Tag Archive for 'contractors'

GPS Tracking of Light/Medium Duty Fleets Increases Profitability Through Driver Accountability

By Carlo Chatman, Power PR

For any company with a fleet of light or medium duty vehicles, from service contractors to vendors and those in the transportation industry, increasing profitability often comes down to fostering an environment of greater employee accountability.

The concept of accountability is defined as “the obligation of an individual to account for his/her activities, accept responsibility for them and to disclose the results in a transparent manner.” Implied in this definition is the ability to verify tasks are completed as expected, on time, efficiently and per company policy. For fleet managers, this can only be accomplished through real-time GPS tracking devices on all vehicles.

After all, it is an established fact that drivers that know they are being monitored by such systems are less likely to make unnecessary detours or stops for personal reasons, may avoid spending unnecessary time at job sites or avoid idling the engine while filling out paperwork in the vehicle.

But accountability is not about discovering what a driver is doing “wrong,” it is actually more about what the driver is doing right. Through GPS tracking, drivers can take more ownership for their jobs, have more clarity of tasks and results, can self-correct, improve and do not have to be micromanaged. 

Advanced Tracking Technologies’ GPS tracking systems are used in the construction industry to provide employees and owners accountability and peace of mind. 

Even well intentioned drivers may discover that there are areas of improvement and efficiencies that could make them more productive. 

There are also indirect benefits as well. When all drivers are monitored, those not pulling their weight are more easily identified so faster, more productive employees do not have to pick up the slack with extra deliveries or service visits.

Finally, with greater accountability, higher performing employees are more likely to be recognized and rewarded based on verifiable performance.

So, with a host of benefits for the employee, fleet managers that have avoided the “leap” to GPS tracking are missing out on a win-win scenario. After all, more accountable drivers lead to greater efficiency overall, which means increased profits. It’s an argument that is hard to deny, particularly as GPS tracking continues to improve while the cost of entry plummets.

Holding Drivers to a Higher Standard

Although GPS trackers have been around for some time, advances in the technology allows for more real-time tracking and simplified reporting. Fleet managers, after all, don’t want to spend all day on their computers sifting through complex analytical data. Instead, they want simplified, easy to read reports that summarize what they need to know. Fortunately, such systems exist today and at rates less than $20 per vehicle.

The advanced units today allow real-time and historical tracking of each vehicle in a fleet. This allows dispatchers to assign the closest vehicle to a job, which expedites the service work or delivery and saves gas, labor, and vehicle wear-and-tear. It also allows historical routing analysis, which enables even greater routing efficiencies to be determined on an individual or fleet-wide basis.

Through GPS tracking, drivers can take more ownership for their jobs, have more clarity of tasks and results, can self-correct, improve and do not have to be micromanaged.  
 SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA

However, the greatest improvements in fleet management occur when GPS tracking devices are used to hold drivers to a clear, unbiased standard to encourage better performance for the company and themselves.

Real Life Results

As an example, when Reilly Construction & Development implemented their first GPS tracking system last year, the Vero Beach, Florida-based residential and commercial construction company benefited from significant productivity gains and operational efficiencies.

The construction company has installed Shadow Tracker Vision III GPS tracking devices from Advanced Tracking Technologies (ATTI), a Houston, Texas-based designer and manufacturer of GPS tracking products, on two of their construction trucks. 

Compared with typical GPS tracking devices that may only update every few minutes,

the device provides real-time location updates every 10-seconds, as well as location, speed and idle time alerts if something is amiss. This data is transmitted via satellite and cellular networks to a smartphone or PC on a 24/7 basis.

With such accountability for how every minute of each day is spent, employees know they are always “on the clock”. This helps to eliminate frivolous or unnecessary stops during the workday, and decreases wasted time during a stop. 

