Despite a major push for broad infrastructure funding in the U.S. House of Representatives, recent
disruptions to the U.S. economy will extend the current recession possibly into 2021. Fallout from
COVID-19, financial and equity market volatility, Federal Reserve emergency policies, and lower oil
prices are contributing to the uncertainty, FMI reports in its second-quarter Outlook.
“Based on the speed, breadth, and apparent lasting impacts of these various factors,” FMI is anticipating the current recession to continue through the remainder of 2020 and possibly into 2021, according to the report. Other factors include the uncertainty of the 2020 presidential election and social unrest.
“Depth and reach of these disruptions will remain under close watch,” stated the consulting firm.
Amid the uncertainty, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the $1.5 trillion Moving Forward Act, an infrastructure bill that would earmark funds for surface transportation, airport, school, housing, healthcare, energy, water, and broadband coverage. “However it also includes numerous anti-merit shop provisions opposed by Associated Builders and Contractors,” reports the organization.
“By requiring anti-competitive provisions, such as government-mandated project labor agreements and inflationary Davis-Bacon prevailing wage requirements, this bill will dissuade contractors from bidding on projects, drive up overall costs and exclude the overwhelming majority of America’s construction industry professionals who choose not to join a union,” maintains the ABC.
These measures would also have a devastating impact on small construction businesses that are seeking to recover from the ongoing health and economic crisis caused by COVID-19, ABC believes: “The path forward on repairing our nation’s infrastructure should be rooted in fair and open competition and equal opportunity, not policies that favor big labor and costly, ineffective federal mandates.”
Other issues cloud the construction industry’s economic outlook. Nonresidential construction spending declined 0.9 percent in May, based on U.S. Census Bureau data analyzed by ABC. On a seasonally adjusted annualized basis, spending totaled $812.5 billion for the month, according to ABC. Private nonresidential spending declined 2.4 percent in May and public nonresidential construction spending increased 1.2 percent.
However, the Associated General Contractors reports that construction activity returned to pre-
coronavirus levels in 34 states, based on data on workers’ hours analyzed by Procore. An association survey found that only 8 percent of construction firms were forced to furlough or lay off workers in June while 21 percent report adding employees, compared to one-in-four firms letting workers go between March and May.
“But it is important to remember that construction activity typically increases quite a bit between March 1 and the end of May as the weather improves and more work gets underway,” Ken Simonson, AGC chief economist, commented. “Getting to March 1 levels is a sign of progress, but it doesn’t mean things are back to normal.”
Simonson added that the data show the severe toll the pandemic took on the construction industry. For example, 61 percent of firms report having had at least one project halted or canceled because of the pandemic. One in four firms report that construction materials shortages, caused by lock downs and trade disruptions, are causing delays on current projects. Meanwhile, the Procore data found that smaller firms experienced more severe declines in construction activity during the pandemic than larger firms.
AGC Chief Economist Ken Simonson
AGC Survey June 18
Procore Construction Activity Index
ABC Chief Economist Anirban Basu
FMI Construction Forecast
Two recent reports assess the occupational risks of the Coronavirus in construction as compared to other industries. Cody Charland, in a blog post for Safran Law Offices, Raleigh, N.C., reports that the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services found that “construction workers were listed in the third quartile for physical proximity to others (Avg. 62.3), yet first quartile for exposure to diseases (Avg. 8.3).” Another study by the World Economic Forum ranked construction above the average risk for contact with others, physical proximity, and exposure.
Though outdoor construction work offers natural advantages in preventing the spread of coronavirus, precautions still should be taken. Points of transmission which could cause present and future outbreaks remain, including shared tools, as well as common spaces such as outdoor toilets, job site trailers, and work vehicles.
According to Jordan Hollingsworth, Field Operations Manager, in a blog post for Safety Management Group, “Construction projects must develop and implement a Site-Specific Health and Safety Plan consistent with best practices. Every construction project involves unique characteristics and circumstances, so what is appropriate and feasible for each project may be different.”
While the CDC offers construction-specific guidelines, Hollingsworth shared some additional insight. Tailgate safety meetings, for example, should follow CDC guidelines limiting the number of people to 10 or should be executed via video briefings.
Charland also suggests monitoring site logistics. Deliveries should be planned with contact and cleaning protocols, choke points should be identified and barriers installed to limit physical access, and community food areas, like coffeepots and water dispensers, should be eliminated.
“Shared tools should be eliminated wherever possible and all tools should be cleaned regularly. Any
shared equipment (including tools and vehicles) should be disinfected before and after each use, with disinfectant wipes readily available,” says Charland, who also recommends aerial lifts be used by just one person at a time, unless additional PPE is worn.
The CDC reminds construction workers that cloth face coverings are NOT appropriate substitutes where masks or respirators are recommended or required. Cleaning and disinfecting should be done at the beginning and end of every shift and after anyone uses your vehicle, tools, or workstation. Employers should provide soap, clean running water, and materials for drying hands, or alcohol-based hand sanitizers at multiple stations, and install temporary or mobile handwashing stations with single-use paper towels, or provide a large (5+ gallon) bucket with a lid and tap for handwashing. Regularly clean and disinfect the tap and provide fresh clean water daily.
