Monthly Archives: December 2019

Is Your Contracting Business Generating Too Much Waste?

It’s no secret that the construction industry produces a lot of waste. When you do any kind of demolition as part of your business, you’re much more likely to be taking tons of the debris to the landfill. If you’re starting to feel like this is just a part of your business, there may be another way. Here’s how you can evaluate your company’s waste production, with a few ways you can cut down on the excess.

Measure Waste Production
Figuring out how much you’re sending to the landfill might be easy or difficult, depending on the work you do and how you dispose of waste. Take a few months or even a year’s worth of projects and evaluate how much waste you create. Since about 90 percent of construction waste is through demolition, the amount of debris you’re dealing with will be much higher if you’re taking down buildings as well as creating new. Consider the mass and weight of the waste you get from a project. If it’s materials you bought, see how much of your purchase becomes waste. This will help you figure out how to cut back.

Consider Ways to Cut Back
Efficient construction processes are good for virtually everyone. When you look at how you waste time, energy or materials, you have an opportunity to cut down on unnecessary expenditures. You might be obtaining materials from a source that uses much more packaging. You could be cutting or shaping materials in a way that creates too many leftovers you can’t use. Cutting down on the supplies you buy because you’re using them better saves you money and space in the landfill.

Make Sustainability a Priority
The best product is one that lasts longer without needing to be demolished or rebuilt. While using sustainable materials is an important part of construction, sustainable construction is another way to keep debris out of the landfill. Once a building is a few decades old, experts have to evaluate the benefit of keeping the building upright compared to replacing it with something better, safer or more efficient. If you look at these aspects in your construction practices, you can consider adding new approaches that improve them. You may be able to build something that will last decades longer without needing complicated or expensive retrofits.

Look for Recycling Options
Reclaimed wood sounds like a fashion trend for high-end homeowners, but reuse is a good practice for most fields in construction. In many cases, you can take materials you remove and sell or donate them to organizations that repurpose them. There are rules for the ways that you can recycle debris, as well as the types of materials. For example, people can recycle concrete as long as it doesn’t have other elements like wood, paper or trash. Look for recycling centers near the jobsite to make transport that much easier.

Use Recycled Materials
For the greatest efficiency, you may be able to recycle and reuse some products while you are still on the jobsite. Concrete has been a nightmare for decades because it’s heavy, bulky and hard to reuse. Yet, people are finding new ways to work with it. With the right equipment, you can pulverize concrete into pieces that you can use as road base or to make new concrete. This dramatically cuts down on your material purchases and the energy spent shipping them. Since materials like wood and metal already have healthy markets for recycling, you can also look for supply companies that sell recycled materials.

Dealing with waste is just one part of running a contracting business. To explore our courses and find the construction field that’s right for you, contact CSLS today!


Is Your Contracting Business Protecting Your Workers’ Water Supply?

Construction workers need to drink water throughout the day for their health and ability to do their jobs well. The problems are that there are so many ways this can go wrong on a construction site. You expect the taps to be working, only to learn that they’ve been stopped by another process on the jobsite. You bring in water and it gets contaminated by accident. Keeping drinking water safe is important, but sometimes easy to forget. Here are a few tips to make sure that you and your employees have safe drinking water wherever you are.

OSHA’s Standards for Drinking Water on a Construction Site
The way that people get water while they’re working in construction has some conditions. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration says that workers need water that is:

  • potable (i.e. safe for consumption)
  • in a container with a lid that can be sealed tightly
  • held in a container that is not used for anything else
  • dispensed through a tap, not dipped

This might be easy to meet if you are working on a site with existing construction and functioning taps. If you’re going to use a cooler with a tap and have your employees use disposable cups, you must provide a sanitary place to keep the unused cups and dispose of the used ones.

How to Protect Access to Drinking Water Onsite
Since people can easily get sick or even die without water, you have to treat it like you would any other gear you bring to protect yourself. This means you must think about it in advance and have a plan in mind. For each aspect of the project, answer the following questions:

  • How will you get water each day?
  • How easy is it for your workers to get water when they need it?
  • What happens if that access changes?

Workers may have different levels of availability depending on the job they’re doing. If anyone has limited access, such as having to walk a long distance or regularly interrupt their work, you might need to think of an alternative.

