www.agc.org • July 2016  

Contact Us Archives Subscribe Printer-Friendly AdvertiseSafety and HealthConstructor Buyers' Guide Facebook Facebook

MSA - The Safety Company
On the Inside
McGriff, Seibels & Williams
Board of Certified Safety Professionals (BCSP)
Top News

Every day, people in the road construction industry put their lives on the line ... just by showing up for work. Despite increasing safety consciousness and training, despite ongoing public awareness campaigns, high speed vehicle crashes into work zones continue to take the lives of workers and drivers at an alarming rate.

There’s a small bit of good news: the 2016 AGC of America Work Zone Safety Survey suggests that the number of crashes has fallen — slightly — since the last survey. In 2014, 45 percent of contractors responding to the survey reported having one or more crashes into their work zones. In 2016, it’s down to 39 percent.

For the workers out on the highway – who just want to get home every night alive and in one piece – it’s still too high. Ninety-six respondents – 30 percent of those who’d experienced crashes – had five or more in a year. Fifty-five contractors
report injured workers from those crashes, and 20 experienced worker fatalities.

Along with the human toll, there was an economic cost. Ninety-seven respondents said they had lost two or more days of work because of intrusions. The survey and conversations with those actively involved reveal that there’s general agreement about the problem, by contractors and owners alike. But putting solutions into practice successfully has been difficult.

First and foremost, virtually everyone believes that drivers need to slow down and pay attention in work zones. Getting the driving public to recognize this need has remained elusive. People continue to blast through work zones at full speed.

Use of positive barriers – according to 72 percent of contractors responding – would reduce injuries and fatalities. Only 51 percent report that their state or other public owners regularly include positive barriers in the bid, and 47 percent suggest that cost is the chief reason barriers are not used more often.

When asked if tougher laws are needed, 59 percent said yes. A whopping 82 percent believe that better enforcement of existing law is needed, and 77 percent say that more police presence at the construction site would reduce injuries and fatalities.

Safety training is another big issue. A large majority – 61 percent – feel that better or more frequent worker safety training would help.

The survey also made clear that contractors are not as engaged as they could be on this issue. A full 69 percent admit that they don’t know if their state includes work zone safety as part of new driver training.

AGC is fully engaged, however. Brian Deery, AGC of America’s senior director, highway & transportation division, reports that AGC is working with state DOTs and FHWA both to improve the safety of work zones and to increase awareness of the problem by the driving public.

"There’s a work zone awareness week, for which we do a national event to try and get more media attention," explains Deery. "In a number of states, they did things like turning the statehouse orange, and had various high profile events to try and get coverage."

But in a world of increasing traffic congestion, many drivers apparently feel that slowing down for a work zone is adding insult to injury. "When they get behind the wheel, they get very impatient," suggests Deery. "At the national safety event, the Ohio DOT director made a great point. The longest work zone in Ohio is seven miles. The difference between driving at 65 and driving at 45 is less than one minute."

From Deery’s point of view, the existing laws in most states are sufficient. "It’s enforcement that’s the issue. You see these signs doubling or tripling fines, but they really don’t enforce it. I think it would make a huge difference.

In states that don’t have significant fine increases, that could be done. But I really do think it comes down to enforcement. It’s an issue of cost, among other things. To give police their due, it’s often difficult to do enforcement in a work zone because there’s really no place to pull people over."

Dean Word, partner/manager, Dean Word Company, Limited, an AGC of Texas Highway, Heavy, Utilities & Industrial Branch member, in Braunfels, Texas, reports that Texas has adopted a force account item for uniformed law enforcement, paid by contractors and reimbursed by the state. They are often off-duty uniformed officers who sometimes have to use their personal vehicles with lights and sirens strapped on. "Their usage is by mutual agreement between the department and the contractor. We see it mostly for night-time work, if we have a single or multiple lane closure."

Two people who know the issue from the point of view of the insurance industry are Mark J. Troxell, ARM, vice president, safety services, and Jeffrey A. Spatz, CHST, CET, assistant vice president, The Graham Company, a member of multiple AGC chapters. They corroborate the effectiveness of visible law enforcement and the need for more of it.

"In my experience," says Spatz, "it is the norm, not the exception, for people to drive at excessive speed through work zones. The laws are there. I don’t think the enforcement of existing laws is consistent enough. I don’t think there’s enough resources to assign law enforcement in sufficient numbers."

Troxell notes that a live officer, not just a police car, is necessary. "When we have a police officer or state trooper, vehicles do slow down. When we’ve had the decoy out there, after the first trucks come through, they get on the radio and say, ‘Hey, it’s a decoy,’ and they begin to speed up."

