Construction Risk Advisor - July 2018 Edition

DATA SCIENCE TO BOOST EFFICIENCY AND SAFETY


In order to improve worker safety and boost efficiency, about 20 construction companies have launched data science initiatives over the past few years.

One of those pioneers is a Boston-based company whose data scientists have developed an algorithm that analyzes photos from its job sites and then scans them for safety hazards. The algorithm then correlates those images with its accident records.

Although the technology still needs some fine-tuning, the company hopes to use the algorithm to rate project risks. As a result, the technology could prove extremely helpful in detecting elevated threats and then intervening with safety briefings.

Combining the data collected from these efforts could also be used to forecast project delays. Although data science is somewhat new to construction, a recent McKinsey report said that firms could boost productivity by as much as 50 percent through real- time analysis of data.

Newsletter Provided by: Hierl's Property & Casualty Experts

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AVOIDABLE ESTIMATION MISTAKES IN CONSTRUCTION


In the past three years, only 31 percent of construction projects came within 10 percent of their budgets, according to RSMeans, a provider of construction cost information. Completing projects within budget is a constant challenge for many contractors. Here are five estimating mistakes to be aware of, along with best practices to combat them.

1. Unrealistic expectations—Don’t rely on ideal orworst-case scenarios, which can lead to impractical estimates. Find the middle ground to avoid setting expectations too high and blowing timelines.

2. Flying solo—Don’t be afraid to use outside data sources from a credible third party. Create a realistic estimate by including a combination of your own historical data and their custom data.

3. Lack of or wrong permits—If you lack permits or have the wrong type, work can come to a standstill. Factor proper permits into your estimate, as well as their corresponding costs.

4. Unclear parameters—Parameters must be established clearly at the onset of each project.Make sure you clearly understand your clients’limitations and restrictions before creating an estimate to avoid unnecessary change orders.

5. Missing details—A lack of knowledge, missing items or generalized task descriptions can lead to estimates that are too low. Take the time to account for all necessary materials, labor and equipment by referencing similar work done in the past or detailed cost data from a third party.


Safety Focused Newsletter - July 2018

Back Strain: A Workplace Risk for Every Employee


Back injuries are common in the workplace and are typically the result of a strain or sprain to back ligaments or muscles, the spinal cord, thoracic spine, lumbar spine, sacrum or coccyx. What’s more, you don’t need to work in a manual labor-intensive job to experience back problems. Employees of all kinds can maintain back health by keeping these tips in mind during their workday:

  • Take small breaks throughout your workday and stretch regularly.
  • Manage your stress level to reduce discomfort and back pain.
  • Exercise and stay active to reduce your chances of developing back pain.
  • Adjust your posture frequently.
  • Position your desk chair so your feet are flat on the floor.
  • Lift with your knees, and keep what you are lifting close to your body. Ask a co-worker to assist you when performing tasks that require heavy lifting, pushing, pulling or throwing.
  • Drink enough water and eat a healthy diet. This helps keep your spinal discs hydrated and healthy.
  • Watch where you walk. Many back strain injuries are the result of involuntary motion, like an attempt to recover from a slip.It may also be a good idea to work with your manager to plan your working hours in a way that helps you avoid long periods of repetitive work.

EMPLOYEES DO NOT NEED TO WORK IN THE CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY OR A MANUAL LABOR- INTENSIVE JOB TO EXPERIENCE BACK PROBLEMS.

5 WAYS TO IMPROVE COMMUNICATION

  1. AVOID CLICHÉS
  2. BE BRIEF
  3. BE SINCERE
  4. AVOID ARGUMENTS
  5. ALLOW OTHERS TO RESPOND WITHOUT INTERRUPTION

How Employees Can Improve Workplace Communication


Communication is key in all aspects of life, but especially in the workplace. Without good communication, employees and productivity can suffer.