Providing Backup Water Sources in an Emergency
There are times when you’ll forget to bring the water, or there is some reason that you can’t use the water onsite. For example, the city of Poway recently had to put homes and businesses on a boil order because of backflow into the water supply from recent storms. If something like this happens to you, you will need to have a backup. Keeping a spare supply of water in your vehicle might be all you need. Locating alternative sources of water nearby, even at a local convenience store or grocery, also may be able to provide for you and your workers until you come up with a Plan B.

Water Consumption Recommendations for Construction Workers

Anyone in any job needs to drink about 64 ounces of water per day. Positions that require a lot of heavy labor or working outside in the hot sun usually need more. For example, if you’re working in the Mojave Desert and it’s 115 degrees outside, your workers may need to drink as much as four cups of water per hour that they are operating outside. In this case, you will need to keep a supply of fresh, cool water and encourage everyone to drink water several times per hour. People who are engaged in work might not think to drink until they are extremely thirsty, but this can be dangerous in hot weather.

Safe access to drinking water is a cornerstone of your business’s ability to function. Without it, everyone’s productivity may decline sharply. To learn more about ways you can run a contracting business, contact CSLS today!

Construction Industry Trends to Watch for in 2020

The construction industry has been booming ever since the world started to rebound after the Great Recession. The year 2020 brings several changes that contractors should keep in mind while they grow their businesses. With a greater emphasis on technology, the widespread acceptance of the design-build approach, and an increasing importance of hiring skilled labor, you can see that there are new avenues of the market to explore or continue developing.

  1. Labor Shortage Continues
    As members of the baby boomer generation continue to retire from construction, you’ll continue to see labor shortages particularly in expert fields. The economic crash of the late 2000s drove millions of workers out of the construction industry in search of more reliable jobs. Ten years later, those numbers still haven’t recovered. Companies will try to meet their needs by working to secure contracts with a smaller pool, usually in the form of higher pay and increased benefits. They will also look for ways to bypass certain types of labor they can’t secure, such as the use of drones or other technology.
  1. Modular Construction Increases
    In the name of efficiency, modular construction will likely keep increasing in popularity. Businesses are finding that they can complete projects earlier and at a lower cost if they can produce certain aspects of the building offsite. This allows them to control the conditions and often create more usable products in the same amount of time. Less work also makes it easier to work with a limited labor pool. Improvements to modular construction to make the buildings competitive with site-built construction will help to persuade more people to give it a try.
  1. New Construction Slows
    When the economy started to rebound, this led to a flood of new construction projects. The smaller pool of qualified workers and construction businesses meant that some regions saw projects booked years out. In certain parts of California, this might continue for some time. Otherwise, you can plan on a gradual slowdown of new starts in residential and commercial construction. This is mostly tied to a decrease in demand, but also relates to a rise in tariffs and trade disputes with countries that provide a large amount of manufacturing.
  1. Technology Takes Prominence
    The use of technology has been one of the best ways that contracting businesses can get work done without having to track down experts who are retiring in droves. Even if you weren’t an early adopter of drones, AI or automation, there’s good reason to get in now. At this time, technology is rapidly expanding in various construction fields but also changing quickly. This means that you’re not likely to see tools and devices taking over jobs as much as enhancing your work or making it more efficient. Getting on board now may make the difference between staying current with your competition or falling behind.
  1. Design-Build Is Here to Stay
    Involving contractors in the design stages of a project has been the norm in some construction fields for years. At the higher levels, particularly for government-funded projects, people have been slower to accept an approach that combines the design and bidding parts of the process. This is changing, as more organizations realize that they can save a lot of time on a project and promote greater accuracy by getting the contractors who will do the work on board at the beginning.

The year 2020 is going to be an exciting year for the construction industry, full of opportunities for contractors with the right skills and experience. To start building your career as a licensed contractor, visit CSLS today!

Is Your Contracting Business Ready for a Surprise Inspection?

It happened in New York, and it could happen here in California. Dozens of inspectors went to various construction sites and found tens of thousands of violations. Many of them were related to safe practices and working conditions. Although you’re not likely to encounter an unexpected inspection during the course of your project, there’s good reason to be prepared. Here’s how you can ensure that everything is in order.

