensive program designed to help roofing contractors train their employees regarding the new HCS and comply with OSHA's requirements for managing and communicating to workers all aspects of hazardous chemicals they may use and encounter on the job. 

The new HCS makes OSHA regulations consistent with the Globally Harmonized System (GHS), a way to globally convey hazard information by requiring the use of simplified warning labels and graphics and provide a consistent safety data sheet (SDS) format for all products containing chemicals that pose a physical or health hazard. 

OSHA requires that all workers in all industries be trained regarding revised aspects of GHS by Dec. 1. 

NRCA's Hazard Communication Program: Know the Signs offers a complete compliance program that will help roofing contractors provide the training OSHA requires for the new HCS, including a DVD with video content in English and Spanish; an instructors guide and student manual; a PowerPoint® presentation for use in facilitating training sessions; written examination to assess worker comprehension of the HCS worker rules; sample hazard communication program; chemical inventory list template; and SDS request letter for use in developing a company program. 



(From NRCA)

Trenton H. Cotney
Florida Bar Certified Construction Lawyer
Trent Cotney, P.A.
1211 N Franklin St
Tampa, FL 33602


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

OSHA Extends Silica Rule Comment Period by 47 Days

On Oct. 25, OSHA announced a 47-day extension of the public comment deadline for OSHA’s proposed crystalline silica rulemaking, extending the deadline from Dec. 11 to Jan. 27. More than 25 business organizations, including ABC, the Construction Industry Safety Coalition and others in the industry, requested additional time for stakeholders to appropriately analyze OSHA’s proposal, develop useful data and provide meaningful feedback. Also requesting extensions were the U.S. House of Representatives Education and the Workforce Committee and Small Business Committee and the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy. Most requests, including ABC’s, asked for 90 days.

In addition, OSHA extended the deadline to submit notices of intention to appear at public hearings, from Nov. 12 to Dec. 12. The agency also postponed the public hearings by 14 days, to March 18, 2014.


“OSHA received numerous extension requests from a diverse range of industries, and nearly all the requests asked for an additional 90 days, so it is disappointing and puzzling that the agency did not grant the consensus amount,” said Sean Thurman, Director of Legislative Affairs at ABC National. “We would have also preferred separate public hearings for construction and general industry, and additional hearing venues outside of DC. However, any additional time is valuable to our industry as we move forward in this rule making.”

(From NRCA)


Trenton H. Cotney
Florida Bar Certified Construction Lawyer
Trent Cotney, P.A.
1211 N Franklin St
Tampa, FL 33602

Monday, November 18, 2013

See the First Section of the World Trade Center Transportation Hub


The first section of the nearly $4 billion World Trade Center Transportation Hub is now open to the public. Designed by world-renowned architect Santiago Calatrava, the World Trade Center West Concourse is a study in white, and gives New Yorkers the chance to experience Calatrava's famous articulated ribs on a daily basis. The new 600-foot-long passageway replaces a temporary pedestrian bridge over West Street and allows commuters to get from the WTC PATH Station to offices on the far West Side without having to walk up to street level.


(From NRCA)

Trenton H. Cotney
Florida Bar Certified Construction Lawyer
Trent Cotney, P.A.
1211 N Franklin St
Tampa, FL 33602

Friday, November 15, 2013

NRCA Has Posted Four Position Papers

  • "Reform Must End Illegal Immigration, Address Roofing Industry Needs"
  • "NRCA Supports Repeal of the Health Insurance Tax"
  • "NRCA Supports Comprehensive Tax Reform"
  • "NRCA Supports Regulatory Reform Legislation"
To view the position papers on NRCA's website, click here


(From NRCA)



Trenton H. Cotney
Florida Bar Certified Construction Lawyer
Trent Cotney, P.A.
1211 N Franklin St
Tampa, FL 33602

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Progressive Group Issues Preemptive Strike on Silica Rule's Cost

The Center for Progressive Reform fired an opening salvo Thursday in the upcoming debate over the cost of long sought worker safety regulations now under construction at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
OSHA released the proposed rule on harmful silica dust in August, after it had sat under review for more than two years at the White House. The regulations would set new worker exposure limits for silica, which has been linked to health problems and is present at shipyards and construction sites.

