Subcontractor Challenges by Construction Dive

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Construction Dive wrote an in-depth article about the major challenges that subcontractors deal with on the construction site.  

Most construction projects use subcontractors for specialty work.  Why would a general contractor (GC) self-perform a specialty such as fire protection when they don't have the code knowledge, design experience, or skill set necessary?  They hire a subcontractor to complete that work.  However, when GC's hire a subcontractor, they are passing along a burden to the subcontractor.  

Related:  Case Study - Air Handling Unit Retrofit

Oftentimes, the subcontractor needs to take responsibility for the scheduling of the project and fronting the money needed to complete the project.  In some cases, subcontractors need to front millions of dollars for a project and coordinate the scheduling with other subcontractors on the project.

According to Construction Dive, subcontractors have 4 major challenges.

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1.  Cash Flow

GC's often rely on subcontractors to front the money for materials and payroll with a "pay when paid" policy.  This puts extra strain on subcontractors, especially those without adequate cash flow.

2.  Scheduling

Subcontractors are responsible for coordinating with the other groups on a job site.  Working with other subcontractors and coordinating the schedule can be challenging when each contractor's priority is getting their own portion of the job complete. 

3.  Communication

Communication between the owner, GC, and subcontractors is difficult.  Each group's main objective is the same.  Finish the project perfectly and on time.  However, outside factors like labor shortages and scheduling mishaps provide a need for crucial conversations.

Related:  Streamlining Processes for the General Contractor

4.  Labor Shortage

The labor shortage has been an issue for years now.  Contractors are starting to turn jobs down because they don't have a means to adequately staff the job.  It is better to not take a job then to take one you can't complete well.  The reputation tarnish of a job turned bad is not worth it.  

OSHA Cites Power Plant when "Volcanic Molten Slag" Fatally Burned Five Employees

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In June of 2017, the Big Bend River Station Power Plant in Florida experienced something horrible.  It looked like molten lava flowing from a volcano.

Fire inspectors determined that five employees were fatally burned when a blockage inside a coal-fired furnace broke, allowing molten slag into the work area.  The slag can get to 1,000 degrees.

Five employees died from the incident, and a sixth was injured but survived the experience.



The Day of the Power Plant Accident

On June 29, 2017 at 4:30pm. emergency responders were called to Big Ben River Station in Apollo Beach, FL.  They were told that workers in unit 2 had suffered severe burns.  At the scene, two people were declared dead while four other workers were taken to Tampa General Hospital.  Of those employee, three of the four died after being taken to the hospital.

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In June, a spokesman for the Hillsborough County Fire Rescue said that injuries were "very severe."

Related:  VIDEO:  Video Captures Haunting Footage of Abandoned Chernobyl Power Plant

Among the injured, one was an employee of the power plant - Michael McCort, a senior plant operator who worked for the plant for 35 years.  He was pronounced dead at the scene.  The other five injured people were contractors.

OSHA's Determined Cause for the Accident

OSHA investigated and recently determined that the plant failed to follow energy control procedures while performing maintenance on equipment.  Tampa Electric was cited as was Gaffin Industrial Services, the company that the contractors worked for.  Gaffin was cited for failing to provide appropriate personal protective equipment to safeguard employees from burns.

Related:  CEO of Adamco Group Dies in Power Plant Construction Accident

The proposed penalties by OSHA total $160,972.

"This tragedy demonstrates what can happen when hazards are not properly controlled," said OSHA Atlanta Regional Administrator Kurt Petermeyer.  "Employers must develop and implement necessary procedures to prevent incidents such as this from occurring."

5 Odd Artifacts Found at Construction Sites

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It's always fun to look at the strange things that are dug up at construction sites.  Things could be buried for centuries to be found at a parking garage construction site.  Let's take a look at the strangest things found recently.

1.  During Chinese Road construction, a 700-year-old mummy was found. 

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In 2011, a mummified woman was found during road construction.  She was incredibly well-preserved, dressed in silk, her hair and eyebrows were still intact.  Amazingly, she was 700 years old.

2.  A medieval hospital was found in Madrid at an Apple store. 

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In the 1850s, the bubonic plague was going strong in Europe.  Many hospitals got overwhelmed and had to be abandoned.  In 2013, the rubble of a bubonic hospital was found where an Apple store was being constructed.  It was determined that the hospital dated back to the 15th century.

