Keep commercial construction workers healthy in cold weather

    The winter season is here to stay – for at least the next few months.

    Chilly temperatures mean general contractors should take extra precautions to keep workers safe and healthy when they’re exposed to the elements.

    Even in the Southeast and areas like Maryville or Knoxville, cold weather is often accompanied by rain, wintry mix, ice and snow. So where do you begin to keep workers safe? OSHA is a great place to start to learn more about the effects of cold stress on the body. Increased exposure to cold temperatures and gusty wind chills forces heat to leave the body and could result in the following serious conditions:

    Hypothermia – This condition occurs when a person’s regular body temperature drops to 95 degrees or less. The symptoms of mild hypothermia are as simple as mild shivering. More severe hypothermia symptoms include slurred speech, confusion, slow heart rate and loss of consciousness.

    Prevention Train commercial construction workers to know the signs and symptoms of hypothermia. Take breaks in warm, dry shelters and complete work in shifts and in pairs. If hypothermia is suspected, call 911 and move the worker to a warm, dry place. Cover the body with blankets and if medical assistance is more than 30 minutes away, provide the person with warm, sweetened drinks. Apply heat packs to sides of chest, underarms, neck etc.

    Frostbite – In cases of frostbite, body tissues start to freeze. Hands and feet are especially sensitive to frost bite and injury can occur even when temperatures are above freezing but wind chills are present. Symptoms include numbness and areas where red skin starts to look gray or white.

    Prevention – Layer clothing and wear personal protective equipment such as hats, gloves. If the weather is extremely cold, wear a hat that includes pieces to cover and protect the neck and ears. If frostbite is suspected, loosely cover the area – but do not rub the skin. Do not try to re-warm the area – seek medical attention immediately.

    Trench Foot – This is caused by lengthy exposure to cold, wet environments. If feet are constantly wet, this can even occur in temperatures as warm as 60 degrees. Symptoms include redness, swelling and blisters.

    Prevention – Waterproof boots are required to prevent these cold-weather foot injuries. If trench foot is suspected, remove wet shoes and socks. Elevate your feet and seek medical attention.

    Leon Williams Contractors takes pride in its safety processes for commercial construction workers. To learn more, visit

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    How to avoid common legal issues in commercial construction

    No matter how much you try, there are just some things you can’t control – even in the commercial construction industry. Everything from torrential summer rains to supplier mix-ups can cause issues on site and impact timelines.

    What can you control? Being proactive about some common legal issues in the commercial construction industry. Becoming educated about these issues – and consulting attorneys when necessary – are the smartest ways to ensure projects run smoothly from the start.

    Here are some of the most common issues for general contractors to plan for and address before any potential problems arise:

    ContractsContract negotiations don’t have to be a thorn in your side. Contractors should prepare for common points to cover. Will there be financial penalties for delays? What about delays caused by third parties? What approval checkpoints are required for the project to be considered final?

    Material Costs – Sometimes the prices of materials used on a project can eliminate profits for contractors. One way to address this is to tie the final cost to materials or agree in a contract to a set a price that accounts for cost changes and won’t change based on fluctuations in the prices of those material.

    Licensing – This is an easy one. Contractors need to keep licenses top of mind, especially as requirements vary state by state. Stay up to date on your state’s laws and any changes that may occur.

    Injuries and Safety– Considered a “high hazard” industry, injuries on the job site are one of the most common issues for contractors but they are also one of the most preventable. The first step toward a safe project site is compliance with OSHA standards. Following these regulations while paying attention to equipment and electrical safety and other precautions will go a long way. In the event of an accident, prompt reporting is required.

    As one of East Tennessee’s premiere general contractors, Leon Williams Contractors takes pride in its proactive approach toward safe and successful projects.

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    Closing up for the Holidays? Protect Your Building from Fires.

    For business or commercial property owners, your buildings are one of the largest assets you possess. As commercial contractors, we know just how much money and time goes into developing the building that houses your livelihood – which is why we also know how important it is to protect it.

    During the rush of the holiday season, evaluating the safety of your property may be the last thing on your mind. However, there are certain risks involved with leaving your commercial building vacant during the holidays, including the danger of fires.

    When closing up shop, here are some tips that can help prevent fires in your building:

    1.  Make sure all smoke detectors, alarms, and sprinklers are in working order. Alarms and automatic sprinkler systems can save your building from increased damaged due to commercial fires. Before you head home for the holidays, make sure to replace the batteries in your smoke detectors and alarms, and check all sprinklers for leaks, obstructions, or damage.