The agency estimates the regulations would save nearly 700 lives per year and prevent many more illnesses. But the regulations carry a price tag for the construction and maritime industries, and the costs are likely to figure prominently in debate over the rule’s final contours.
Already OSHA has issued preliminary economic and employment analyses, some of which are available here and here.

Early estimates of the costs — and, in particular, how they would impact small businesses — raised red flags over at the Center for Progressive Reform (CPR). The center is a vocal proponent of the strengthened protections, and says it expects major business groups to exploit the findings.

“The plight of small business owners somehow always seems to pull at the heartstrings of the big businesses owners when federal agencies propose new public health and environmental protections,” said Matt Shudtz, a CPR analyst.

Preliminary OSHA figures, Shudtz writes in this piece, indicate that two-thirds of the costs of complying with the silica rule would fall on small businesses.

The CPR, however, takes exception with the criteria used to define what constitutes a small business. The OSHA analysis uses Small Business Administration’s definition, which, for the shipbuilding industry, for example, counts companies with up 1,000 workers as a small business.

Shudtz pointed to a separate OSHA analysis using 20 employees as the threshold and found that small businesses would bear just 11 percent of the costs associated with the proposed rules maritime and general industry standard, and roughly a third of the expense of complying with the construction industry standard. 


(From NRCA Smartbrief)





Trenton H. Cotney
Florida Bar Certified Construction Lawyer
Trent Cotney, P.A.
1211 N Franklin St
Tampa, FL 33602

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

ABC Members Experience Skilled Worker Shortage

According to a survey of ABC members, 75 percent of respondents’ companies are experiencing a shortage of willing and qualified craft professionals. These results support the findings of the Construction Labor Market Analyzers’ 20/20 Foresight Report, which shows there will be a nationwide shortage of nearly 2 million skilled craft workers by 2017.

The worker shortage is likely the result of the nearly 30 percent of the construction workforce lost at the peak of the recession combined with an aging workforce, an insufficient pipeline of new workers and lost workers that moved on to other industries.
ABC and its 70 chapters have been working hard to close that gap through a combined effort of training, promoting construction as a viable career path and working with federal legislators to increase access to temporary workers.
ABC also supports U.S. immigration policy reform that facilitates a sustainable workforce. ABC and its members are encouraging members of the U.S. House of Representatives to support a bill that includes an effective guest worker program that responds to labor market demand and does not burden the construction industry with inflexible requirements and arbitrary caps. The industry must be able to legally supplement its workforce when there are not a sufficient number of willing or able American workers to continue to meet U.S. construction demand.


(From ABC Newsline) 


Trenton H. Cotney
Florida Bar Certified Construction Lawyer
Trent Cotney, P.A.
1211 N Franklin St
Tampa, FL 33602

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

3 Economists Give Construction Outlook for Rest of 2013 and Ahead

The construction sector was booming in the mid-to late-2000s, and then the Great Recession grabbed hold and the industry changed overnight.  Layoffs were rampant; dozens of mega-construction projects stalled; half-built buildings dotted the country. But, after a few years, a slow, but increasingly steady — or at least somewhat optimistic — outlook started to take hold.
Reed Construction DataHousing starts were increasing rapidly, and passage of the transportation bill, or MAP-21, put roadwork back on the map.  The continuing shale boom  brought a need for new rail facilities, accommodations, drillers, and more. American ports were pouring money into upgrades at their sites to accommodate the expected larger ships once the Panama Canal expansion finished.  So, things had started to offer a bit of hope.
Then came uncertainty over the debt ceiling, and the looming debt default.  For the past three months, the government data — when it was available — has shown a slight downward trend in many parts of the architectural, engineering and construction industry.  And that has three industry economists somewhat worried.
Bernard Markstein, chief economist at Reed Construction Data, Ken Simonson, chief economist at the Associated General Contractors of America and Kermit Baker, chief economist at the American Institute of Architects were the featured speakers at the Oct. 17 webinar “The 2014 Outlook:  Emerging Opportunities for Construction.” They each mapped out what they’d seen this year and where they thought the industry was headed next year and beyond.