3.  Pablo Escobar's Secret Safe at Home Construction

The government seized Pablo Escobar's Florida house twenty-nine years ago.  A new owner bought the house and began construction.  During the excavation process, they found Escobar's safe.  The government didn't release the contents though.

4.  Triceratops Fossil Found at Construction Site


During construction of a new fire and police station, in July of 2017, a triceratops skeleton was found.  The construction crew called the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, and on August 28, 2017, the curator confirmed that it was a triceratops. 

5.  1700's Cemetery



A man from New Orleans was digging a backyard pool when he discovered a buried cemetery.  The cemetery dated back to 1700 with 13 caskets with human remains.  Nearby, in 1984, 36 corpses were found while excavating an apartment complex.


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5 Forklift Safety Tips by Safety + Health Magazine

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According to OSHA, 11% of forklifts will be involved in an accident.  On average, 85 people die a year in a forklift accident.

1.  Train for Safety

The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries states that "workers without proper training and knowledge of forklift operation, as well as operators who maneuver forklifts carelessly, have an increased risk of injury or death."  

Someone who is untrained driving a forklift is just as dangerous as someone who drives a vehicle without a license.  OSHA requires that forklift training programs combine formal instruction (lectures, tests, written instruction) with hands on training.

Forklift drivers can't just assume that because they have driven a forklift, they can drive any forklift.  Different models and sizes drive differently.

2.  Perform Checkups

Forklifts should be inspected before each job.  Forklift operators should check seat belts, tires, lights, horn, brakes, backup alarms, and fluid levels as well as the moving and load supporting parts of the forklift.

3.  Know the Machinery

The National Safety Council's training program for rough-terrain lift truck operators says, "Although lift trucks and personal vehicles share some similarities, they ultimately are quite different."

Drivers are not enclosed, the weight ranges from 9,000-30,000 pounds, they travel closer to a walking pace, the can tip easier than a vehicle, and they have a tighter turn radius - all making forklifts more difficult to drive than cars.

To drive forklifts safely, drivers should have a clear view, look in the direction of travel, use spotters or aides (rear view mirrors), and use headlights.

4.  Stability Triangle

A lift truck has a center of gravity that is higher than in a personal vehicle.  However, the load has its own center of gravity.  Once the load is picked up, there is a new center of gravity.

Lift trucks are built on a three-point suspension, which resembles a triangle.  The stability triangle is where the operators need to stay while the truck is in motion.

To avoid tipping, operators need to make sure the load is secure and stable, keep loads low to the ground during operation, keep loads uphill while climbing or descending, and drive slowly.

5.  Know the Load

OSHA advises that loads are checked before picking them up.  The load needs to be stable and the dimensions need to be safe for transport.

Read more about forklift safety at Safety + Health Magazine.

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Researchers Find that Adding Cigarette Butts to Asphalt Reduces Heat Island Effect and Pollution {via Construction Junkie}

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Asphalt is a very popular pavement material.  So popular that researchers are constantly trying to improve it.  

Recently, they have tested salt-releasing pavement for de-icing, crack healing additives, and asphalt strengthening additives from recycled materials.  Most recently, they have tested adding cigarette butts.

Adding cigarette butts to asphalt is multi-beneficial.  One, it reduces landfill waste; and two, it reduces the heat island effect of pavement.  Researchers encased the cigarette butts in paraffin wax.

The urban heat island (UHI) effect is when it is hotter in an urban area, partially due to the dark asphalt adsorbing solar radiation.  UHIs reduce rainfall, decreases air quality, and decreases water quality. 

The need for reduced temperature of asphalt became news recently when L.A. decided to paint their asphalt a lighter color to reduce the heat.  By adding cigarette butts to the asphalt, it would reduce the bulk density and increase the porosity of the bitumen, reducing the asphalt temperature.  


Lansing Community College noted that 4.3 trillion cigarette butts are littered annually, of that number, 80% get to waterways.  This causes pollution in drinking water and hurts wildlife.

What construction material would you like improved?  Let us know in the comments.