    2. Protect your important files. The best solution to ensure your files are safe in the event of a fire is to back them up on a server or external hard drive. For physical files that have yet to be scanned, or items of high importance that cannot be stored on a server, it is wise to invest in a fireproof safe. Investing in these two preventive measures will allow your business to continue operations in the event of an emergency.

    3. Prevent arson. In order to prevent intentional fires while your building is vacant, lock up all entrances including doors, windows, and gates, and ensure you have a working alarm system in place. Keep all combustibles, including boxes and bags of trash, away from your building, and illuminate the exterior and nearby alley ways.  Maintaining the security of your commercial property is vital in preventing cases of arson.

    4. Double-check electrical wiring and outlets. Be sure to use best practices with electrical cords. Never overload your electrical outlets, and make sure that all wires and plugs are in good working condition. This includes checking for frayed or worn wires which should be replaced before leaving a building vacant for extended periods of time. Also, every business should have a designated employee to turn off and unplug all appliances at the end of each work day.

    Taking the time to evaluate your surroundings before closing up for the holidays could ultimately save your building. At Leon Williams Contractors, we know that checking for necessary upgrades and potential hazards can ensure your commercial property is safe this holiday season.


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    Prepping for OSHA’s Injury Reporting Changes

    In keeping compliant with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), we are prepping for updated mandates regarding the organization’s injury reporting procedures. Beginning on January 1, 2015, all states under federal OSHA jurisdiction must make changes in their reporting process. The new rule includes two major updates:

    1. Work-related fatalities must be reported to OSHA within eight hours. Work related in-patient hospitalizations, amputations, or losses of an eye must be reported within 24 hours. Prior to updates, OSHA required employers to report fatalities and hospitalizations if three or more employees were affected. Now, even if the incident is isolated, it must be passed along to OSHA officials.
    2. OSHA now has an updated list of industries that are exempt from keeping injury and illness records. Due to low occupational hazards and a slim rate of reported incidents, these industries will not be required to keep consistent records unless otherwise asked in writing to do so. Note that establishments within these industries must still report all fatalities, amputations, hospitalizations, and losses of eyes.

    The construction industry is not included on the updated list of exemptions released by OSHA. With the associated risks that come from completing major construction projects, contractors must be prepared to educate all employees of OSHA’s changes.

    As commercial construction contractors, we believe the most important thing you can do in preparation for the changes is to educate yourself and employees of OSHA mandates. Hold a training session detailing how and when to report an injury as well as reiterate safety procedures. Also, ensure that your business has an effective record-keeping system in place before January 1st.

    From the office to the work site, Leon Williams Contractors is committed to providing a safe work environment for all of our employees. As a commercial construction leader in East Tennessee, we recognize the importance of continual safety training to stay compliant with state and federal regulations.

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    What to Know about OSHA’s New Injury Reporting Rules

    Earlier in September of this year, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) revised and finalized its rules for reporting industry injuries. Under the new severe-injuries-and-illness reporting requirements, employers must not only notify OSHA within eight hours after a worker is killed on the job, but also within 24 hours after an employee suffers a work-related hospitalization, amputation or loss of an eye.

    Before the revision, businesses were only required to notify OSHA after a fatality occurred or when three or more employees were hospitalized from a single incident. Unlike other industries, members of the commercial construction business have never been exempt from OSHA reporting but still, there are some key items to take away from the recent revision.

    • Employers in states with state-run OSHA plans are encouraged to check with their local agencies regarding the implementation date. Federal OSHA is currently pushing for a January 1 deadline nationwide.
    • Companies with less than 10 employees remain exempt from record-keeping requirements and OSHA is in the process of developing an electronic reporting method.
    • Building material and supply dealers, building and dwelling service providers, commercial and industry machinery and equipment rental and leasing firms, and facility support service providers are now covered under the new rules.
    • Some industries are still partially exempt from the new rules such as architectural, engineering and related services, computer systems design and related services, management, scientific and technical consulting services, and schools, technical schools, colleges and universities

    The continual alterations to OSHA rules, regulations and reporting have benefitted the commercial construction industry and beyond immensely. In 2013, workplace deaths in the construction industry fell by another 1 percent and the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the industry’s 2013 fatality rate fell by .5 percent compared to 2012 to 9.4 percent.

    Being fully integrated into the commercial construction industry means Leon Williams Contractors understand, abide by and appreciate OSHA standards. Without them, construction in East Tennessee and in general would not be able to grow as fast or as safely as it has been since the organization was enacted more than 40 years ago.