“Now we know exactly where our vehicles and drivers are in real time,” says Sharon Arnold, Office and Assistant Project Manager at Reilly Construction & Development. “We can spot check our drivers to make sure they are where they are supposed to be and not at unauthorized places because some people will take advantage. That has saved us a few thousand dollars in salary alone. The system more than pays for itself in enhanced productivity.”

On the plus side for employees, the use of such GPS tracking systems helps verify on-time arrival at customer sites. And automated reporting such as that provided by the ATTI system can virtually eliminate the reporting burden for employee and employer in regard to driving logs. Automated exception reporting can also flag potential issues that need to be corrected, such as excess vehicle mileage or idling.

“We are trying to work smarter, not harder,” says Arnold. “We are trying to make things simple and straight forward. With everything out in the open, people know what to expect.”

Increased Productivity, Reduced Fuel

Once drivers and the work crew know they are accountable for their actions, it is amazing how much more they will accomplish. Using such an approach with advanced GPS tracking commonly improves productivity 10 to 20 percent while reducing fuel costs 10 to 15 percent, as drivers start to pay attention to their driving and work habits throughout the day.

Indiana-based Gordon Plumbing Inc., which offers services ranging from small fixes to remodeling and construction, currently uses ATTI’s GPS tracking system on 54 vehicles, and has used three different tracking systems over the last decade.

“The ATTI system not only expedites job dispatching but also enhances accountability and profitability while reducing costs,” says Shannon Allen, Gordon Plumbing Service Coordinator. 

Allen points out that being able to access a vehicle’s position in real time means “our vehicles can reach customers very quickly when there are emergencies.” She adds, “If our drivers on the job need help from a tech specialist, we can immediately find one in their area and dispatch them to that address.”

According to Allen, the system provides one link for all the covered vehicles. “The GPS tracking system puts our vehicles on a map, so I can see all of them at once,” she says, noting that the view can be narrowed to any department or geographic area, as desired. “It is so accurate that it lets me see exactly where a vehicle is parked.”

Because the GPS system is automated, reports are delivered without anyone having to open software. In addition to the real time views of the activity taking place, next day reports are delivered by email, documenting everything that happened the day before. The reports can be customized, for example, to show how many drivers idled for more than 30 minutes or how many miles were put on a vehicle.

Allen emphasizes that the system can quickly spot driver habits that need correction, such as a driver stopping for five or 10 minutes between jobs several times a day. 

“With the GPS system, we are able to notice and point out that even five to 10 minutes stops between jobs each day adds up to a lot of lost productivity,” says Allen. She concludes, however, that her drivers are quite used to the system and even appreciate it when it proves that they are getting to and doing their jobs as required.

For a free demo, visit https://www.advantrack.com/free-demo/. For more information contact Advanced Tracking Technologies, 6001 Savoy Drive, Suite 301, Houston, TX 77036; visit www.advantrack.com; call 800-279-0035; email sales@advantrack.com. 

This feature appeared in the January 2020 issues of the ACP Magazines:

California Builder & Engineer, Construction, Construction Digest, Construction News, Constructioneer, Dixie Contractor, Michigan Contractor & Builder, Midwest Contractor, New England Construction, Pacific Builder & Engineer, Rocky Mountain Construction, Texas Contractor, Western Builder

Intelligent Compaction is the Key

By Jeff Winke

Long-lasting, Durable Surfaces Result From Quality Compaction

The most elemental meaning of the word “compaction,” is the exertion of force on something so that it becomes more dense.

In the realm of road construction, compaction is considered one of the most important processes in pavement and roadway surface construction. It is necessary in order to attain high quality and uniformity of pavement materials, which in turn better ensures the long-lasting performance of the road. 

It has been more than a few years since the term and method of “intelligent compaction” (IC) has become a given in discusions of paving. Today, it has become the norm – compaction is pretty much considered intelligent compaction.

