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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    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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