Spatz has also seen a slowing effect from a speed sign with a license-plate camera. "As soon as people see that camera, they slow down."

Having been involved in many safety evaluations, they’ve seen positive steps a contractor can take, too. "One of the things that helps is when traffic patterns through the work zone are well established and well organized," suggests Spatz, "with traffic devices set up in the right places, and clear signage directing people where they need to go. All those things lend an air of credibility and respectability to a work zone. A work zone that’s sloppily set up, with devices haphazardly placed, I think it doesn’t garner any respect or credibility, and people tend to take it less seriously."

He also reports that exits, on-ramps, and places where construction vehicles leave the work zone and enter traffic, all pose special safety hazards. "Where we have the dump trucks coming into traffic, they need longer lanes and more of a transition for the truck to gain speed."

Troxell points out the value of good traffic control inspection. "Many states now require the contractor to have a traffic
control inspec- tor. We always recommend to our clients that you document your traffic control. We like to have them put their traffic inspections in electronically, and we put that right into the job file. That’s the first thing a lot of attorneys ask for: Was it inspected? Who inspected it?"

They cite positive barriers as very helpful, too. Troxell notes that Pennsylvania (their home state) uses a larger, heavier piece than the standard 32" Jersey barrier. "I’m a big fan of barrier, properly pinned so it doesn’t move too easily."

Many contractors are frustrated by the issue of positive barriers. If barriers are not included as a bid item in the job, they hesitate to include the extra expense for safety because they’re afraid their bid won’t be competitive."

Tom Brown, president of Sierra Pacific West, a San Diego Chapter member, tells a tragic story about the consequences of this dilemma. "We had a project in San Diego, about a mile long," recalls Brown. "We put up all the signs, but the project didn’t call for positive barriers. We put in signs and message boards, everything. Some woman drove through that construction zone. She was drunk, and ended up killing a man on a bicycle. The man’s family sued us for not putting up positive barriers."

Brown insists that positive barriers should be in the bid. "I know this sounds hard core, but... if it means not doing the project, but I can go home at night knowing that I’m not putting lives in danger, I would do it. I would turn down projects that I feel are too dangerous."

One question on the survey yielded some of the most interesting results, letting the members’ voices be heard: Please list any other measures you have had experience with that have been successful in reducing the number of work zone crashes, injuries and/or fatalities.

Out of 870 who took the survey, 230 responded. A significant number are clearly not reports of personal experience, but instead opinions about what could be done. Some provide a sort of barometer of the frustration around this problem:

• "No, but I would like to try a cell phone signal jammer!!!"
• "Utilizing hi-vis pink on signage and worker clothing."
• "Advance warning message boards of construction at least one week ahead of time for major roads and streets."
• "Sharing videos and commercials on work zone accidents with all teammates."
• "Smart work zone systems which give dynamic real-time notice for traffic delays and stopped traffic are instrumental in reducing queue, rear-end impacts."

Several respondents cautioned against "overselling" the work zone.

• "Don’t go overboard with reduced speeds, and remove/cover signs when workers aren’t present."
• "My main concern is the barrels are left for months in areas where no work is occurring, so people take for granted that it’s not an operable construction site."

Deery says that members can contribute to the effort to solve this issue.

"Working with their DOTS and local agencies, doing public awareness, and figuring out if there aren’t additional safety measures on projects."

Word was very specific about the levels of involvement that are possible. "One thing we take a lot of pride in is the partnering effort we’ve developed working through TxDOT and AGC and our highway heavy chapter here. We talk all the way from the individual project level at preconstruction meetings, throughout construction as situations change. At the district level, we talk about things we’re seeing out there, and we have a formal AGC TxDOT Work Zone Safety Committee. We meet monthly, and get a lot of great participation. We have the AGC/TxDOT Joint Committee, which meets quarterly, for high level business discussions, broad applicability for initiatives statewide, to try to have a strong industry voice at the table."

