Industry News

What Do You Need To Know About OSHA’s New Silica Rule?

Starting next Saturday, September 23, the new OSHA silica rules will be in full effect. Any contractor who does anything involving respirable crystalline silica, now is the time to comply.

If you (or any of your subcontractors) cut, grind, or blast concrete, stone, or brick, these new rules are just for you.

The initial silica standards were put in place in 1971 after forty years of questions and complaints. Now, these stricter standards are in place to lessen the amount of dust that workers inhale. It’s important to note, this not only applies to you the contractor, but to anyone working with or around these materials.

Many people are asking, “What’s the big deal?” and we’re here to answer that question. It’s imperative that we all make a change now. The particles are 100 times smaller than a grain of sand. If someone were to inhale the dust, the repercussions could be lethal. From lung disease to lung cancer, kidney disease, or pulmonary disease, the negative possibilities clearly outweigh the extra paperwork.

The new limits have been reduced from 250 micrograms per cubic meter to 50 micrograms over the course of an eight hour day of work. The fines are steep too. The maximum fine for non-compliance is $12,675 for a violation, $12,675 per day for any failure-to-abate violations, and $126,749 for repeated violations.

On the employer side, there are initiatives in place to make everything safer for all parties.

In addition to the decreased exposure limits, there are also six things all contractors and General Contractors need to take care of.

First, firms must have a written exposure plan for any silica related instances. This plan could and should include wearing respirators, wetting work down.

Second, someone must be in charge of that plan.

Third, someone must be tasked with keeping up housekeeping items so silica dust is kept to a minimum. In this case, using tools like a wet saw or using a vacuum device to reduce the volume of dust would be fantastic.

Fourth, if an employee is exposed to silica and/or has to wear a respirator for 30+ days, employers have to provide medical exams. The exams include chest x-rays and lung-tests.

Fifth, all workers must be trained on how to limit exposure to silica.

Lastly, there must be a set of records on the overall exposure to silica and/or any related medical treatments.

So, whether you’re a one-person operation, or a fifty-person team, these standards are going to affect everyone. Keep an eye on any of the subcontractors you work with to make sure everyone is protected.

If you’re looking for more information, check out or download this book to learn more on staying in compliance. This free document explains what an OSHA office will be looking for and why they might issue a citation.

If we hear anything else on these new standards, we’ll be sure to share it with you on our Facebook page ( or here on our blog at

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OSHA Launched Recordkeeping App

OSHA Logo 11.14

In July, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced the plan to release online injury and illness reporting tools. This would allow employers to submit their completed 2016 forms as mandated by the new electronic record keeping requirements. The deadline for the new mandates was pushed back from July 01 to December 01 to allow all employers a chance to review the provisions.

The online “Injury Tracking Application” or ITA can be accessed HERE, starting August 01. According to OSHA’s website, the data reporting process has four steps:

  1. Create an establishment.
  2. Add the 200A summary data.
  3. Submit data to OSHA.
  4. Review the confirmation email.

When it comes to submitting the data, users will have three options:

  1. Manually enter the data using the web form
  2. Upload a CSV file to processes one or more establishments at the same time
  3. Transmit data electronically through your existing automated recordkeeping systems

Of course, the OSHA ITA site also has a FAQ page to answer most questions you may have. For more information, visit

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Technology Improvements Helping Homebuilding

At this year’s PCBC, change was a huge topic for discussion among the homebuilding industry. Looking at the market, there are a few pieces of the puzzle that technology is helping to put together.


First, there will be technology will be involved in the process from start to finish. From apps on the builder’s phone to 3D printing, the possibilities are endless. Builders can now schedule appointments and job timelines from the palm of their hand. This increases time productivity.

Beyond that, with all of the camera technology on the market, buyers can now tour spaces from the web or event using virtual reality glasses. This helps to increase customization and ensures the space is exactly what the customer is looking for before the project is completed.

With 3D printing, computers can make live renderings of homes and make the sales step easier. If a customer can imagine their space in its entirety before you ever break ground, you’ll make the sale and save a lot of time in the long run.

With the limited land spacing available, finding a way to make a profit while also building a desirable and affordable home can be challenging. Today’s homebuilders are looking at these technology innovations as way to ease some of the stress. As we hear about other advances, we’ll be sure to share them with you all here!

