U.S. Department of Labor’s OSHA Requests Information on Table 1 of the Silica Standard for Construction

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is requesting information and comment on Table 1 of the agency’s Respirable Crystalline Silica Standard for Construction. OSHA seeks information on additional engineering and work practice control methods to effectively limit exposure to silica for the equipment and tasks currently listed on Table 1. The agency is also requesting information about other construction equipment and tasks that generate silica that it should consider adding to Table 1, along with information about their associated engineering and work practice control methods.

In addition, OSHA is seeking comments about whether to revise paragraph (a)(3) of the Respirable Crystalline Silica Standard for General Industry to broaden the circumstances under which general industry and maritime employers would be permitted to comply with Table 1 of the silica standard for construction.

Information submitted will allow OSHA to consider new developments and enhanced control methods for equipment that generates exposures to silica, and provide additional data on exposures to silica from equipment and tasks using a variety of control methods under different workplace conditions. Expanding Table 1 to include additional engineering and work practice control methods, equipment, and tasks could provide employers with more flexibility and reduce regulatory burdens while maintaining protections for employees.

If information submitted in response to this request indicates that revisions to the silica standards are needed, the agency will then publish the proposed revisions in the Federal Register for public comment.

Comments must be submitted by October 14, 2019. Comments and materials may be submitted electronically at http://www.regulations.gov, the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal, or by facsimile or mail. See the Federal Register notice for submission details. 

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to help ensure these conditions for American working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education, and assistance.

For more information, visit www.osha.gov.

How to Reduce Labor Expense Without Sacrificing Quality

Photos: CertainTeed

Labor shortages have been a longstanding issue in the construction industry. With not as many skilled tradespeople as needed to do the work, roofing contractors have to work smart to stay competitive and maintain profits. Roofing manufacturers have adapted to the labor shortage by developing labor-saving products that are easier to master and install.

To help commercial roofing contractors make more informed product decisions, CertainTeed commissioned Trinity|ERD, a well-recognized building envelope consulting firm, to conduct “Factors Impacting Low-Slope Roofing: A National Labor Study,” which quantifies the labor differences between self-adhered modified bitumen, traditional bituminous systems and single-ply roof coverings. This independent, five-year low-slope labor study analyzed the installation of 45 different roofs with six popular roof covers in 18 different configurations in various regions of the country, isolating and timing product and task-level installation data, and observing where efficiencies or inefficiencies occurred. The study also combined observed labor data with national average labor and material costs to allow for a comparison of installed costs across 12 popular modified bitumen and singe-ply roof assemblies.

While the study confirms that product selection impacts labor efficiency and ultimately earnings, a contractor’s ability to turn a profit is multifaceted. In addition to product labor analysis, the study produced a wealth of information on how commercial contractors can improve their efficiency across any roof covering by optimizing their crew management, project management and estimating accuracy.

Here are some observations from the study that can improve the productivity of commercial roofing contractors, regardless of product selection:

Roofing manufacturers have adapted to the labor shortage by developing labor-saving products, including self-adhered modified bitumen roofing. Photos: CertainTeed

· Estimate for Temperature and Environment. Environmental factors associated with a project should always be factored into estimates. Productivity can slow down in both high and low temperatures. Cold weather often creates more work due to heating adhesives being required, longer periods for relaxing rolls, longer welding times of membranes (APP, SBS, TPO, PVC) and the need for cumbersome cold-weather clothing. Heat can often cause fatigue and the need to hydrate often, resulting in more break periods. Also, projects taking place at night are typically slower than daytime projects, as the area of work is constrained to lighted areas and tools are more difficult to find in the darkness.

· Improve Crew Communication. Roof cover installation is optimal when the installing crew works as a coordinated team. Crews that spoke multiple languages or crews with limited understanding of one another tend to have longer installation times.

· Specialize Crew Tasks. Productivity increased when multiple crew members carried out narrowly defined work activities to complete a task as a team, as opposed to a single man completing the full breadth of the task alone. For example, when hand-held screw guns were used, laborers that staged and placed screws/plates as one phase of work — and either dropped back to install or were followed by another crew member to install — were more efficient than a single individual carrying pouches of screws and plates.

· Stage Products With Foresight. Material movement and staging was a critical component in speed at application. Projects that were staged with easy material access for installers resulted in faster installations. Crews that relied on installers to stage their own materials required fewer personnel on the roof, but at the cost of slower overall installation times.

· Employ Strong Management. Rooftop supervision and direction – including effective management of roof loading, managing break times, staging materials for easy access, prefabrication (such as combining screws and plates) and staging materials which have already acclimated to the temperature/environment – played a pivotal role in faster installation times.

Environmental factors associated with a project should always be taken into account during extimates. Extreme weather can slow down productivity. Photos: CertainTeed

· Implement Quality Control. Across the country, the labor study observed a variety of quality control methods ranging from no in-application quality controls to extensive quality controls conducted by both foremen and in-house, third-party quality managers. A lack of in-application quality control reduces upfront labor, but increases the likelihood that a crew will need to return to correct issues found post-inspection. As with many things, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

· Use and Manage Tools Wisely. The efficient use of tools and tool accessories has a measurable impact on installation times. For example, the installation of a bituminous cap membrane with a multi-torch cart (a.k.a. “dragon wagon”) was completed in 86 percent of the time required in comparison to a hand-held torch. Automated screw and plate installers provide a measurable time advantage; however, a knowledgeable mechanic or crew member who has rooftop access to spare parts is crucial in case the machine jams or malfunctions. Poorly maintained automatic welders (single-ply TPO/PVC) with inconsistent power and/or damaged parts (nozzles and silicone wheels) slow down productivity and hamper the quality of the application. Blowers used on roofs to clean surfaces and move large sections of membrane on a cushion of air were effective and increased productivity in multiple applications.

Increasing Efficiency

The ability of a crew to quickly and profitably install a low-slope roof system cannot be isolated to the specific type of roof cover being installed. A roofing crew’s efficiency is also impacted by climate, project parameters, tools, safety requirements, quality requirements and crew management. Roofing estimators and managers should clearly identify the factors impacting their crews, optimize productivity whenever possible and adjust their estimates accordingly. While project parameters and management apply a high degree of variability to every job, proper training, project management and crew management can significantly increase efficiency and help contractors extract the most profit from projects.

Understanding the many factors that impact crew efficiency can help contractors produce better results in less time. The labor study can help roofing contractors better understand labor efficiencies by product, more accurately estimate the labor associated with certain tasks and improve installation efficiency across all roof covering types.

For the full 20-page CertainTeed/Trinity|ERD study, including detailed analysis of labor data and installed cost for various roof assemblies, visit www.certainteed.com/laborstudy.

About the author: Abby Feinstein is Product Manager, Commercial Roofing for CertainTeed Corporation. For more information, visit www.certainteed.com.

Contractor Rush Software

Contractor Rush Software

Contractor Rush Software

H.I. Technologies has created Contractor Rush, cloud-based contractor management software that track leads, estimates, labor, material orders, homeowner documents, contractor completion certificates and warranties. Designed to help contractors run their businesses more efficiently, the software will track payables and administrative tasks, as well as empower a sales force and control leads.

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