AGC of America continues to hear from many of you that the labor market has become tighter since the association last surveyed its members about the extent of workforce shortages.  While it is clear that worker shortages are a growing concern, and in some cases a significant problem, for many contractors, it is important to continue efforts to better quantify where these shortages are taking place, how severe they are, and what steps firms are taking to both cope with tight labor markets and improve the supply of new, qualified workers. That is why AGC is asking you to take a few minutes to complete the following workforce survey.  Your responses will help the association better define the problem to elected and appointed officials, the media, educators and your peers within the business community.  The more people understand the scope, and consequences, of a tight construction labor market, the more likely they are to act on the measures AGC identifies in its Workforce Development Plan that are designed to make it easier for school systems, local associations and private firms to establish career and technical education and training programs. Take the survey.
Regulatory & Legislative Updates
Maximum penalties for OSHA violations are set to increase for the first time since 1990 as part of overall federal penalty adjustments mandated by Congress last year. The increases were announced Thursday, June 1, 2016, by the Department of Labor, which issued two interim rules covering penalty adjustments for several DOL agencies, including OSHA, the Mine Safety and Health Administration and Wage and Hour Division.

OSHA's new penalty levels will take effect after Aug. 1, when the maximum penalty for serious violations will rise from $7,000 to $12,471. The maximum penalty for willful or repeated violations will increase from $70,000 to $124,709. Any citations issued by OSHA after Aug. 1 will be subject to the new penalties if the related violations occurred after November 2, 2015. OSHA will provide guidance to field staff on the implementation of the new penalties by Aug. 1.
SOURCE: www.OSHA.gov
AGC Safety & Health Conference
July 27-29, 2016
Washington, D.C.
Please join other construction safety professionals on July 27 – 29, 2016, in Washington, DC and participate in the development of regulatory and legislative activity on both the national and local level, assist in the development and creation of new safety training programs and products and hear the latest initiatives from OSHA and other industry experts.

Participants will:
  • Receive the latest updates to regulations and OSHA activities
  • Receive the latest updates on congressional activities directly affecting construction safety and health.
  • Participate on subcommittee and taskforce meetings on DOD, Utility Infrastructure, Highway & Transportation and more.
  • Take an active role in improving safety and health in the construction industry.
  • Attend social events hosted by the sponsors and AGC and interact with other attendees.
Register now.
Safety Management Training Course
August 8-10, 2016 
Honolulu, HI 
The AGC Safety Management Training Course (SMTC) provides attendees three days of training on the basic skills needed to manage a company safety program in the construction industry. The program builds on Focus Four training and prepares attendees to manage key safety issues on the job site and provides techniques for delivering basic safety training to field personnel. Participants will receive intensive instruction and training that will allow them to return to their firms with readily applicable new skills to positively impact their company’s safety and health program.

Best Practices

One interesting result of the advent of private exchange technology combined with a defined contribution is that when individuals are given a) money to spend on benefit purchases and b) a shopping experience that they can navigate, they behave like consumers. In this environment, they typically purchase less medical coverage (sometimes called the "buy-down" effect), leaving money available to purchase other benefit options (the "buy-up" of voluntary benefits). In effect, their benefit choices change, reflecting a true consumer-minded benefit model. What’s prompting this surprising turn?

Currently, many employers choose medical plans that they believe will accommodate the needs of the greatest number of members. In so doing, they often select a benefit plan that meets the needs of those members who utilize the plan more than most. Additionally, the traditional benefits culture has fostered an environment where more insurance is better, even if a cost benefit analysis indicates otherwise. The end result is that many individuals are over-insured. However, this concept is becoming increasingly challenged, supplanted by the idea that one can be adequately insured at a lower (in fact, correct) level of benefits.

A private exchange is the ideal solution to help people navigate choices, evaluate options and "right-size" their benefits. When people are provided money to spend on benefits and multiple plan options exist – in conjunction with a robust decision-support tool that helps them evaluate choices – they behave differently. By becoming more educated benefits consumers, people behave more efficiently and buy only those plans that they need.

Private exchange decision support tools provide individuals with a recommendation that is customized to their personal needs. Armed with a recommendation that presents personalized financial and benefit options, many people have the confidence to make decisions that best suit their needs. In most cases, they purchase a lower cost medical plan than what their employer previously offered in the traditional one-size-fits-all approach.

As a result of this change in buying habits and the "buy-down" effect realized for the reasons previously identified, the Willis Private Exchange experience has demonstrated savings of almost $700 per employee per year.

Coupled with the "buy-down" of medical insurance, there appears to be an increase in the number and volume of voluntary benefits purchased by employees in a private exchange. Employees are buying a greater number of voluntary benefits to supplement the traditional lines of insurance that have historically been offered; they’re also buying more voluntary benefits when given additional options.

A private exchange is the ideal solution to help people navigate choices, evaluate options and "right-size" their benefits. Based on an analysis of the Willis book of business available, it appears that voluntary benefit purchasing more than doubled when employees purchased in a private exchange. This behavior could be attributed to employees taking a more consumer-minded approach when presented with an increased number of medical benefit plans and decision support technology that shows them in real dollars and cents how much each benefit selection costs.