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    OSHA Proposes Silica Dust Rules to Protect Workers’ Lungs

    Last year, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration proposed new rules to protect workers from potential health hazards of crystalline silica particles, which some experts say can contribute to developing lung cancer, kidney disease, respiratory illnesses and silicosis – a progressive, incurable disease.

    The proposed new rules are undergoing a process of public comment and review, which began in March 2014, before a final decision is made to implement them – or not – but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been a topic of controversy in the construction industry. Some national building associations are calling for more feasible and cost-effective regulations to keep workers safe rather than the current proposed rules, which some independent sources say will cost the construction industry $1 billion a year in compliance.

    Understanding the source

    Silica is an industrial material found in nature that occurs in several forms including quartz, which is a component of rock, concrete, brick, block, mortar and other commons construction materials.

    Those who work with glass manufacturing, cement cutting, demolition, sandblasting and more are at risk for inhaling small silica particles, which could lead to lung diseases and scarring of the lungs. The current rules for exposure are nearly 40 years old, which prompted OSHA to take a closer look at new regulations.

    Raising hazard awareness and prevention

    Awareness is a big factor to help prevent workplace exposure. The most severe exposure can occur during blasting with sand to remove paint and rust from structures like bridges, concrete and other surfaces as well as concrete drilling, block cutting and sawing.

    What can commercial construction companies and contractors do to help mitigate the risks?

    1)    Choose to replace crystalline silica materials with safer alternatives

    2)    Use protective equipment and measures when exposure cannot be avoided

    3)    Wear only NIOSH-certified respirators

    4)    Participate in training and health screening and surveillance programs

    5)    Do not eat, drink, smoke or apply cosmetics in areas where silica dust is present

    At Leon Williams Contractors, we definitely believe in being proactive. What is your take on the new silica dust rules?

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    3 Useful Apps for Commercial Construction Safety

    Technology is revolutionizing our personal and professional lives – the commercial construction industry included. In the age of mobile technology, general contractors now have more apps than ever available at their fingertips to create and share custom blueprints, manage bids with vendors and subcontractors and even help manage workplace safety.

    Hundreds of apps have been designed to help facilitate safety on the job, but with so many to choose from, how do you know where to begin?

    We’ve done our research on some of the most useful construction safety apps.

    Trevor King 66 via photopin cc

    Trevor King 66 via photopin cc

    1)    Incident Cost Calculator App – At Leon Williams Contractors, we know a safe construction environment is not only paramount for our workers and clients – it makes good business sense, too.

    Want proof?

    This free cost calculator app provides custom analysis of workplace incidents based on your pay rates and hours. You can even email summaries to colleagues and use the app offline. This app’s instructions and instructional videos are also rated highly by users.

    2)    iConstructSafe – After more than a decade serving East Tennessee, we know that commercial construction safety is at its finest when we empower our experts and craftsmen with safety information and reminders of all kinds.

    This free app can be used without wifi and includes safety reminder videos (most of which are just two-to-three minutes long) that can be used on the job site. The videos provide educational opportunities about everything from safely using various power tools to preventing falls and are designed to be used right before a worker uses the specific tool. It also includes a special section for supervisors.

    3)    Safety Meeting App – This app helps you manage OSHA –required safety meetings more effectively. It features more than 950 safety-meeting topics, meets OSHA’s required meeting laws and includes both Spanish and English topics.

    You only need one account for the entire company, where you can record active and inactive employees and print and download PDFs. This app is available for a free 30-day trial.

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    5 Summer Survival Tips to Ensure Worker Safety

    East Tennessee’s hottest days of the year are right around the corner. In the commercial construction business, that means increased heat stress. As temperatures rise and humidity increases, working professionals at Leon Williams Contractors and other general contractors are exposed to increased heat stress. Without the proper precautions, heat stress can lead to adverse health effects. Here are 5 essential tips for general contractors to ensure worker safety in the summer heat:

    1. Educate your workers

    Heat stress can lead to serious health consequences and even death. Fortunately, heat-related illness is preventable. The best way to prevent and treat heat-related illnesses is to train and educate your workers on the signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion. According to the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), signs of heat exhaustion include: dizziness, weakness, confusion, fainting, and nausea. If a worker shows any of these symptoms, dial 911 for immediate medical attention.