What Are Common Construction Violations?
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) keeps a list of the most common violations each year. Many of them, like communication about hazards and respiratory protection, apply to a variety of industries. For construction in particular, fall protection, scaffolding and ladders top the list. So besides making sure you’ve always got the right building permits for the project, safety needs to be your first priority when it comes to avoiding violations.

Who Can File a Safety Complaint?
Although contractors in New York were surprised by these unexpected inspections, California contractors need to be prepared at any time. Almost anyone on the jobsite can file a safety complaint to Cal/OSHA. This includes workers and employers. If someone sees a lack of safety procedures or dangerous activities happening at a particular site, they can call Cal/OSHA or email their complaint. The person who files the complaint is kept confidential so that they don’t face retribution.

What Happens if a Worker or Inspector Files a Safety Complaint?
Safety violations happen on occasion. There are a lot of rules to follow and in some cases, workers may not know that what they are doing is incorrect or risky. When someone files a complaint to Cal/OSHA, the department will follow up on the information they receive. If it appears to be accurate, they may issue a citation to the business. In order to clear the citation, businesses must post the citation for three working days or until it is corrected. They also have to submit proof that they fixed it and post that in the work area, as well.

How Can Contracting Businesses Avoid Violations?
In the short-term, there are many things that you can do to avoid having to deal with safety violations. Cal/OSHA publishes a variety of guides for construction businesses to follow. These include:

  • learning safety regulations based on the task
  • providing personal protective equipment to employees
  • posting guidelines in a place that employees can easily access
  • reporting serious workplace injuries or deaths as quickly as possible

When implementing a new program, business owners may want to use a safety checklist for each part of the jobsite. Having a site manager or other person in an overseeing capacity complete the checklist will help to confirm that the safe processes are not just understood, but followed consistently.

What Can Businesses Do to Prevent Unsafe Workspaces?
Ultimately, unsafe construction sites tend to be a combination of lack of information, limited availability of safety equipment and minimal incentive to follow the rules. Businesses may be required to send employees to regular safety training, to teach or reinforce safe procedures. Providing time each year for workers to get a refresh helps to ensure that they remember what to do.

Avoiding injury isn’t just about avoiding fines that may come from serious safety violations. As a contractor, you’ll often be as involved in the daily tasks of a project as any of your employees. Attention to safety can help keep you off of Cal/OSHA’s list, but it also protects you personally.

In construction, California businesses are always on show to prove that they provide a safe workplace. When you know what to do, you can avoid injury and violations that slow down your work. To begin building a safe contracting business, visit CSLS today!

Work Lighting Ideas for Your Contracting Business

No matter where you work in construction, the right lighting is key. Light makes the difference between being able to see what you are doing and performing the job safely, or making costly and dangerous mistakes. There is a wide variety of lighting options you can use, from permanent light sources overhead to adjustable task lighting and wearables. Here’s how you can make an educated choice to meet your needs.

OSHA Work Lighting Requirements for Construction
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sets requirements for the amount of lighting you have to have a particular space. It is measured in foot-candles. Simply put, you need one lumen per square foot to have one foot-candle. In most areas of the construction site, you’ll be required to have 3-5 foot-candles. This includes warehouses and shafts. For a plant or manufacturing area, you need 10. By comparison, an office or first aid station needs 30 foot-candles.

The average incandescent 60-watt light bulb has 800 lumens. To meet the requirements of a plant that requires 10 foot-candles, you’d need 10 lumens per square foot. For an area that is 1,000 square feet, you’d need 13 regular light bulbs. This might not be sufficient, but it is OSHA’s requirement for that particular kind of work. You can always add more on an as-needed basis.

Incandescent, Compact Fluorescent or LED
The type of bulb you choose depends on a few factors. Incandescent bulbs are getting progressively harder to find, particularly as a result of phasing out by manufacturers. Since halogen is a type of incandescent lighting, you’ve probably noticed that those are much less common as well. You may be able to use incandescent bulbs while you still have them, but find it difficult to replace them. They tend to cost the least to purchase, but they use more energy and burn out faster.