However, there are things you can do to establish better communication and improve the way things are done at your workplace. When it comes to interacting with your co-workers, keep in mind the following:

Make sure you are being clear and concise.

This applies not only to face-to-face conversations, but also to emails and all other types of communication. Your messages should be complete and include everything you want to convey.

Listen carefully. Don’t respond to what someone has said—aloud or in your head—until they have finished speaking. If you start thinking about a response before your co- worker has gotten their message across, you could miss important pieces of information and derail the conversation.

Summarize what you’ve said. After you’vegiven a long-winded speech or written an extensive email, go over the basic, most important points. This will help refresh yourlistener’s memory and potentially weed outopportunities for miscommunication.

Make meetings meaningful. Schedule a meeting to elaborate on complex tasks and make the most of scheduled time. Don’tstray from the topic, and keep conversations productive.

Follow up in writing. No matter how compelling a meeting or conversation was, it’s likely that people will not remember everything that was shared. For important matters, follow up with an email that highlights key takeaways from the conversation or meeting.

Above all, it’s important to be mindful ofyour body language and tone when you communicate. Together, these strategies ensure clear, effective correspondence.

Newsletter Provided by: Hierl's Property & Casualty Experts

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Construction Risk Advisor - June 2018 Edition

ARE SIGNING BONUSES ENOUGH TO KEEP WORKERS?


As the shortage of skilled labor in construction continues, it’s becoming more common for contractors to offer one-time bonuses to attract skilled workers. In fact, according to the Associated General Contractors of America, close to one-quarter of contractors reported using bonuses to attract employees, ranging between a few hundred dollars to over $1,500 per worker.

What employers like about bonuses is that they’re one-time payments that don’t affect employees’ base pay. However, there is a drawback to offering an incentive for getting skilled workers in the door—there’s no proof that they’ll stay, especially if they can easily find another job elsewhere. Workers can stay long enough to collect the bonus but then leave for another opportunity, and yet another bonus.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, construction pay in the U.S. only rose by a meager 2.4 percent in 2017, even though construction costs are increasing. Unless employers offer competitive pay, it may be difficult to keep workers.

TIME TO GET ON THE CLOUD


By using the cloud, construction companies have been able to completely overhaul the way they interact with each other and with their workers. In a nutshell, the cloud consists of multiple networks of servers that allow apps to be accessed anywhere through the internet instead of confined to a particular computer or network.

Contractors that have projects and crews in multiple locations especially appreciate the benefits of the cloud, since it is efficient and allows for the seamless transfer of information.

What’s more, the cloud allows construction companies to utilize software-as-a-service solutions that are updated automatically as opposed to using traditional products that need to be manually installed and periodically replaced with newer versions.

SMALL CONTRACTORS BENEFIT TOO

Small contractors tend to be under the assumption that using the cloud is either too complicated, too expensive or intended for large construction firms. However, smaller firms may actually benefit most from using the cloud. In fact, the cloud has helped small contractors develop smarter work practices that have allowed them to become more profitable.

The smarter work practices made possible by the cloud can eliminate time- and money-wasting redundancies traditionally caused by the disorganized flow of paperwork and emails.

The overall lower cost of using the cloud also puts small contractors in a better position to compete with their larger competitors for projects.


Safety Focus Newsletter - June 2018 Edition

Your Role During Safety Meetings


One of the most effective ways to promote a healthy working environment is to get involved in company safety meetings. These informal, brief meetings allow you the opportunity to stay up to date on potential workplace hazards and safe workplace practices, such as machinery use, tool handling and equipment use.

When it comes to workplace safety meetings, you should keep the following in mind:

  • Attending safety meetings is mandatory. Be aware of what days your employer holds meetings, and plan accordingly.
  • Actively participating is important. Some of the best safety ideas come from workers, often because they know what and where the dangers are.If you have something to add during safety meetings, don’t hesitate to speak up.
  • If you have an idea for a safety topic, chances are others will find it of interest as well. Feel empowered to share safety concerns and improvements with your supervisor.