IC refers to the compaction of road materials, such as soils, aggregate bases, or asphalt pavement materials, using modern vibratory rollers equipped with an integrated measurement system, an onboard computer reporting system, Global Positioning System (GPS) based mapping, and optional feedback control. IC rollers facilitate real-time compaction monitoring and timely adjustments to the compaction process by integrating measurement, documentation, and control systems. IC rollers also maintain a continuous record of color-coded plots, allowing the user to view plots of the precise location of the roller, the number of roller passes, and material stiffness measurements.

“Operators have told me that intelligent compaction takes the guessing game out of their rolling pattern,” said Daniel F. Brown, President of Phend & Brown, Inc., Milford, Indiana. “They no longer need to remember which utility power pole or mailbox they started or stopped at with their rolling pattern. Additionally, uniform pass coverage is assured because pass coverage is being measured and documented.”

The Background on IC

Back in 2011, the Federal Highway Association (FHWA) reported on a major three-year research project that was designed to verify that IC, which at the time had been considered “emerging technology,” was mature enough to be implemented in the real world. The intent of the project was to create the blueprint in the FHWA IC strategic plan. This study was under the Transportation Pooled Fund project, which included 12 participating state department of transportation: Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

The report’s Executive Summary states that the project “demonstrated tried-and-true Intelligent Compaction (IC) technologies through 16 field projects and open house activities, numerous meetings and training for State personnel and local earthwork/paving contractors, and assistance on the development of State IC specifications.”

The IC project’s key conclusions:

  • IC mapping of existing support layers is effective in identifying weak support areas for corrective actions prior to the compaction of the upper layers. 
  • With hot-mix asphalt (HMA) paving, IC tracking compaction roller passes and HMA surface temperatures can provide the necessary means to maintain a consistent rolling pattern within optimal ranges of temperatures for coverage of 100 percent of the construction area. 
  • IC technologies can be especially beneficial to maintain consistent rolling patterns under lower visibility conditions, such as night paving operations.

IC Technology Aids Productivity

IC technology, the report stated, will have profound influence on the responsibilities of various stages of pavement constructions and will eventually help produce better and more consistent pavement products. 

“We are currently running Topcon C-53 IC Systems on two Caterpillar CB-534 D XW Rollers, and two systems on Bomag BW190 AD Rollers,” stated Brown. “At the time of purchase, the C-53, which offers the GX-55 control box, was the newest technology available.

“We like that the technology provides for remote mobile access via Sitelink to allow process balance decisions to be based on real-time data for the entire paver/roller operation, which in turn ensures that optimal production rates and density values are consistently achieved.” 

Topcon Positioning Systems offers an IC system that is designed to track pass counts of multiple rollers or IC machines working on the same project. Through secure connectivity to Topcon’s global Sitelink3D service, each compactor not only performs its tasks, but also becomes part of the overall monitored project. 

“Each operator is not only able to see their own passes, but those made by other machines on-screen in real time,” Brown said. “And in real time, the paving superintendant, foreman, and general contractor personnel can also see what exactly is going on via the Sitelink platform. This ensures proper compaction from each machine and eliminates redundancy.” 

The IC system is designed to:

  • Leverage multiple integrated temperature sensors, so each compactor can achieve consistent results through constant feedback into the system.
  • Provide accurate pass counts, geographic locations of each run, as well as georeferenced task assignments and their completion via its GNSS technology.
  • Ensure that regulatory IC standards are being met by documenting surface stiffness values through its accelerometer.
  • Connect to the Sitelink3D Enterprise service which provides 24/7 access to project data, team collaboration, custom reporting, as well as standard export to Veta management and analysis software, which can provide additional customized information. 
  • Provide data to demonstrate specification compliance and confirm proper density claims.

“We’re using the Topcon C-53 IC System with a GX-75 control box on our 850 Series Sakai Oscillation/Vibration Paving Roller, which allows the machine operator to monitor the compaction pattern and the temperature as they’re working,” stated Sergio Muniz, Paving Superintendent with Payne & Dolan, Inc., Waukesha, Wisconsin, who acquired the system working through his local Topcon Solutions Store. “I like that I can jump onto my laptop and see the work being completed in real time and make certain we’re complying with the tough DOT state specifications.”