Essentially, you’ve got to pick between compact fluorescent (CFL) and light-emitting diode (LED). CFL bulbs were one of the first alternatives to incandescent light and they’re still pretty easy to buy. They use less energy and last longer than incandescent, but they pale in comparison to LEDs. LEDs last even longer and don’t present the same kind of hazard in waste disposal, since they don’t contain mercury. Now that LEDs are mainstream, they have significantly dropped in price. And since they use so little energy, they run very well off batteries.

Flexible Lighting Options
Of course, you can use the standard lighting options that you might have in any warehouse. Lighting on the construction site requires flexibility, however. Choosing battery-operated products gives you the ability to run them regardless of the power accessibility on the site, with no cords to trip over. Adjustable task lighting helps you point the light in the precise direction, with the ability to move it at will. For lighting larger spaces, you can consider light towers or balloon lighting to provide better illumination, especially at night.

Nighttime Lighting Considerations
When you’re working at night, especially during the short days of winter, you need to pay close attention to your lighting needs. In this case, you may go much further than OSHA’s minimum, with a variety of lighting options that can be turned on and off as needed. Keep in mind that in dark places, you need to light more than just the work area. Install lighting on the path to and from the work area. Identify possible hazards between your vehicle and your work area and add a light there, as well. Check the batteries and plugs during the day so that you can ensure they will not run out or disconnect and leave you in the dark.

Safe construction work requires proper lighting. Making the right choices can protect your eyesight and make sure that you are able to do the job correctly. To start your construction career, visit CSLS today!

Is Your Mobile Service Meeting Your Contracting Business Obligations?

These days, mobile coverage is everything. Although you may still be wandering around the jobsite asking a client if they can hear you now, you’re also probably using your coverage as a mobile hotspot. It might be the only communication device you have for your contracting business. This means that your mobile service is much more important than it might have been even a few years ago. Here’s how you can evaluate whether you are getting what you need from your mobile provider.

The last thing you want is for your mobile coverage to cut out at the office or in most jobsites. This is why coverage is going to be one of the first things you look at. The trouble is that it’s hard to evaluate coverage from the various mobile providers until you’re running on that network. There are points where the signal from one cell tower gets too weak, and your phone isn’t connecting to another one. This creates a coverage dead zone where you might have little or no coverage at all. Figure out where you will be working most often, and make sure that your mobile provider has good coverage there, at least.

Bandwidth and Reception
Coverage primarily relates to where you can use your phone’s service. Reception determines what quality of service you get while you’re there. This might feel like one and the same, but it isn’t. One mobile provider might have thorough coverage in the area but then give you slow network speeds or bad reception. If you can, it might be worth bringing friends or associates with different providers to see who’s got the best ability to stream video at the jobsite. If yours seems to be arriving late to everything, you might need to consider switching.

Each mobile provider offers a variety of plans, especially for businesses. Once you start a business, you might get options that you wouldn’t have heard about as an individual consumer. Evaluate what you need, like talk, text and data. Keep in mind that you might not need all of these. If you’re never going to talk on the business line, data may be enough. Compare plans online to see which one is going to be best for you. Don’t pick a cheap service just because it costs the least, because it might not give you the features you need. If you will open more than one line, see if you can get any discounts for it.

Other Services
Besides the actual coverage, mobile providers often offer a variety of services you may or may not want. For example, if you’re going to be using your phone as a mobile hotspot to connect your computer or tablet and transmit important documents, added security may be a worthwhile feature. If you’ve got a need to travel outside the country for business, having the ability to do so seamlessly makes life easier. Even having a plan to provide devices like smartphones for your team is an important consideration. Some providers bundle equipment and plans for businesses so that you can save money over buying them separately.

Wi-Fi Hotspots
Beyond using your mobile phone service for communicating with employees and clients, you may need it as a Wi-Fi hotspot. Construction sites aren’t always known as the most connected places, which means that you probably need extra support from your mobile service or other methods. Obviously, using your phone to seamlessly connect a device to the Internet is usually the easiest. If your mobile provider simply can’t get you the level of connection you need, you might need to consider something more formal like a portable Wi-Fi system. These typically require something permanent to connect, like a landline or a cable.

Mobile service is probably going to be one of the most important decisions you’ll make in the daily running of your business. Choosing the right provider makes all the difference. To start building your own contracting business, contact CSLS today!