Above all, it’s important to take safety training seriously. Together with the help of your peers, employers can use safety meetings, training and hazard identification practices to ensure workplace health and safety.

4 Ways Employees Can Supplement Wellness Programs


Workplace wellness refers to the education and activities that a worksite may do to promote healthy lifestyles for employees and their families. Workplace wellness programs can increase productivity, decrease absenteeism and raise employee morale.

Because employees like you spend many of their waking hours at work, the workplace is an ideal setting to address health and wellness issues. While it is an employer’s job to implement general wellness policies, there are a number of things employees can do to supplement health initiatives.

Specifically, to improve physical and mental health and to enhance their employer’s wellness programs, you should do the following:

  1. Eat sensibly.It’s easy to snack at work, particularly if your office is equipped with vending machines. When it comes to healthy eating, moderation is key. Eat a healthy,filling breakfast and substitute greasy food with salads.
  2. Drink plenty of water.Dehydration can cause ill effects, such as drowsiness and sluggishness. Aim to drink between six and eight glasses of water every day. Doing so can even reduce hunger.
  3. Stop smoking.Tobacco use increases your risk for heart disease, cancer, stroke and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Abstaining from tobacco is one of the best ways to protect your health and get the most out of wellness programs you participate in.
  4. Manage your stress.Too much stress can lead to insomnia, anxiety, depression, low morale, short temper, headaches and back problems. Finding ways to manage stress will not only improve your physical and mental health, but it can also help you approach wellness initiatives with a positive mindset.

5 BENEFITS OF WORKPLACE WELLNESS PROGRAMS


1. IMPROVED PRODUCTIVITY

2. LOWER HEALTH CARE COSTS

3. A STRONG SENSE OF ACCOMPLISHMENT

4. WEIGHT LOSS

5. LESS STRESS


Trucking Risk Advisor - April 2018 Edition

New Study Shows Importance of Quality Sleep

Commercial drivers often have to work long hours in adverse conditions to meet deadlines, putting themselves and surrounding traffic at risk. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, drowsy driving is involved in almost 10 percent of all motor crashes.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recently conducted a study to determine how sleep quality affects drivers. Although the agency found that some solutions—such as team drivers working on shifts—helps drivers get more sleep, this isn’t as restful and can still lead to drowsy driving.

Although NIOSH believes that the best way to get restful sleep is to stop driving and find a stationary bed in a quiet setting, the agency also announced that it’s examining alternative methods to get quiet sleep, such as enhanced truck cabs with therapeutic mattress systems and behavioral sleep health programs.

Agriculture Truckers Granted Additional ELD Waiver

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recently granted agriculture truckers a second 90-day waiver from the electronic logging device (ELD) rule. The agency originally granted these truckers an ELD waiver that expired on March 18, 2018, in order to address the unique needs of the agricultural industry. However, the FMCSA believes that it needs more time in order to publish final guidance on personal conveyance and a 150 air-mile hours-of-service exemption.

The ELD rule went into effect on Dec. 18, 2017, but violations will only affect a motor carrier’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program scores after April 1, 2018. For more information on the recent waivers and the ELD rule, visit the FMCSA’s website.

DOT Announces Nearly $500 Million in Infrastructure Grants

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) announced that it will issue nearly $500 million in grants to 41 projects through its Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program. According to the DOT, the TIGER program helps ensure that transparent funding is available for transportation infrastructure projects. When announcing the grants, the agency also stated that the program helps increase safety, create jobs and modernize infrastructure.

Visit the DOT’s website to learn more about the TIGER program and the recently announced grants.

Newsletter Provided by: Hierl's Property & Casualty Experts

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OSHA Safety Cornerstones - April 2018 Newsletter

IN THIS ISSUE

OSHA Delays Beryllium Rule Enforcement

The agency also clarified requirements for the construction and shipyard industries.