Muniz added: “We’re finding the Topcon system to be essential for our high-profile big jobs to ensure we remain on task and is instrumental for when we work at night. It also is proving handy for smaller parking-lot-type jobs as well.”

The key benefit of IC is greater control over the compaction results, which in turn provides better finished paved results. Compaction at its most elemental is the exertion of force on something so that it becomes more dense, while IC provides the technological means to ensure that compaction is performed consistently, thoroughly, and accurately. The goal is to achieve optimum densities that ensure adequate support, stability, and strength. Achieving these densities uniformly is key, and clearly IC aids this process.

This feature appeared in the January 2020 issues of the ACP Magazines:

California Builder & Engineer, Construction, Construction Digest, Construction News, Constructioneer, Dixie Contractor, Michigan Contractor & Builder, Midwest Contractor, New England Construction, Pacific Builder & Engineer, Rocky Mountain Construction, Texas Contractor, Western Builder

Precision Pays

How Green Oasis Irrigation is Mini-Trenching Its Way to Success

Every day we benefit greatly from the precision achieved when professionals use tools designed specifically for their jobs. Surgery, for instance, would be far more risky and leave less than ideal results if surgeons did not have some of the sharpest scalpels in the world that allow them to work with extreme precision. Installing landscape irrigation lines is a similar endeavor, albeit less life threatening. When it’s done with the best tools around it can deliver extremely precise and high-quality results, saving customers and contractors from headaches and labor costs. 

Operators walk behind the Kwik-Trench while pushing forward. This is not only easier than larger trenchers that operate by pulling the unit backward, but also safer.

Bill Waltz is no surgeon, but he and his crew at Green Oasis Irrigation in Tomball, Texas, know firsthand that using the right tools for the job can have a huge impact on success. Waltz owns Green Oasis, and he and his crew install and service sprinkler systems in southeast Texas. The task involves digging trenches as narrow as 1 inch, as deep as 8 inches and, in some cases, hundreds of feet long for placing irrigation lines. When Waltz first started the business, it wasn’t always as easy as it sounds. 

“One of my good friends and I were looking to keep ourselves busy one summer while we were home from college. When I saw a few guys installing a sprinkler system at the house across the street, I knew that was the ticket to passing time while earning some money,” Waltz said. 

After some research and trips to the hardware store for supplies, Waltz and his partner were in business and ready for their first project – installing irrigation lines at Waltz’s childhood home where his parents still reside. After that first successful install, he and his partner hit the pavement, posting fliers to drum up business. Their efforts proved successful, but as the number of projects grew, their faith in their methods diminished. 

“We started out using trenching shovels, which certainly got the job done, but our bodies paid the price,” he said. “They also didn’t leave the type of results we wanted to give our customers.”

Better Trenching Technology

Trenching by hand is not only a laborious process, but time intensive as well. In addition, the process greatly disturbs the soil, so customers had to wait as long as two months before their yards were back to normal. 

The Kwik-Trench deposits soil on one side of the trench, which makes backfilling easy and fast, allowing the area to heal quickly.
 

“The longer soil and grass is left out of the trench, the more it dries out and the longer it takes for that area to heal once material is put back,” Waltz said. “If that’s our only option, that’s one thing, but we knew there had to be a better way.” 

A visit to the local rental shop proved them right. 

There it was: the 2.5- foot by 5-foot piece of equipment that, at the time, Waltz had no idea would have such a hand in shaping his business. It was a Little Beaver Kwik-Trench mini-trencher – a gas powered machine that slices through soil, leaving trenches as narrow as 1 inch and as deep as 12 inches. 

“Up until then our only power trenching options were large models that would have destroyed lawns. They were overkill for what we needed,” Waltz said. 