Last November, it was the looming “fiscal cliff” that concerned Markstein.Kermit Baker photo
This year, it’s the potential ramifications of the debt-default debacle and federal government shutdown. “Economic growth is barely acceptable,” Markstein says.  And “the shutdown has not helped.  It’s probably cost us a 1/2% in fourth quarter GDP growth, annualized.”  He believes some of what was lost will be recaptured in the first quarter of 2014, but not all of it. “Washington has created uncertainty,” he said.

Outlook:  The positives going forward
Construction spending forecast by Bernard Markstein, Reed Construction data
Construction spending forecast by Bernard Markstein, Reed Construction data
Baker sees residential construction as a positive moving forward.   Averaging estimates from sources such as Wells Fargo, Standard & Poor’s, the National Association of Home Builders and Fannie Mae, he expects a 22% increase this year, followed by a rise of 28% and 29% in 2014 and 2015, respectively.

The home improvement market is another space where there’s optimism. Although about $267 billion was spent there in 2011, it was down from its high in 2007.  But, spending didn’t decline as much as new construction did, and this market could regain most of its losses this year.  Reasons for this, Baker says, are the surging demand for rental properties that have put off remodeling, as well as an aging population who will need home retrofits, as they want to age in place.

A positive sign for the nonresidential building sector is the AIA’s Architecture Billings Index that points to an “emerging upturn,” according to Baker.  He noted that private nonresidential spending saw a spike in 2012, but since then has “cooled off.”
And while the stimulus caused a surge in public spending, reaching a peak at the end of 2009, early 2010, spending in that segment has remained low.  Baker sees “little improvement” and thinks it will be the same next year.
Baker expects that “2014 should see solid upper single-digit growth in construction spending.”  Simonson concurs, saying that he expects to see a 6% to 10% growth in spending each year from 2014 to 2017. Markstein notes that while nonresidential building construction has had difficulties, he expects it to improve later this year and do even better in 2014 and 2015,photo: Ken Simonson, AGCofA

Markstein and Simonson are also positive on construction spending in the manufacturing sector.  Markstein sees companies begin to reshore due to rising global wages and the more dependable U.S. infrastructure. Simonson notes that spending in this segment could grow “sharply” if the federal government can begin to get things done.
Outlook: The challenges going forward
Simonson and Markstein say that there will continue to be less spending on education construction, something that could continue through 2015.
There’s likely to also be less need for office space and retail structures as employers cut back on job creation and consumers switch to online shopping, according to Simonson.
heat map - construction employment 2013

Employment trend concerns: AGC
In addition, once the transportation bill, MAP-21, expires, highway spending could go down dramatically, according to Simonson who doesn’t think that Congress will be willing to increase funding.

Baker notes that sustainable improvements – often led by energy-efficiency incentives – were the strongest niche in home improvements over the past few years.  As energy prices moderate and government spending faces curtailment, he wonders if the demand for energy efficient retrofits will stay as strong.

Simonson also sees increasing concern in the industry about a growing shortage of skilled workers (see graphic, and notice “pink” creep in last few months).  Hundreds of thousands of construction industry of employees lobs their jobs in the downturn.  Sporadically, construction employment has shown some gains.  However, many left the field, and a recent AGCofA survey shows that a labor shortage is in the early stages in many areas.


(From NRCA Smartbrief)


Trenton H. Cotney
Florida Bar Certified Construction Lawyer
Trent Cotney, P.A.
1211 N Franklin St
Tampa, FL 33602

Monday, November 11, 2013

Construction Groups Want More Time to Comment on OSHA's Proposed Silica Rule

"OSHA simply has not provided sufficient time for stakeholders to generate data that may be useful for the agency in analyzing the need for and the effects of the proposed rulemaking," Associated Builders and Contractors asserted.

