With a new year before us, a new administration ahead of us, and new smarter buildings rising all around us, we thought it would be an ideal time to shed light on some prominent changes coming to the construction industry this year.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. OSHA increases maximum penalties.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced a 78 percent increase in its maximum penalties late last summer. And before you start fretting about the massive increase, remember that the last time OSHA adjusted this penalty was back in 1990 — nearly 30 years ago.
2. Walking-Working Surfaces gets an update.
OSHA has been busy lately. The organization also updated its general industry Walking-Working Surfaces standards with a focus on slip, trip, and fall hazards. The update’s final and most significant rule, which went into effect on January 17 of this year, allows employers to select the fall protection system that works best for them from a range of options.
3. Federal contractors to get paid sick leave.
Recent provisions to an executive order establishing paid sick leave for federal contractors will now require them to provide paid sick leave to the roughly 1.15 million laborers they employ.
Employees will accrue one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked on a covered contract. Contractors also have the option to provide employees with at least 56 hours (or seven days) of paid sick leave at the beginning of each accrual year instead of basing the amount on hours worked.
4. Minimum wage gets a raise.
As of January 1st, laborers employed on a federal contract are to receive a new minimum hourly wage of $10.20. Tipped employees working on federal contracts will see their minimum hourly wage bumped up to $6.80.
5. Labor remains labored.
With a lack of skilled construction workers out there coupled with the new administration’s possible changes to the U.S. immigration policy, labor shortage is certain to remain a problem this year. Expect labor costs and demand to go up as the available supply of skilled workers goes down.
6. All-around costs are higher.
With the predicted labor shortage and rising material costs, you can expect to see project budgets struggling to stay within their margins in 2017. Nonresidential construction is expected to grow 5.6 percent this year, and commercial and industrial construction is forecasted to increase 6.5 percent — a substantial drop from last year’s gains.
7. Find more tech on the jobsite.
Tech is changing nearly every industry out there, but expect to find a lot more teams using cloud-based project-management software, architectural virtual reality, and drones circling the skies over jobsites.
8. Pre-fab and preassembled processes are trending.
The idea of building segments of a structure offsite then assembling it piece-by-piece onsite isn’t anything new, but you may start seeing more of it in 2017. This technique reportedly lowers project costs and shortens timelines, but the jury is still out on its widespread adoption in commercial construction anytime soon.
But there is the Hunan-based prefab firm Broad Group, which constructed a 57-story building in China in just 19 days. Whether or not you’d want to live there is a whole other story.
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