He also added that many customers hear the word “trencher” and envision the lawns they work so hard to maintain turning into a dirt-filled warzone.

“That image isn’t too far from reality if you use larger trenchers. We knew we had to have clean, narrow trenches that could minimize cleanup time and deliver better results for our customers. The mini-trencher was our best option.” 

Over the next few years, as the business got off the ground, Green Oasis rented the mini-trencher for nearly every irrigation project. The unit cut trenches as quickly as 30 feet per minute and its carbide tipped blades rotated as fast as 800 rpm, delivering clean and precise results. 

The team of two quickly realized that what started as a way for quick cash on college breaks, had developed into a thriving business opportunity. As soon as they had the funds, they purchased the Kwik-Trench.

The Sharpest Tool in the Shed

And the rest, as they say, is history. That was nearly 28 years ago and since then Waltz’s partner has gone his own way while Green Oasis has grown to 10 installers and two mini-trenchers working year round to service customers. He also continues to get rave reviews.

“The mini-trenchers have really made our business stand out amongst the competition,” Waltz said. “I’ve had customers arrive home and think we hadn’t completed the job because the yard looked undisturbed. Clients have also been pleased with how fast their yards are back to normal.” 

The Kwik-Trench deposits soil on one side of the trench, which makes backfilling easy and fast, allowing the area to heal quickly. The subsequent customer satisfaction helps fill much of Green Oasis’ business, which primarily comes from referrals.

The compact size of the Kwik-Trench allows operators to trench in tight spaces and close to buildings. 

But clients aren’t the only ones pleased with Waltz’s approach to digging trenches. His employees are also happy. 

“I’ve had some of my guys say if they had to dig by hand they wouldn’t be working for me,” Waltz said. “Ergonomics is starting to play a big role in employee satisfaction, and rightfully so, we’re not young forever.”

Operators walk behind the unit while pushing forward, which is not only easier than larger trenchers that operate by pulling the unit backward, but it’s also safer. Green Oasis’ mini-trenchers are also relatively lightweight and easy to maneuver. 

More Productivity Means More Projects

In addition to safety and ergonomics, the units have also boosted profits for Green Oasis. 

With the help of Little Beaver’s Kwik-Trench, crews can turn what would otherwise be a two-day project into a six- to eight

“It’s simple; because we can cut trenches faster, we can complete projects more quickly, which means we can take on more than what can be achieved with hand digging,” Waltz said. 

He noted one of the largest projects his crew has completed with the mini-trenchers included installing irrigation lines on a 3-acre property outside of Tomball. 

“It took us four days to complete the job – one of the longest projects we’ve worked on. But if we had hand dug the trenches it would have taken us almost two weeks,” he said. 

That efficiency continues to pay even on the day-to-day projects, turning what could be two-day projects into six- to eight-hour jobs.  

Not only has efficiency played a role in the company’s success, but having quick and timely parts support has also helped Green Oasis stay on top of profits. 

“We bill per project rather than hourly so if we had to wait for parts to arrive it could really eat into our profits,” Waltz said. Fortunately he has been able to call Little Beaver and get what he needed within a few days. 

“I’m not sure why some contractors still choose to hand dig their trenches, but for us it’s a no-brainer,” Waltz said. 

Having the right tools for the job is smart. Just like the surgeon with his instruments, a contractor with his mini-trencher is poised to operate with extreme precision to deliver fast, high-quality results. And it’s all in the name of saving. Whether it’s rescuing clients from an unsightly yard or saving a contractor time, hassle and labor costs, the right tools pay. 