    2. Drink plenty of fluids

    Dehydration causes disorientation and confusion, both very dangerous conditions in the commercial construction business. To avoid dehydration, drink plenty of water. For a commercial construction worker in a moderately hot working condition, OSHA recommends drinking one pint of water per hour. It’s also important to drink water before becoming thirsty and continuously throughout the day.

    3. Dress for the heat

    Workers who wear impermeable personal protective equipment (PPE) have an increased risk of heat stress. Impermeable materials trap heat close to the body and raise the body’s core temperature. Whenever possible, choose breathable fabrics and equipment. Lightweight, light colored clothing is optimal. Apply sunscreen SPF 15 and above to protect the skin and wear sunglasses to protect the eyes.

    4.  Gradually increase workload and heat exposure

    Commercial construction workers with no recent exposure to hot workplaces are at a greater risk of heat exhaustion. To prevent this, gradually increase the workload and amount of heat exposure over a five day period. This will give the body time to adjust to the increased heat stress.

    5. Rest

    To ensure adequate recovery and optimal energy, schedule frequent resting periods in cool environments. Avoid rest places with little or no air movement.  After a rest period, work in pairs to help monitor each other for any possible symptoms of heat-related illness.

    Nearly every general contractor is exposed to a hot workplace. Keeping these tips in mind will keep workers safe and productive throughout the summer.

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    Crucial Things to Remember During Project Planning

    Without a plan in place, it’s going to be difficult for any commercial construction project to be completed on time and under budget.

    That’s why, at Leon Williams Contractors, we take project planning and management very seriously on our commercial projects around East Tennessee. Proper planning allows us to gauge exactly how long each project will take, how much it will cost, and how well we can meet our clients’ expectations.

    Project planning starts with a scope of work. This document outlines everything from project objectives, to individual tasks and specific materials, and lists expectations for each crew member and subcontractor working on the project. Having a scope of work allows us to hold everyone accountable for their role in a commercial construction project, and to make sure we stick to the plan and have something in writing in case any disputes should arise.

    On each job, we have a project manager, who is responsible for overseeing the work site and making sure everyone stays on task. This manager must communicate with everyone involved in the project, make sure everyone has the materials and other resources they need to get their part of the project done, and ensure everything stays on target with budget and schedule.

    The Project Management Institute outlines nine specific areas that need to be included in project planning:

    1. Integration – coordination of all project elements
    2. Scope – ensuring all required work is done
    3. Time – creating an effective schedule
    4. Cost – identifying resources and controlling the budget
    5. Quality – making sure functional requirements are met
    6. Human Resources – picking the right crew members for the job
    7. Communication – making sure everyone is on the same page during the course of the project
    8. Risk – identifying and managing potential problems
    9. Procurement – getting any necessary resources from external sources

    Effective project planning and management takes some thought and resourcefulness, but it pays off in the long run when a project is completed efficiently, cost-effectively, and with a minimum of issues.

    If you are a commercial developer planning a project, contact Leon Williams Contractors today to find out how we can help you.

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    Building in Bad Weather – How Commercial Contractors Prepare

    No matter the season, you never know when bad weather will show up. On a commercial construction project, crews are likely to see the whole spectrum of weather patterns, since most projects take months to complete.

    At Leon Williams Contractors, we have to be particularly aware of volatile weather. Commercial construction in Knoxville and the surrounding areas can be dangerous, since the weather can go from sunny one moment to storming the next, with almost no warning.

    For that reason, we always take precautions on the work site. If it looks like high winds or storms might be moving in, it’s important to secure any loose equipment, such as ladders. We also cover any equipment or materials that could be damaged, and ensure that all electrical equipment is out of the way of rain and lightning. It’s also vital to keep a close eye on the storm moving in – if it gets too bad, it’s safer to stop work in order to avoid being hit by a lightning strike. Tornadoes are likely to pop up in East Tennessee during storms, especially in the spring, so we carefully monitor weather reports and take cover in the event of any tornado warnings.

    In the winter, snow and ice can be a big problem, along with cold temperatures. Here, too, is an opportunity for precautions on the job site. Workers wear protective gear like insulated gloves, hats, and socks. We use salt or put down non-slip surfaces to minimize slick spots – and we’re careful to clear ice from ladders and scaffolding.

    In the summer, heat is the biggest issue facing construction workers. It’s important to wear protective gear that is well-ventilated so you don’t overheat. It’s also vital to stay hydrated and take frequent breaks out of the sun – and of course, to wear sunscreen!

    Bad weather rarely puts a stop to a commercial construction project – and with the right preparations, it might not even have to slow things down.

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