Finally, an article from EHS Today notes, “Few of the guidance documents tell you how to select or use disinfecting chemicals and methods.” The article by Neal Langerman with Advanced Chemical Safety attempts to fill that gap.
How Construction Compares to Other Industries with Coronavirus from Safran Law Offices
Best Construction Safety Practices for COVID-19 from Safety Management Group
What Construction Workers Need to Know about COVID-19 from CDC
Sanitizing and Disinfecting Your Business During the Pandemic from EHS Today
Connector magazine will publish a training directory in the Fall 2020 issue featuring training resources for employer of ironworkers in the categories of Aerial Device Operator, Fall Protection, Ironworker and Welding. To be included, organizations must provide services to the general public.
Only SEAA members qualify to receive a complimentary upgraded listing featuring their logo.
Inclusion in the training directory is free but subject to review and approval by Connector Media
Interested in advertising your training program? Contact Chris Harrison, Publisher, at
email@example.com or 660-287-7660.
The Steel Erectors Association of America (SEAA) announces a new Job Board, available to members and non-members. “Surveys say upwards of 70% of contractors struggle with filling open positions, and labor shortages persist despite brief slowdowns during the pandemic crisis,” said Tom Underhill, Executive Director of SEAA.
To assist the steel erection community and SEAA members with recruiting skilled workers, SEAA has launched a new Job Board for Employers and Job Seekers. Users will reach SEAA’s network of steel erection contractors plus have additional access to national job search engine tools.
Job Board postings are free for SEAA members and open to non-members for a fee. Listings can also be upgraded to Featured Listings. Users can choose from 30, 60. or 90-day listings, and subscribe to receive alerts about new listings.
Explore current listings. https://seaa.mcjobboard.net/jobs
The Steel Erectors Association of America announces that the Ironworker Skills Institute, Pell City, Ala., which educates future generations of ironworkers, will receive this year’s SEAA Craft Training Grant.
Designated for member companies who are newly implementing SEAA/NCCER Ironworker Training and Assessment programs, the grant covers initial setup, training for administrators, instructors, and coordinators, and custom training materials for Ironworker Levels 1-3, or similar curriculum.
“The committee awarded Ironworker Skills Institute the craft training grant based on its unparalleled commitment to recruiting and developing future Ironworkers. The impact that they have made on their community in such a short period of time really is incredible,” said Bryan McClure, Chairman of SEAA’s Safety & Education committee.
Now in its fifth year of operation, the Ironworker Skills Institute was established by John Garrison of Garrison Steel, for ironworkers to get training on rigging, welding, and the use of safety equipment and tools. In 2017 Garrison was able to partner with a local community college, where he taught classes. After the first semester, he realized the Institute needed a place of its own, and moved it permanently to property next to his company. Today, instructors teach students from area high schools, who come from as far away as an hour’s drive.
“With this grant, we can provide students with their own course materials, which can be a resource to them in the future,” said Patty Daigle, ISI director. “It will also allow us to incorporate new technology into our training program, which is growing and changing as we learn the needs of the high schools we work with.”
With an average of 25 new high school juniors, seniors and recent graduates each fall, the Institute uses NCCER coursework and live situations in its training programs. The organization plans to offer adult education classes in January 2021. “It is an honor to receive this grant,” said Daigle. “We thank SEAA, and hope we can continue to make them proud in our efforts to train ironworkers in Alabama.”
About Steel Erectors Association of America
Founded in 1972, SEAA is the only national trade association representing the interests of steel erectors, fabricators, contractors, and related service providers. The association promotes safety, education and training programs for steel erector trades, including its Ironworker Craft Training curriculum. The association works in partnership with other steel construction, design, and steel product organizations to protect the interests of those who construct steel structures. Learn more at www.seaa.net.
When trucks bring steel back from a jobsite, it most often just gets thrown into a laydown area,
or bone yard, with cranes, lifts and welding machines. This can cause a lot of potential hazards,
as improper material storage can cause leg, ankle and/or hand crushes, also known as pinch
All laydown areas are dangerous, not just those on jobsites. They create trip hazards that can
do more damage than just a crushing injury, such as broken bones, caused by a fall.
One of the most important things to have when working in a laydown area is to have a spotter.
A spotter should always make himself/herself seen by the forklift operator, know how to
handle the forks on the lift, and always be on the lookout for damaged dunnage.
When working in a bone yard, remember to watch where you put your hands. The laydown
area can be full of spiders and snakes in addition to the sharp edges. Never go into the bone
yard unprotected. Old cables or chokers can cut you, that’s one of the main reasons they’re in
the bone yard.
There can be many hidden traps, so you must be on the lookout. That means to look under,
around, and beside you, even if you’re just getting one piece out. Always fix the pile when
you’re done. Don’t leave a trap for the next person.
Middle Georgia State University- Environmental Health and Safety manual for pinch points
This Safety Flash was contributed by Dave Schulz of Schulz Iron Works, Inc., in cooperation with
SEAA’s Safety Committee. It is designed to keep members informed about ongoing safety
issues and to provide suggestions for reducing risk. Best practices are gathered from a
variety of sources. They may be more or less stringent than individual corporate policies,
and are not intended to be an official recommendation from SEAA. Always get approval
and direction from your company officers on any new practice or procedure as these best
practices may not work for all situations.
Everyone benefits when a worker avoids injury. Submit your ideas for Safety Flash