This feature appeared in the December 2019 issues of the ACP Magazines:

California Builder & Engineer, Construction, Construction Digest, Construction News, Constructioneer, Dixie Contractor, Michigan Contractor & Builder, Midwest Contractor, New England Construction, Pacific Builder & Engineer, Rocky Mountain Construction, Texas Contractor, Western Builder

Workflow Verification Technology

By Jeff Winke

 A Scanning Robotic Total Station Combines Two Functions for Increased Productivity

In the 1950s, Ace Books began publishing Ace Doubles, which were two separate novels combined in a single volume. For example, a reader could read “Secret Agent of Terra” which ends at about the middle of the book. The reader could then close the book; do a head-to-toe flip of the volume; and there would be the cover of the second book, “The Rim of Space.” The reader is happy because they get twice the value– two separate novels for the price of one. The two-novels-in-one book concept clearly provided great value to the avid reader.

That same kind of value proposition can also be seen in a new product for construction workflow verification. Available from Topcon Positioning Systems, Livermore, California, the GTL-1000 is a compact scanner integrated with a fully-featured robotic total station, offering a site manager a dual-function instrument designed to complete a layout and scan on a single set-up. The data can be processed, mapped, and provide construction verification.

“The key benefit that got me most excited by combining layout and laser scanning into one device is placing that device in the right person’s hands,” stated Taylor Cupp, Technologist with M. A. Mortenson Company in Minneapolis, Minnesota. “On our projects, that is the layout professional – now we can empower them to not only do layout, but also capture what is built for quality control. It’s very beneficial because the person that knows how they’ve set up the job in terms of control points and those kinds of things can be the one to do that capture and get it as accurate as possible with one device.”

Topcon describes it as a first in the industry that all workflow components are integrated and provides users with a live, “as built” model of projects, allowing the contractor to identify and rectify any discrepancies. 

“Our field engineering team has expressed interest in a product like the GTL-1000 for many years – a product that allows them to survey and scan within the same workflow and not have to spend time in the office registering scan data,” stated Paulina Acosta, Senior Applied Technology Specialist with Rogers-O’Brien Construction in Dallas, Texas. “Each point cloud is geo-located before you leave the field. This makes them feel confident that the point clouds will be correctly positioned to our 3-D models, without the need for visual alignment or the need to return to the field to acquire more data in order to make the registration work.”

Nick Salmons, Principal Laser Scanning Surveyor at Balfour Beatty Construction in London, United Kingdom, said, “The new Topcon robotic scanning solution will increase productivity on site by accelerating the construction process and identifying design challenges more efficiently than traditional methods.” 

Salmons also said it will benefit the industry as a whole by “reducing cost and program duration, for both clients and contractors alike.”

Ease of Use

The system is designed so the user can initiate a scan with the press of a single button. A full-dome 360-degree scan can be created in a few minutes, according to Ray Kerwin, Topcon Director of Global Product Planning. “More traditional systems and methods take considerably longer,” Kerwin said. “So, depending on the job site conditions, a contractor can get in and out quicker and thus minimizes safety concerns.” 

A benefit Acosta likes: “We liked the ability to take individual as-built points with the GTL-1000 after it completes a full scan. This is helpful when you are trying to ensure that you captured the center point of a sleeve or a structural connection. These points appear in the point cloud after they are processed and eliminate the time spent by our 3-D modelers trying to determine the positioning of specific items in a point cloud.”

The scanner is used in combination with ClearEdge3D Verity, a software tool designed to automate construction verification.

“The seamless integration of the unit and Verity creates a complete package that is perfect for construction verification using 3-D modelling techniques,” Kerwin stated. “The result is a system that offers full-dome scanning which can quickly capture duct work, columns, beams, girders, flaps, penetrations, and structural steel. It helps to improve quality assurance, providing clear visual indication of construction-quality heat maps to minimize the effects of mistakes before they become expensive problems.”

The system is designed to build upon proven prism tracking and accuracy that allows operators to establish points in most construction environments. The product includes on-board MAGNET Collage field software designed to process the data and offer real-time field-to-office connectivity. 

Increased Efficiency

A key productivity benefit of the scanning robotic total station is that the site engineer requires no additional training and does not need to rely on outside scanning services. The new system is designed to take what was previously a rather lengthy, specialty process and compresses all the steps, reducing the overall verification time. The infrastructure group Balfour Beatty originally tested the GTL-1000 in the field. 