A number of construction-industry trade organizations recently sent letters to OSHA Administrator David Michaels asking for a 90-day extension for submitting written comments on OSHA's proposed Silica standard.
Members of the newly formed Construction Industry Safety Coalition also asked OSHA to push back all other dates in the rule making process – including the public hearing – to correspond with the requested deadline extension.



"The current time frame for submitting written comments is insufficient, and a denial of our request will substantially impede ABC's ability to receive and process member feedback," Associated Builders and Contractors said in a letter to Michaels and other federal lawmakers. "This is of particular concern, given that the current comment period is already compressed by the Thanksgiving holiday."
On Aug. 23, OSHA unveiled a proposed rule that would cut the permissible exposure limit in general industry, construction and shipyards to 50 micro grams of respirable crystalline silica per cubic meter of air.
The proposal was published in the September 12th Federal Register and comments are due Dec. 11.
In their letters, the construction trade groups asserted that "the underlying economic- and technological-feasibility analyses related to the proposed rule are so voluminous that simply reviewing the material alone will take the vast majority of the initial 90-day comment period," Associated Builders and Contractors noted in a news release.
"The letters argued that OSHA simply has not provided sufficient time for stakeholders to generate data that may be useful for the agency in analyzing the need for and the effects of the proposed rule making."
Associated Builders and Contractors asked OSHA to schedule separate hearings for construction and general industry "in order to elicit the most relevant feedback and facilitate the best discussions."
In addition to Associated Builders and Contractors, the coalition includes the Mechanical Contractors Association of America, the National Association of Home Builders, the International Council of Employers of Bricklayers and Allied Craft workers  the National Roofing Contractors Association and other trade groups.
OSHA estimates that 2.2 million workers – most of them in construction – are exposed to silica dust on the job.


The agency says its proposed rule would save nearly 700 lives and prevent 1,600 new cases of silicosis per year.
(FROM NRCA)


Trenton H. Cotney
Florida Bar Certified Construction Lawyer
Trent Cotney, P.A.
1211 N Franklin St
Tampa, FL 33602

Friday, November 8, 2013

ABC Members Experience Skilled Worker Shortage

 According to a survey of ABC members, 75 percent of respondents’ companies are experiencing a shortage of willing and qualified craft professionals. These results support the findings of the Construction Labor Market Analyzers’ 20/20 Foresight Report, which shows there will be a nationwide shortage of nearly 2 million skilled craft workers by 2017.
The worker shortage is likely the result of the nearly 30 percent of the construction workforce lost at the peak of the recession combined with an aging workforce, an insufficient pipeline of new workers and lost workers that moved on to other industries.
ABC and its 70 chapters have been working hard to close that gap through a combined effort of training, promoting construction as a viable career path and working with federal legislators to increase access to temporary workers.
ABC also supports U.S. immigration policy reform that facilitates a sustainable workforce. ABC and its members are encouraging members of the U.S. House of Representatives to support a bill that includes an effective guest worker program that responds to labor market demand and does not burden the construction industry with inflexible requirements and arbitrary caps. The industry must be able to legally supplement its workforce when there are not a sufficient number of willing or able American workers to continue to meet U.S. construction demand.


(From ABC Newsline) 


Trenton H. Cotney
Florida Bar Certified Construction Lawyer
Trent Cotney, P.A.
1211 N Franklin St
Tampa, FL 33602

Thursday, November 7, 2013

OFCCP Has Published Two Final Rules Affecting Federal Contractors

On Sept. 24, the Department of Labor's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) published two final rules that will apply to federal contractors. Both rules will take effect March 24, 2014, 180 days after publication in the Federal Register. The rules significantly modify existing federal regulations governing hiring rules for individuals with disabilities and protected veterans.

The first regulation contains new requirements for federal contractors with respect to hiring individuals with disabilities, including establishing a new 7 percent utilization goal for hiring disabled individuals within every job group. The rule changes regulations implementing Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibits federal contractors and subcontractors from discriminating in employment against individuals with disabilities and requires such employers to take affirmative action to recruit, hire, promote and retain these individuals. The rule also changes the nondiscrimination provisions of existing regulations so they comply with the Americans with Disability Act Amendments Act of 2008.

