The Massachusetts Operational Service Division (OSD) has asked BTEA again to promote the 3 Tradespersons Statewide Contracts. They want to identify union contractors available to bid on some small to mid-size state contracts for trade services required by state facilities.
Interested in this opportunity? If you are, please read over the flyer below!
Given the increasing focus on safety, you would expect OSHA had a busy year. However, continuing an ongoing trend, OSHA inspections dropped to the lowest level in 20 years. This marks the 4th consecutive year that inspections have fallen.
In the Northeast, inspections of construction contractors have fallen by more than 30% over the last 5 years from about 6,800 to about 4,700 total.
The graph above illustrates the Northeast average compared to the average with its three biggest states. These declines in the Northeast make up about a third of the overall decrease in construction inspections nationwide.
The OSHA budget peaked in 2012, but was down by about 3% in 2016. OSHA has cited budget cuts as causing the decrease in inspections. However they have found citations 5% more often than in 2015. In addition, appeals of OSHA citations were roughly equivalent in 2015 and 2016 at around 9%. BTEA recommends our members always work with our legal safety consultant before settling a case with OSHA.
Donald Trump has selected Andy Puzder to serve as his Secretary of Labor. The CEO of CKE Restaurants, Inc. which owns Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s is an interesting selection by Trump who had toyed with appointing Victoria Lipnic, the current head of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and a former Workforce Policy Counsel to the House.
Puzder is an interesting man, he attended Kent State, but dropped out in 1970 following the Kent State Shootings. In his own words, “I spent the next three years attending concerts and marching on Washington”. After moving to Cleveland he graduated college and got his law degree. As a young corporate lawyer he helped rescue Carl Karcher, founder of Carl’s Jr. from financial troubles. Years later, when CKE Restaurants fell into more financial difficulties after purchasing Hardee’s, Puzder was named CEO by the Board and tasked with turning it around.
Mr. Puzder has not been without controversy during his tenure. Franchisees overseen by CKE have been targeted by DOL in the past. Hardee’s Food Systems was found in violation of wage laws and ordered to give back pay to a group of 456 workers in 2006 and 2007. This money was owed for overtime on hourly employees. It is perhaps unsurprising then that Puzder has signaled that he opposes the Obama Overtime Rule which has already been blocked by the courts, and is most likely dead on arrival in a Trump Administration.
In addition, advocates calling for an increase in the Federal Minimum Wage will find Puzder opposes large raises of the minimum wage. $15 per hour will be out of the question because Pudzer opposed the Obama Administration attempt to raise it to $10.10 from the current $7.25. When asked about the effect of raising the minimum wage, Mr. Puzder said it could lead to increased automation because machines are, “always polite, they always upsell, they never take a vacation, they never show up late, there’s never a slip-and-fall or an age, sex or race discrimination case.”
The effect of a business executive running the labor department will be interesting to watch. Like Mr. Puzder, the Secretary of Labor has traditionally been a loyal supporter of the president, but unlike Mr. Puzder, most former Secretaries of Labor were career bureaucrats not as well versed in the corporate and financial worlds.
In late October, the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA) held their 73rd Annual Convention in Phoenix, Arizona. Over 30 people from SMACNA-Boston chapter attended the event.
SMACNA Boston is an affiliate of the BTEA and shares the leadership of our Executive Director Tom Gunning. Tom has been very active in SMACNA National for decades and was honored at the latest convention by being inducted into SMACNA’s College of Fellows.
Tom was one of 6 individuals being inducted to the College this year in a process that requires a nomination from your peers. Tom’s family traveled to Arizona to see him receive the award and was joined onstage by his wife.
In addition, Roy Ricci of McCusker-Gill Inc., was honored for his years of service on the SMACNA National Board of Directors. As well as making an impact nationally, Roy is an active member of SMACNA Boston and the BTEA.
Please join us in congratulating Tom and Roy and thanking them for their dedicated service to our industry and members both locally and nationally.
After decades of criticism, the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) has undergone a rebranding effort. In late September, Mayor Walsh and city officials announced the plan to transition the BRA to the new Boston Planning & Development Agency (BPDA). The BRA was founded in 1957 with the goal of revitalizing parts of Boston that were stagnating during the post-war boom of the suburbs.
While the City of Boston is a far cry from what it has been in the recent past, this has not come without intense criticism of the BRA’s role in redevelopment efforts. Neighborhoods have been displaced and residents upset with bureaucrats that appeared to favor developers over local wishes. Many residents viewed redevelopment as unstoppable and saw the BRA as the force driving these changes.
By rebranding as the BPDA, the City hopes to reclaim a sense of trust from the residents and highlight that redevelopment does not have to be a disruptive force, but that with planning, development can be a positive and incremental step forward.