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Canadian Softwood Tariffs — Cause for Concern?

Washington is proposing a new tariff on Canadian lumber imports. While these conversations are nothing new, prices have already been increased close to 20% overall in anticipation of these new fees.


Canadian softwood lumber makes up just under a third of the total lumber in the US. To have new tariffs introduced could have drastic implications for many both in Canada and across the country.

For Canada, the higher tariffs could cause infrastructure failure. As lumber mills have to increase their prices, their potential for business could decrease massively, causing job loss and in some cases could have irrevocable damage on the reputation of the company.

Within the United States, prices could increase across the board. It takes about 15,000 board feet of lumber for a new home. That said, the 20% increase on Canadian imports could add around $3,600 to the initial costs of building a new home.


To combat this and keep the cost down, the US must looks elsewhere to meet the demand. First, there would need to be an increase in domestic lumber production. This would result in additional deforestation and could have permanent damage on the planet’s ecosystem.

Another option is looking at other countries the US partners with. On one end, domestic producers will have to stop selling to international companies. To subsidize what is obtained through Canada, mills have been selling to other countries at a competitive rate. The focus would have to reign in to meet the needs of American projects first, before going oversees to sell.

On the flipside of that, the US could talk with other governments to see if they can work something out regarding the necessary lumber. Whether this involves lower tariffs for imports or exports, the price cuts would have to be shared on both sides to be beneficial.

Depending on the severity of the shortage and/or the increased prices due to tariffs, the US could risk losing affordable housing for home buyers. There is a lot of uncertainty in the market, but we hope to hear more from Washington on this soon.

Whether or not the new tariffs are agreed on, done away with completely, or something else entirely, only time will tell. Continue to check out for any updates.

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Affordable Housing — Smaller is Better?

By now you’ve all seen or heard something about “tiny houses.” Some states are tackling their housing shortages by going small.

Oregon is working on passing legislation specifically related to tiny houses, built on site or prefabricated, that are 400 square feet or less. These laws aim to cut back on the affordable housing shortages seen across the state.

Rather than having just anyone build a tiny home, the laws aim to help the builder and the homeowner. These homes would follow building codes, but these would be tweaked to fit the smaller, more narrow spaces and lower ceilings.

If passed, we could see something similar roll through California and Nevada in no time. We’ll keep you posted on any new developments in Oregon or closer to home here.

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Construction Trends to Watch in 2017

We’re almost half of the way through the year and now that the sun has finally come out, everyone’s back to building!

With five months behind us, we can see that the industry is booming with business. Now that everything is starting to dry out, we’ve seen a few indicators of what’s to come in the meantime.

First, there are only so many bodies in the market. Many contractors and union workers are seeing a labor shortage. After the bust, many people had to find different career paths. That said, there is huge potential with the younger generation. With on-the-job training, and in some cases, technical schooling, younger people can learn from the experts and start a career right away.

Another thing to keep an eye out for is the tiny house movement. These smaller homes, paired with other modular builds, are growing in popularity. On the homeowner’s side, these are less expensive due to lower material costs and shortened build times. On the builder’s side, these homes can be built quicker and safer because most work can be done inside and supervised throughout the process.

Across the board, experts are pontificating cross-work is going to rise throughout the remainder of the year. Teams of people can get jobs done quicker and more efficiently overall which benefits both sides.

That said, we’re seeing the cost of raw materials increase. Once the trees dry out, we should have a better picture of what quality and quantity of materials we will be able to get and pass along to you.

As always, technology has some fun things in store for us in 2017. Between Virtual Reality applications, drone capabilities, and bluetooth tools, this year will have all job types covered. Most tool companies are working on power tools that will do more, with less charge and more battery power. Beyond that, gone are the days of having your tools stolen. Many are including bluetooth function in their tools and batteries so you can track battery levels, performance, and of course, location.

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OSHA’s New Silica Standards

As you know OSHA is always working to keep workers as safe as possible. Recently, OSHA issued two new rules to protect you from exposed respirable crystalline silica.

So what exactly is that and how does it affect you? If you ever use drills, grinders or jackhammers, chip things by hand, or operate heavy demolition equipment, chances are, you’ve been exposed to the chemical dust. Estimates show that about two million construction workers are exposed to silica.