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WWII Bomb Found During Construction, German Prison Evacuated

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Regensburg, Germany -- A World War II era bomb was recently unearthed during excavation work at a Germany construction site in Regensburg.  Regensburg is a city with a 140,000 population and home to a prison.

Construction in this area has unearthed undetonated munitions throughout the area.  The bomb was found during a construction project a few yards from Regensburg prison.  The prison is home to 109 inmates.

Authorities were forced to organize a large-scale evacuation of the area, including of the inmates and the prison.  Approximately 1,500 local residents were evacuated while the bomb was diffused.  Specialists defused one bomb and had two controlled explosions of bombs found with still-intact detonators.

Bombs and other munition is found throughout Germany during construction excavation.  Since the beginning of 2017, five bombs have already been found in the area.

About ten minutes from the site, another bomb was found near a kindergarten.  The bomb was a 250 lbs American pilot bomb.  It was safety defused.

"There are bombs everywhere.  This is nothing unusual in Germany," said Biopark Physicist Dr. Robert Mertzig.

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How to Make Toolbox Talks More Interesting

interesting toolbox talks

Toolbox talks are important, but they can get repetitive or boring if you aren’t making an effort to spice them up.  Here are four tips to make toolbox talks more interesting and engaging.

1.     Keep it Fun

Just like any public speaking, you want to draw your audience in.  One way to do that is to make it fun.  You can run a contest to increase participation, make the toolbox talk into a game, and keep interesting through real life examples.


2.     Make your team feel like a community

Toolbox talks are a great time to build a community with your workers.  Invite them to share experiences related to the topic.  Give other workers the opportunity to lead a toolbox talk with your guidance.  To build a community, we go straight into number three, have a common goal.

3.     Work towards a common goal

To build a community within your team, have a common goal you can work on together.  Maybe your goal is to reduce your EMR.  At the end of each meeting, wrap up with something you can do that week to accomplish the goal.  If you reach your goal, decide on an incentive like a company-paid happy hour or catered lunch.


4.     Photos, Videos, and Real Life Experiences

Attract the attention of all learning types.  Use elements of visual, audio, and hands-on to keep your team’s attention.  As an example, a visual learner might respond to images or video best.  An audio learner might enjoy a verbal presentation, podcast recommendations, or a video.  A hands-on learner would learn best by physically doing part of what your toolbox talk is about.  Adding in stories of real life experiences will keep people intrigued and will bring more perspective to the toolbox talk.

Keep your workers’ attention by adding some extra interest into toolbox talks.  They will no longer be something people have to do, but rather, something they look forward to.

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Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail

failing to plan is planning to fail construction safety

Contributor:  Mike Kelly, Project Manager of F.E. Moran Special Hazard Systems
Writer:  Sarah Block, Marketing Director of The Moran Group

Pre-task planning is essential for the timely and safe completion of a task within a construction project. A pre-task work plan covers six essential aspects of the task to be performed: determining potential problems, scheduling, costs, quality requirements and assurances, prerequisite tasks, and determining the progress of the task. Follow the directions below to arrange your next pre-task planning meeting.



1.  Compile a work plan that addresses the six angles of task planning.

2.  Review the work plan with the crew.

3.  Discuss the work that needs to be done to complete the task.

4.  Assign jobs to the crew that will aid in completing the task.

5.  Begin the discussion on safety hazards.

6.  dentify potential hazards.

7.  Determine if modifying the work plan will avoid the hazard by rearranging the sequence of events or using different tools.

8.  For hazards that cannot be eliminated by modifying the work plan, introduce safeguards against the hazard.


Put safety and timely completion of a project first by implementing these eight simple steps into your next pre-task planning meeting.

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Construction Site Housekeeping: Spotlight on Safety

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Contributor:  Mike Kelly, Project Manager of F.E. Moran Special Hazard Systems
Writer:  Sarah Block, Marketing Director of The Moran Group

 “A clean jobsite is a safe jobsite!”

Construction site cleanup is an integral step to jobsite safety.  Clutter and debris can cause serious injuries and may even ignite a fire.   Construction site cleanup is not only in the best interest of the site crew, it is also a requirement of OSHA. 