As many contractors are aware, project delivery methods have been changing. The traditional Design Bid Build (DBB) has been criticized for slowing down project schedules and hurting communication between the planners and the boots on the ground.
Two other project delivery methodologies are becoming increasingly popular on both private and public projects. Design Build (DB) and Construction Manager at Risk (CM@R) both seek to accelerate project schedules and allow for greater control of the project by the contractors who are completing the work.
Design Build is different from DBB. It allows a single entity to manage both the planning and execution of a project. Often, the design does not even need to be completed before beginning work. The advantage to owners is an accelerated timeline and fixed price. The pitfalls of DB are that very few contractors are able to manage it reducing competition and potential issues with change orders and conflicts of interest.
CM@R is a hybrid of DB and DBB. Instead of completely entrusting all responsibility to a single contracting entity, owners maintain some control of design. With basic designs, owners receive bids on the maximum price from competing construction managers. The winning bidder is responsible for ensuring construction costs do not exceed that amount. The advantages to owners are similar to DB, a faster schedule and fixed costs, but many of the risks of DB are also avoided because owners have slightly more control of the design and the CM can better represent the interest of owners.
CM@R is being used on more and more projects, while advocates of responsible DB have also begun to explore additional implementation of that project delivery method. Contractors have to be aware of the benefit and limitations to both methods so that they can understand the nature of the project.
As this newsletter reported last month, the City of Boston is rolling out a new Hot Work Safety Program in response to the high profile Back Bay brownstone fire in 2014. Starting in 2017, the City of Boston will require that in order to receive a permit to do hot work, all employees will have to complete a course designed by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).
According to the Boston Fire Prevention Code, hot work includes:
Welding and allied processes
Any similar applications producing or using sparks, flame or heat.
The Boston Hot Work Safety Certificate Program will consist of a 3 hour course creating awareness of fire safety issues and educating workers on regulations and standards. It will culminate in a 20 question multiple choice test which must be passed by all employees. The cost of the course will be $25 per employee.
The Hot Work Safety Certificate Program is being rolled out by each of the local union training schools which will offer the classes to members throughout the fall. For those unable to attend a union-led training session, there will also be classes offered at Madison Park Technical Vocational School in Boston most Tuesdays and Thursdays.
For more information on class times and requirements, contact your union training director or the Association office.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is sponsoring Recovery Month to raise awareness of alcohol and drug addiction and promote treatment options for individuals suffering from these problems.
People can believe the false notion that drug addicts tend to be unemployed or homeless, however 70%-75% of addicts have a job. One problem is that they often are not particularly good at that job. Often, addicts can be unreliable, failing to show up on time and having low productivity. There is an increased chance of theft including tools and materials such as copper. Employers must also be aware of the increased chance of accidents or workplace liability. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence estimated that drug use costs employers about $80 billion annually.
And construction has a higher than average drug use among employees. Nationally about 8.7% of people are current drug users. A study by SAMHSA indicated that about 15% of construction workers were current users. This included 17.2% of supervisors and 17.3% of other workers. For more information on what you can do for Recovery Month, click on the banner below.
Massachusetts put new energy codes into effect on August 12, 2016 which are mandatory January 1, 2017. In 2017, all building permits and formal documents must comply with the new energy codes.
The new energy code is based on the 2015 International Energy Code Council (IECC). The stretch code is also being updated and is broken into three types:
R-use buildings 4 stories or fewer shall comply with an approved energy rating index, such as:
Use of Energy Star Homes 3.1 Path; Passive House Institute US Approved software; Other BBRS approved Software or rating standard (RESNET approach
Large buildings and high energy buildings must better ASHRAE 90.1 by 10%
There is no standard energy code nationwide, so states use a various codes depending on their local regulations. With this change, Massachusetts will join other states like Vermont and Washington who are notably efficient under the 2015 codes, while California and Florida continue using 2012 codes.
With apprehension about a potential energy shortage in the Northeast or the chance of dramatically rising energy costs, Vermont is betting on a new technology to help bridge the gaps.
Tesla home batteries cost about $6,500 for the hardware and the same or less for installation. It is typically hooked up to a solar panel or small wind turbine and can store about 6 hours of power for the average home. Vermont’s utility company Green Mountain Power is seeking to spur early adoption. The company purchased 500 Tesla batteries and is leasing them to customers. The arrangement allows the power company to draw from the Tesla batteries in exchange for providing a payment plan and small discount to customers who have them.
In an update to this story, IBEW Local #300 has announced that Green Mountain Power is signatory to their contract and has begun training its members on the installation of the Tesla Home Battery.