State of the Construction Industry: August 2018 Roundup
As the end of the summer approaches, many contractors still find themselves busy with seasonal jobs and many face a backlog of work. We know it’s a hectic time for many of our customers. Even if you’re busy, we recommend taking a look at this month’s top headlines in construction news, especially since some pertain to seasonal safety and the industry’s labor market. So take a moment and see what stories you should act on now and keep on your radar.
ENR reported this month that the July unemployment rate in the construction industry fell to 3.4 percent, the lowest monthly number since at least January 2000 (the first time the Bureau of Labor Statistics tracked monthly unemployment data in construction). That percentage is significantly lower than both June’s unemployment rate (4.7 percent) and last July’s rate (4.9 percent). According to the Associated Builders and Contractors’ chief economist, this means contractors will continue to struggle to find workers.
The takeaway: This type of data has an upside and a downside. It means contractors are busy with projects and construction workers have plenty of work to do, too. But it also means contractors may find themselves limited in the number of projects they can take on due to the lack of available skilled labor. Keep an eye on this story, as it will likely affect our industry for a while.
A bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill called the Innovative Materials for America’s Growth and Infrastructure Newly Expanded (IMAGINE) Act, which could increase investment in new materials for infrastructure projects like roads and water systems. Construction Dive reported that materials listed in the bill include high-performance asphalt and concrete, advanced alloys and metals and advanced polymers. The goal of the act is to speed up construction timelines and build a more resilient infrastructure.
The takeaway: If you’re a contractor involved in infrastructure projects, you might see a push for more innovative materials in projects you bid on if this bill becomes a law. Even if you don’t work in infrastructure, this bill indicates that many members of Congress would like to see new materials become more prevalent. And if innovative materials become more prevalent in infrastructure, we may begin to see them in other types of construction as well.
According to Safety+Health magazine, researchers at OSHA and the National Institutes of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recently examined cases of outdoor work-related heat illnesses. They concluded that OSHA’s threshold for occupational heat risks — currently 91 degrees — should be lowered to 85 degrees. That means employers should start screening for heat illnesses sooner than previously thought. The agencies also emphasized the importance of having a heat stress prevention program that focuses on acclimatization, first aid, fluids, rest and more.
The takeaway: It may be late August already, but in many parts of the country high temperatures still pose a threat to workers. If your employees work outdoors in the heat, make sure everyone knows the signs of heat stress and follows procedures for working safely. If you don’t have a heat stress prevention program in place, create one.
Have a plan for rest, hydration and first aid during hot weather.
Have we mentioned how popular drones have become in construction lately? Based on the sheer amount of news coverage they’ve received this year, they’re certainly not going away. The New York Times spoke with a number of construction companies that are executing projects using drones including a vineyard, a skyscraper and a hotel to learn about the ways this technology helps contractors save time and money on big projects, as well as improve jobsite safety.
The takeaway: Did we mention drones aren’t going away? Some of their applications in construction come with pretty impressive benefits, though. Plus, since at this point drones are fairly inexpensive to use, there may soon be no excuse to avoid looking into them.
Earlier this year, McKinsey & Company published a report that found the construction industry hasn’t adopted artificial intelligence (AI) technology. In fact, the only industries with lower AI adoption rates were travel/tourism and professional services. But this month, Building Design & Construction found a positive take on the report that might actually prove useful. The publication highlighted McKinsey’s conclusion that the construction industry will benefit from watching what other industries do and learning from them. For example, paying attention to how AI applications help with transportation route optimization or inventory management in retail could prove useful when contractors do start looking more seriously at AI.
The takeaway: AI in construction may realistically be a long way off, but it still looms on the horizon. This article offers key AI use cases that could yield helpful information for construction and aid in potential future AI adoptions.If you haven’t already, make sure you stay in the loop about the latest construction news by subscribing to our weekly blog recap. And be sure to check out ViewpointOne™, our latest solution to help contractors manage their businesses efficiently, all in one place.