Majority of Establishments Failed to Submit 2016 Electronic Reporting Data

A delayed compliance date and confusion about exemptions caused many establishments to fail to report 2017 data electronically.

OSHA Releases Two New Fact Sheets on Electricity Safety

These new resources can help protect employees who frequently work around electricity and downed power lines.

OSHA Delays Beryllium Rule and Clarifies Requirements for Construction and Shipyards

Although OSHA’s final rule on beryllium exposure in the general, construction and shipyard industries became effective on May 20, 2017, the agency recently announced that it will delay enforcement until May 11, 2018. OSHA also announced that some of the rule’s requirements will vary between the three affected industries.

Beryllium is a toxic metal that’s commonly found in machine parts, electronics and aircraft. The metal is a known carcinogen and can also cause respiratory problems, skin disease and many other adverse health effects. For these reasons, OSHA has lowered the exposure limits for employers in the general, construction and shipyard industries:

  • The permissible exposure limit (PEL) of an eight-hour average has been lowered to 0.2 micrograms per cubic meter of air (μg/m3). The previous PEL was 2.0 μg/m3, a limit that OSHA found to pose a significant health hazard to employees.
  • The short-term exposure limit (STEL) over a 15-minute period has been lowered to 2.0 μg/m3.

Although the new beryllium rule contains additional requirements, OSHA will only require the construction and shipyard industries to follow the new PEL and STEL. The agency stated that employees in these industries don’t frequently work near dangerous amounts of beryllium and are protected by the safety requirements found in other OSHA standards.

General industry employers must follow these additional beryllium control methods:

  • Provide exposure assessment to employees who are reasonably expected to be exposed to beryllium.
  • Establish, maintain and distinguish work areas that may contain dangerous amounts of beryllium.
  • Create and regularly update a written beryllium exposure plan.
  • Provide adequate respiratory protection and other personal protective equipment to employees who work near beryllium.
  • Train employees on beryllium hazards and control methods.
  • Maintain work areas that contain beryllium and—under certain conditions—establish facilities for employees to wash and change out of contaminated clothing or equipment.

According to a new report from Bloomberg Environment, a majority of the establishments that were required to submit 2016 injury and illness data under OSHA’s electronic reporting rule failed to do so. OSHA expected to receive about 350,000 reports, but the agency only received just over 150,000.

The final date to submit 2016 injury and illness reports was Dec. 31, 2017, but this date was delayed a number of times as OSHA worked to build its Injury Tracking Application and improve its cyber security. Bloomberg also attributes the large number of missing reports to confusion about exemptions, as OSHA received over 60,000 reports from exempt establishments.

Under the rule, the following establishments must submit data electronically:

  • Establishments with 250 or more employees that are required to keep injury and illness records must submit OSHA Forms 300, 300A and 301.
  • Establishments with 20 to 249 employees that work in industries with historically high rates of occupational injuries and illnesses must submit OSHA Form 300A.

The final date to submit 2017 injury and illness data electronically is July 1, 2018. Beginning in 2019, data from the previous calendar year must be submitted by March 2 annually.

NEWS & NOTES:

OSHA Releases Two New Fact Sheets on Electricity Safety

OSHA has released two electricity fact sheets in order to protect employees who frequently work with electricity and power lines. According to the Electrical Safety Foundation International, electricity causes over 150 fatalities and 1,500 injuries in U.S. workplaces every year.

Here are some of the topics included in the first new fact sheet, which can provide tips for engineers, electricians and other employees who work with electricity:

  • Generators
  • Power lines
  • Extension cords
  • Equipment
  • Electrical incidents

The second fact sheet focuses on downed electrical wires and can help employees involved in recovery efforts following disasters and severe weather events.

Protecting employees from electrical hazards not only keeps your business productive, it can also save you from costly OSHA citations. The agency’s electrical wiring method standard is one of the top 10 most frequently cited standards nearly every year.

