By now, everyone knows someone effected by the opioid epidemic. However, as construction employers, we must all pause and consider this issue as an industry.
In August, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) released a report examining opioid related deaths by industry from 2011 to 2015. The historical data available paints a dire portrait of the construction occupation in the face of the drug crisis which is surely to continue increasing as more recent data is also examined.
Across the state in this 4 year period, the DPH was able to identify 4,302 opioid related deaths for employed residents. Of these, 1,155 or 26.8% were construction workers!
These numbers are staggering to consider with only agricultural worker and fishermen even coming close to the rate at which construction workers are dying.
Now, obviously, these rates are probably less in the union building trades, but nevertheless a breakdown of deaths by the trade reveals that the worst 3 trades for opioid related deaths are represented by the BTEA, Laborers (34%), Carpenters (18%) and Painters (8%).
Currently, the BTEA is considering ways in which to raise awareness of these issues and inform our employers and their employees of the dangers of opioids and how to get help.
Below is a copy of the report. Please read it and consider what you can do to help!
In 2017, Massachusetts created the Health Insurance Responsibility Disclosure (HIRD) form that employers with six or more employees must submit annually starting November 30.
The Department of Revenue guidance provides that any employer who has or had six or more employees in any month during the preceding twelve months will be required to complete the HIRD form annually. The form is designed to collect information relating to an employer’s health insurance offerings and help DOR identify MassHealth enrollees with access to qualifying employer-sponsored insurance who may be eligible for the MassHealth Premium Assistance Program.
This newsletter has previously discussed the Employer Medical Assistance Contribution (EMAC) fees being charged to employers if their employees enroll in the MassHealth program. Recently, the Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) finalized regulations allowing a hardship exemption from the fines for employers who are either: (1) suffering a financial hardship such that payment of the assessment is likely to result in closure of the business or a significant loss of employment; (2) subject to multiple assessments in a year; or (3) facing a significant employee turnover rate.
Employers must file their HIRD forms by November 30, 2018 and each year on November 30th. In order to comply with the reporting requirement, employers must submit the HIRD form through the MassTaxConnect (MTC) web portal. If an employer uses a payroll company to file tax information on the MTC, the HIRD form may be filed by either the employer or the payroll company. However, employers are responsible to ensure that the HIRD form is filed.
We have also heard that union employers are being assessed the EMAC fines as a result of employees not being covered by union healthcare plans until they have achieved the required hourly threshold. After some digging, we have found that a form may be filed by employers if they are incorrectly assessed these penalties despite offering union health benefits.
Below is a form for employers to download and submit upon receiving their quarterly EMAC fines. We encourage our employers to file it along with a letter from the union benefit funds stating that contributions are being made for the employee.
The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) is the state regulator responsible for enforcing anti-harassment and nondiscrimination regulations on business. They provide a model Sexual Harassment Policy for use by employers. The BTEA has revised this policy to highlight the areas where our members must edit the document in order to make it their own. We recommend that when identifying who may receive a complaint of harassment that our members also acknowledge the role the union can play in receiving a complaint and passing the information onto the employers.
The Building Trades Employers’ Association would like to issue a reminder to all employers that the effective date for the new Federal Crane Operator Certification Rule is November 10, 2018 for construction employers.
Under this rule, the Massachusetts Hoisting and Rigging License WILL NOT count for compliance. Only exams that contain a written and a practical portion will meet the federal criteria for compliance. We recommend ensuring that all of your crane operators have received the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators (NCCCO) or Crane Institute Certification (CIC) training for each type of crane they control.
Employers signatory with the Operating Engineers Local #4 should be aware that all Local #4 operators are already NCCCO certified and no further action is needed.
Private instructors are available through NCCCO and CIC. The BTEA has created the attached document to better inform our members of the Federal and various State certification requirements.
As soon as possible, we recommend that all employers of crane operators ensure that their state licenses are up to date and to require employees achieve NCCCO/CIC certification. While there is always the chance that the Federal Crane Operation Certification Rule will be delayed again, there will be a last minute rush all across the industry, so it is best to be ahead of the curve.
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.