“In our use and testing, we have found that the new robotic scanning solution will increase productivity on site by accelerating the construction process and identifying design challenges more efficiently than traditional methods,” Salmons said. “We are delighted to have collaborated with Topcon over the last 12 months to trial this new tool, which will significantly benefit the industry as a whole; reducing cost and program duration, for both clients and contractors alike.”

The benefits of the combined scanning robotic total station are also said to extend to subcontractors, who can share the verification data, meaning all parties are working from the same construction-quality heat maps. For example, the first electrical ducts and conduits can often cause problems, as alterations can often occur that go unnoticed. With Topcon’s new system, the speed at which everybody working on the job can understand mistakes means the effects can hopefully be minimized before they become expensive problems.As efficiency becomes increasingly important in the market, time cannot be wasted and mistakes cannot be tolerated. Clearly, the demand for quick construction verification is on the rise, which supports the need for new technologies that can 

This feature appeared in the December 2019 issues of the ACP Magazines:

California Builder & Engineer, Construction, Construction Digest, Construction News, Constructioneer, Dixie Contractor, Michigan Contractor & Builder, Midwest Contractor, New England Construction, Pacific Builder & Engineer, Rocky Mountain Construction, Texas Contractor,
Western Builder

Be OSHA Ready

Knowing Your Rights Will Help Protect Your Organization if OSHA Comes Knocking

By Samantha Monsees

Fisher Phillips

Picture this. You’re in the middle of a large project and OSHA shows up at your worksite. Standing before you is a government agent whose sole purpose is to identify and cite safety hazards at your worksite. A knock from OSHA (or any government enforcement agent) is disruptive, stressful and intimidating. But don’t panic. You have far more rights than you realize, and when OSHA knocks, you can (and should) assert those rights to protect your organization. 

Reasonable Time, Reasonable Manner

Unless you are in the unfortunate position of having just reported a serious injury to OSHA, you will not know when OSHA is coming. In most situations, it’s illegal for OSHA to give you advance notice. As Murphy’s Law dictates, OSHA will show up demanding an inspection during your busiest time of day, or when your project manager is out sick or you’re shorthanded. Section 8(a) of the OSHA Act authorizes OSHA to inspect your worksite, but the good news is this same provision requires that the manner, timing and scope of the inspection be reasonable. 

Opening Conference

Keeping this reasonableness requirement in mind, the opening conference is your opportunity to determine why OSHA is there and to negotiate a reasonable scope before the inspection begins. It is a best practice to designate a conference room or other office to conduct the opening conference, which is away from and out of view of your construction site.

Similar to your right to demand a warrant from a police officer who shows up at your house, you have a Fourth Amendment right to demand a warrant from OSHA before letting a Compliance Safety and Health Officer (CSHO) inspect your worksite (unless there is the presence of an imminent hazard). Once OSHA returns with a warrant, they will most certainly scrutinize your worksite more harshly than if you had cooperated initially. On the other hand, if you are unable to reach an agreement with the CSHO on the scope of the inspection or you need additional time to allow the proper representatives to arrive to your worksite, a warrant may be appropriate. This is determined on a case-by-case basis, and you should consult counsel before demanding a warrant. 

Walk-Around

After you agree to the proper scope of the inspection, you (and your counsel) have the right to accompany the CSHO throughout the inspection. If there are other employers (such as subcontractors) on your worksite, it is a best practice to have a procedure in place for notifying the proper representatives of the other employers that OSHA is on site.

Take detailed notes of what the CSHO is doing during the walk-around, which employees are being observed and anything that is said by management or OSHA. The CSHO will want to take pictures and videos during the walk-around inspection. You have a right to – and should – take the same pictures and videos as the CSHO. If the CSHO wants to take samples or perform testing, you have the right to advise OSHA you do not consent to testing unless and until you are able to perform a side-by-side test conducted by an independent industrial hygienist or other specialist. Down the road, it will be difficult to challenge the results of OSHA’s testing without having your own test to compare.