For resources that can help safeguard your business against electrical hazards, contact us today.

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Safety Focused Newsletter - April 2018

How Indoor Air Quality Affects Health

Indoor air quality (IAQ) has a direct impact on your health, comfort, well-being and productivity. Poor IAQ can cause chronic headaches, allergies, fatigue and irritation of the lungs, among other symptoms.

What’s more, when IAQ is poor, it can have a direct effect on your productivity. If you are worried about the IAQ at your workplace, watch out for these symptoms:

  • Dryness or irritation of the eyes, nose, throat and lungs
  • Shortness of breath and fatigue
  • Nausea, headaches and dizziness
  • Chronic coughing and sneezing

If you suspect you are suffering from the effects of poor IAQ at your workplace, keep track of your symptoms and speak with your manager. As with many occupational illnesses, individuals may be affected differently.

If you are experiencing symptoms that your co-workers aren’t, that doesn’t mean an IAQ problem doesn’t exist and it’s still important to notify your employer. If your symptoms persist, consider speaking to a qualified medical professional.

3 Defensive Driving Tips That Could Save Your Life

Many jobs require employees to drive a company vehicle. While most drivers are cautious and attentive, accidents can occur without warning—even if the operator has years of experience.

When accidents happen, it can be incredibly costly for employers. What’s more, just one accident can cost employees their job or lead to serious, debilitating injuries.

One way to stay safe while you’re on the road for a job is through defensive driving. Being a defensive driver means driving to prevent accidents in spite of the actions of others or the presence of adverse driving conditions.

To avoid accidents through the use of defensive driving, do the following:

  • Remain on the lookout for hazards. Think about what may happen as far ahead of you as possible, and never assume that road hazards will resolve themselves before you reach them.
  • Understand the defense. Review potentially hazardous situations in your mind after you see them. This will allow you to formulate a reaction that will prevent an accident.
  • Act quickly. Once you see a hazard and decide upon a defense, you must act immediately. The sooner you act, the more time you will have to avoid a potentially dangerous situation.

Defensive driving requires the knowledge and strict observance of all traffic rules and regulations applicable to the area you are driving in. It also means that you should be alert for illegal actions and driving errors made by others and be willing to make timely adjustments to your own driving to avoid an accident.

Keeping in mind the above tips will not only keep you safe on the job, but in your personal life as well.

4 Tips for Safe Driving:

Avoid Distractions.

Be Alert.

Keep a Safe Distance.

Don't Speed.

Poor indoor air quality can cause chronic headaches, allergies, fatigue and irritation of the lungs, among other symptoms.

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Safety Focused Newsletter - March 2018

Health Tips for Shift Workers

For shift workers, unconventional schedules can take a toll on health and safety. In fact, research shows that people who sleep during the day often struggle with getting an adequate amount of rest.

What’s more, workers on a shift schedule tend to have poor eating habits and lack regular exercise, which can contribute to fatigue and stress. To combat these adverse health factors, shift workers should consider doing the following:

  • Get enough rest before your shift begins. Eating well and getting plenty of exercise can help you sleep. If you are experiencing insomnia or other sleep issues, speak with your doctor.
  • Take frequent breaks. If you begin to feel drowsy during the workday, consider going for a short walk or eating a healthy snack to re-energize.
  • Hold your employer accountable when it comes to rotating schedules. Working one shift over and over can take a toll, and it’s important to have occasional variety.

It’s important to be mindful about your scheduling, and avoid permanent or consecutive night shifts whenever possible. In addition, employees should be allowed to gradually change from night shifts to normal shifts, as this gives the body time to recover and adapt to a new schedule.

Fatigue due to poor quality or lack of sleep can affect every aspect of an individual’s life, and can severely hamper one’s ability to perform at work. Speak to a doctor if you are concerned about the quality of your sleep or want more general health tips.

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