An often tragic result of a housekeeping failure is the disposal of rags soaked in a flammable liquid.  This resulted in a major fire when a building was undergoing a renovation and a pile of varnish soaked rags were disposed of in a corner.  The rags ignited spontaneously and spread throughout the room.  This facility did have working fire sprinklers that activated, containing the fire to the room of ignition.  Although this facility had fire sprinklers, lessening the damage to the structure, the fire would have never ignited if not for the lack of housekeeping.  Fires can also happen during construction from welding or using tools that can cause a spark around flammable liquids or dust clouds.

Good housekeeping has many benefits beyond fire hazard safety.  According to OSHA, cluttered working conditions are distracting, unsafe, and unsanitary.  The continuous effort to keep a tidy jobsite improves morale, encourages good work habits, saves time, and promotes safety.


Here are some tips for keeping an organized work area:

Separate scrap from usable material, and store the scrap pieces in a tidy pile.

Clean up as you go, waiting until the end of the week allows the hazards to pile up.

Assign chores each day.  Give two people the job of disposing of litter, one person the job of organizing tools, one person the job of disposing of flammable rags, etc.

Send extraneous supplies back to the supply yard ASAP.

Keep all work areas and passageways clear of scraps, protruding nails, wires, buckets, extension cords, tools, and other hazards.

If you see a hazard, clean it or alert a supervisor of the hazard.  Don’t wait until someone gets hurt.

Follow these simple steps to provide safer working conditions for all construction site personnel.  

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Spotlight on Safety: Trenches

trench safety

Contributor:  Mike Kelly, Project Manager of F.E. Moran Special Hazard Systems
Writer:  Sarah Block, Marketing Director of The Moran Group

In November, 2012, a 39 year old construction worker from North Carolina died while working in a trench when it caved in due to improper safety precautions.  In November, 2011 a nineteen year old was killed when an unprotected trench collapsed.  OSHA issued violations for failing to provide proper head protection, failing to keep spoil piles 2+ feet from the edge of the trench, and failing to train employees on recognizing hazards.  A Florida construction company failed to slope or shore a trench, killing one and injuring two.  Trench cave-ins are the top cause for employee injury and fatalities above any other trenching safety issue.  By following proper safety precautions, employees working in trenches have the tools to get home safely.

OSHA requires that all excavations that put employees at risk for cave-ins be protected by one of the following methods:

·         Sloping or benching – forming an incline on the sides of an excavation.

·         Shoring – Using site built structures made with timbers, planks, or plywood to support the sides of an excavation.

·         Shielding – Using trench boxes or trench shields to prevent the walls from collapsing.

The most common causes of a cave-ins are not using shoring, using inadequate shoring, excavating too closely to a building or utility pole, misjudging the stability of the soil, vibrations caused during construction work that destabilizes the soil, or weather conditions that change the stability of the soil.


Soil should be tested before excavation.  Type A soil (clay, silty clay, sandy clay, and clay loam) is stable and okay for excavation.  Type B soil (silt, silty loam, and sandy loam) has middle range stability.  Type C soil is granular soil such as gravel, sand, or watery soil.  It is unstable and requires extra precautions when excavating.

Aside from cave-ins, trenches pose additional risks as well:  falls, falling loads, hazardous atmospheres, drowning, and contact with underground power lines.  To prevent a construction site injury or death, workers and supervisors alike must follow these guidelines.

·         For trenches 4+ feet, employees need access to egress at least every 25 feet.  Egress options may include ladders, steps, or ramps.

·         Everyday trenches need to be inspected for signs of cave-in hazards, flaking, and hazardous conditions.

·         Protective systems and equipment must be tested daily.

·         Spoils and equipment need to be kept at least 2 feet from the edge of the trench.

·         Wear proper personal protective equipment.

·         Keep trenching machines level to prevent undercutting the soil while keeping shoring as close as possible to the trenching machine.

·         4+ foot deep trenches require air testing.

·         Cross-bracing must be in place before entering a trench.

·         Sheeting that forms the walls of the shored trench must reach 18 inches over the trench.

Following the OSHA recommended precautions will protect employees from serious injury or death while working in trenches on the construction site.  Site safety isn’t only the concern of a supervisor or safety monitor; it is everyone’s concern.  Save a life by following and promoting safe working practices.

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