Because the CSHO is using the inspection to collect evidence to support citations, managers should not volunteer additional information that is not requested and certainly should not admit that he or she is aware of a potential hazard. This is because OSHA imputes knowledge of managers to your organization. OSHA must prove the following to establish that a standard was violated: (1) the standard applied to the cited condition; (2) the terms of the standard were violated; (3) one or more employees had access to the relevant hazard; and (4) the employer knew or, with the exercise of reasonable diligence, could have known of the presence of the violation. In doing so, OSHA can rely on statements made by the employer’s managers at any time during the inspection. It makes no difference if the manager makes the comment during the opening conference, during the walk-around, during a formal interview or in idle small talk – it can (and will) be used against the employer. 

The compliance officer will inevitably request a list of documents. In most instances, you are only required to provide your OSHA 300 logs within four hours of OSHA requesting them. For all other documents, request a written list of the requested documents and designate one representative to communicate with OSHA regarding your production of documents. This allows you to carefully inspect the list of documents to determine whether the request is reasonable, whether there are any trade secret or privilege concerns in the documents requested, and what documents should be furnished.

Employee Interviews

It is important that both your management and non-management employees understand their rights and are instructed to tell the truth. Non-management employees are not required to participate in OSHA interviews, but if they refuse, OSHA could issue a subpoena at a later date. If the employee agrees to participate, he or she has a right to a private interview without management and also has a right to refuse to be recorded in any fashion. Any union employees may have a union representative present during the interview, as well.

In contrast, management employees have a right to a management representative or counsel during the interview. You also have a right to schedule management employees for a later date, after you have had the opportunity to meet with and prepare the managers. For the reasons discussed above, managers should be prepared in advance for a CSHO interview, should not permit the CSHO to record their interviews in any format, and should not verify or sign off on the CSHO’s notes of the interview. 

Closing Conference

After the CSHO conducts the walk-around, he or she will conduct a closing conference. This is your opportunity to learn what violations the CSHO believes exist at your worksite and why. This is also a time to note any abatement of hazards that was made during the inspection as well as request a copy of any photographs or monitoring results taken by the CSHO.

After the Inspection

If you receive a Citation and Notification of Penalty, you have the right to contest any citation issued to your organization, including the proposed penalties and abatement dates. Just because OSHA issues a citation does not mean your organization has violated the OSH Act. OSHA is required to prove a violation occurred.

Additionally, you should consider the potential impact of simply accepting and paying an OSHA Citation. While OSHA citations are harmful to any employer, some organizations rely on their safety record to win bids and keep premiums down. Even more troubling, an OSHA citation can be used as evidence of negligence in an accompanying liability case against your organization. 

Best Practices

  • If you are able and time permits, have an attorney present during the OSHA inspection to provide most of the information to the OSHA inspector. 
  • Notify any subcontractor or other employers on your worksite that OSHA has arrived.
  • Reasonably limit the scope, time and manner of the inspection.
  • Arrange interviews of management employees at a later date after you have an opportunity to prepare.
  • Refrain from volunteering unnecessary information that may impute knowledge of a hazard on your organization. 

OSHA inspections can be stressful for all involved, but they don’t have to be. Knowing what your rights are and when to assert them will help protect your organization.

Samantha Monsees is an attorney in the Kansas City office of national labor and employment law firm Fisher Phillips. She can be reached at smonsees@fisherphillips.com

This feature appeared in the December 2019 issues of the ACP Magazines:

California Builder & Engineer, Construction, Construction Digest, Construction News, Constructioneer, Dixie Contractor, Michigan Contractor & Builder, Midwest Contractor, New England Construction, Pacific Builder & Engineer, Rocky Mountain Construction, Texas Contractor,
Western Builder