The second regulation implements new requirements for federal contractors with respect to the hiring of veterans. It changes existing regulations implementing the Vietnam Era Veterans' Readjustment Assistance Act (VEVRAA). The act prohibits federal contractors and subcontractors from discriminating in employment against protected veterans and requires these employers to take affirmative action to recruit, hire, promote and retain veterans. The final rule strengthens the affirmative action provisions of the regulations to aid contractors in their efforts to recruit and hire protected veterans and improve job opportunities for protected veterans.
(FROM NRCA)



Trenton H. Cotney
Florida Bar Certified Construction Lawyer
Trent Cotney, P.A.
1211 N Franklin St
Tampa, FL 33602

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Construction Market Expected to Show Modest Growth in 2014


McGraw Hill Construction, a division of The McGraw Hill Cos., New York, recently released its 2014 Dodge Construction Outlook, which predicts that construction starts in 2014 will rise 9 percent to $555 billion. This follows the 5 percent increase estimated for 2013. 


"We see 2014 as another year of measured expansion for the construction industry," says Robert A. Murray, vice president of economic affairs for McGraw-Hill Construction. "Against the backdrop of elevated uncertainty and federal spending cutbacks, the construction industry should still benefit from several positive factors going into 2014. 

"Job growth, while sluggish, is still taking place," he continues. "Interest rates remain very low by historical standards, and in the near term, the Federal Reserve is likely to take the necessary steps to keep them low. The bank lending environment is showing improvement in terms of lending standards and the volume of loans. And the improving fiscal posture of states and localities will help to offset some of the negative impact from decreased federal funding." 

Expectations released in the 2014 Dodge Construction Outlook include:
  • Single-family housin

    g climbing 26 percent in dollars and 24 percent in the number of units
  • Multifamily housing increasing 11 percent in dollars and 9 percent in units
  • Commercial buildings increasing 17 percent in dollars
  • Institutional buildings increasing 2 percent in dollars
  • Public works construction falling 5 percent
  • Electric utility construction dropping 33 percent
(From NRCA)



Trenton H. Cotney
Florida Bar Certified Construction Lawyer
Trent Cotney, P.A.
1211 N Franklin St
Tampa, FL 33602

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

OSHA Silica Rule Needs to Extend Public-comment Period, Says Lawmaker


The head of the House Small Business Committee asked the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to delay a workplace safety rule that has been in the works for years.
Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.) said in a letter to the agency on Thursday that small companies need more time to weigh in on the draft rule setting an exposure limit for silica dust, which has been linked to fatal lung disease.
The 755-page proposed regulation, which was revealed earlier this year, along with a report about how it would affect small businesses, is “a significant amount of information and analysis for small businesses to review,” he wrote.
“Extending the deadlines associated with the rule making will help ensure that small businesses and their representatives are able to provide OSHA meaningful comments and data,” he added.

The letter from Graves comes days after the Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy, which looks out for the small businesses’ interests in the regulatory process, asked the agency to give the public more time to comment on the rule. 

Currently, the comment period for the proposed regulation is set to close on Dec. 11, three months after it was published in the Federal Register.
Graves and the Advocacy Office both want OSHA to keep the docket open for an additional 90 days.
Last month, the House committee chairman highlighted the regulation for the public. 
The rule limiting workers’ exposure to silica dust has been in the works for a decade.
Proponents of the rule, who note that it would save nearly 700 lives each year, according to OSHA analysis, say that efforts to delay the rule would just leave workers at construction sites and other industrial workplaces exposed to the dust at risk.

They also add that small-business interests already had a chance to weigh in on the rule while it was still under development at OSHA, due to restrictions that require the agency to survey small-business representatives for some rules.


(From NRCA Smartbrief)




Trenton H. Cotney

Florida Bar Certified Construction Lawyer
Trent Cotney, P.A.
1211 N Franklin St
Tampa, FL 33602