Under the new standards, any process that exceeds the permissible exposure limit (PEL) must be adapted to lower the level of exposure. For example, if you’re using a handheld power saw on any affected materials, you have to swap to a system that feeds water continuously to the blade.

If you’re looking to cut siding, but you don’t want to use a water saw, you might want to look into the Bullet Tools SharpShooter. It is perfect for cutting siding because not only does it not need electricity, it is dust free! Forget masks, messy cleanups, or exposure to silica.

While many jobs are affected, it is important to note that if you’re pouring concrete or removing concrete formwork, you’re only exposed to low levels.

To find out more on the exact PELs and how to measure them, learn more about what equipment is affected and the required protection factors, and/ or to find out additional information, please visit


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Understanding the FAA’s Stance on Drones


droneIn 2016 we saw the use of drones grow substantially throughout our industry. In turn, we also saw the growth of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) regulations on the use of commercial and recreational drones. We’re here to clear up a few questions we’ve heard from our customers.

Initially, the FAA had over 3,300 drone pilots sign up for their testing slots. The number of licensed private pilots is 171,000. The FAA is expecting the number of licensed drone operators to grow beyond that in 2017. Keep in mind, if you’re flying a drone for fun, you do not have to apply for an operator’s license, but you still have to follow the FAA safety guidelines. To find out more on the “Fly for Fun” guidelines, please visit

When the rules were first put into place, drones could be used on a case-by-case basis for commercial jobs. No longer is this the case. Now, rather than seeking the FAA’s permission each time, there are formal guidelines in place for all flights.

02.2016 DroneThe newest rules put in place require drones to:

  • Weigh under 55 pounds (including weight of packages)
  • Have anti-collision lights
  • Fly under 400 feet
  • Fly slower than 100mph

Drone operators must:

  • Perform safety checks before each flight
  • Be at least 16 years old
  • Pass a written aeronautical knowledge test every two years at an FAA-approved facility
  • Pass a background check

Within the construction industry, a lot of exemptions were made for FAA-approved drone flights. In total, close to 40% of the exemptions made in 2016 were related to construction and infrastructure industries.

Builders, real estate agents, surveyors, and more are looking to cut costs and increase property knowledge by taking to the sky. So long as you follow the rules, flights can be both safe and successful.

Still to come are rules on keeping the drone in your line of sight during use and flyover statutes. As we hear more on these regulations, we’ll be sure to share them with you here. For more information on the FAA’s drone guidelines, visit

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Technology on the Jobsite is Here to Stay

phoneTechnology is becoming an increasingly integral part of the daily-tasks on the jobsite. While new programs and equipment typically leads to higher productivity, there is an adjustment period.

It’s important to remember that you’re going to have some pushback from the more traditional contractors. This is normal, but once the programs or solutions are proven, these team members will likely be more willing to adopt the features. When you’re introducing something new to the mix, stress how exactly it will help your team and take it from there.

One key option to test out is swapping from paper to e-copies. Rather than lugging around a box of blueprints, you can have a phone or tablet with all of your files on it. This not only allows you to easy zoom in and out of plans, but allows you to share notes with the other builders instantly. Not only will you save on printing costs, but your time between revisions and ultimately, your entire job should pass quicker with just a single switch of materials.

With all of this, it is also key that you train all team members and sub-contractors on your processes. Once everyone is on the same page, they are able to communicate efficiently and get the job done faster and with less waste.

Share some of your favorite construction technology finds below!

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Home Values Increase While Inventory Decreases

Home values were at an all-decade high across the nation in 2016, closing out the year up 6.8% over 2015.

There is a significant challenge buyers and builders are facing in 2017 due to the limited housing stock available. According to the National Association of Realtors, eight in ten areas in the country lack enough single-family housing for the increasing demand.

This translates to a larger need for new construction across the state, specifically targeted at first time home buyers. Also, for builders, many current home owners will be choosing renovation over repurchasing. According to Houzz’s forecast for the year, 10-12% of homeowners will look into redesigning some portion of their home in the coming year.

Ultimately, we’ve got the supplies you need, but owners should make sure they have enough labor to cover the jobs to come later in the spring and summer.

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