When employees act as rational consumers, they buy what is most important to them. And as purchasing habits reveal, employees have determined that voluntary benefits are an important component of their comprehensive employee benefits package.

Private exchanges offer more choice, with an increased number of plan options to choose from and a greater suite of voluntary products to buy. Expanded choice is important because there are now four generations in the workforce. In addition, many baby boomers are working past age 65. Therefore, buyer’s needs are becoming more varied and voluntary benefits are increasingly used to meet the varied needs of a more diverse and sophisticated workforce.

Most significantly, as medical plan deductibles and out-of-pocket levels continue to increase, the use of voluntary benefits – which can help offset the employee’s deductibles and coinsurance responsibility – can be a cost-effective way to protect against the financial impact of a costly medical incident.

Private exchanges, by their very design, help consumers realize the importance that voluntary plans can play in getting a comprehensive benefits program that is best suited to their needs. And that’s a good thing.

With rising medical costs trends remaining unchecked, the inherent structure of a private exchange can actually assist in optimizing consumer behavior in such a way that appropriate medical coverages are purchased (the "buy-down" effect), accompanied by complementary, lower cost, voluntary benefits (the "buy-up" effect). This model can actually assist in mitigating the financial risk for the individual, while lowering the overall cost to the employer. This is a win-win scenario that truly ushers in the next stage of consumerism.

This article was reprinted with permission from The Institute for HealthCare Consumerism (IHC).
Member News
Tocci Building Companies, an AGC of Massachusetts member and a Boston-area construction management company and program management company, recently hosted well-known physical therapist and Peoplefit gym owner, Pat Agostino, at one of its large multifamily development projects. Tocci understands the close link between Safety and Wellness. Agostino addressed members of Tocci’s team and gave his insight into overall health for men, and how construction professionals can maintain a safe and healthy lifestyle both on and off the jobsite.

Tocci regularly schedules safety meetings along with wellness initiatives to ensure all team members are healthy and happy.

During Agostino’s discussion with Tocci field staff and trade partners, he covered issues from physical health to mental and emotional health, and methods for improving overall well-being. Notably, Agostino explained the stressors many construction professionals may face from work and family life, which can affect a person’s overall health. He provided tips for small changes you can make in your lifestyle to improve health in the long term, including interval training, which promotes artery elasticity and helps prevent cardiac injury. He also mentioned that moderate strength training, as little as two times-per-week, can greatly improve a person’s long term health. 

"Pat gave us excellent insight into how simple and important it is to manage our health through diet and exercise, which directly supports our company culture and priorities about employee safety and happiness," said Chuck Rosenthall, Safety Director at Tocci. "Tocci understands that the workplace is an important arena for health campaigns of many kinds, and we encourage our employees to participate in basic occupational health and safety programs. As Pat mentioned, health and wellness directly correlates to our mood, our work performance, and our livelihood. We owe it to ourselves and our families to keep our health and vitality." 

In addition to inviting professionals to speak about health and wellness on jobsites, Tocci has made it a priority and taken additional steps to promote this focus within its own walls. Personal trainers visit the company’s headquarters each week, yoga classes are offered quarterly, and lunch and learn sessions with a focus on stress reduction are offered sporadically. Tocci also organizes company Fitbit challenges throughout the year encouraging employees to walk more. Last summer Tocci employees logged enough steps to walk from Boston to California. 

Tocci Building Companies, a leading construction and project management firm, specializes in Virtual Design and Construction (VDC), Building Information Modeling (BIM), Highly Collaborative Project Delivery (HCPDSM), and Integrated Project Delivery (IPD). Tocci was an early adopter of VDC in the Northeast and in 2006 committed to use it on all projects. In 2008, Tocci built the first IPD project in the Northeast and is now doing IPD across the country.

Tocci provides BIM-enabled building solutions and construction services with a sustainable approach and emphasis on lean construction. Headquartered in Woburn, MA, Tocci has a long history of design/build and highly collaborative delivery in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic United States. For more information visit www.tocci.com.


AGC of America2300 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 300 · Arlington, VA 22201 · 703-548-3118 (phone) · 703-548-3119 (fax) · www.agc.org
About AGC | Advocacy | Industry Topics | Programs and Events | Career Development | News & Media

© Copyright 2022 The Associated General Contractors of America. All rights reserved.


We would appreciate your comments or suggestions.
Your email will be kept private and confidential.