Category Archives: Contractor Business

How Your Contracting Business Can Use Technology Without Letting It Eat Your Lunch

It’s a fear that people have had for centuries. Develop a piece of technology that replaces a skilled worker, and soon it starts replacing skilled workers. This is why industries like construction tend to be so hesitant to adopt innovations. But staying stuck in the 19th Century or even the 20th Century isn’t the best way to go, either. Here’s a few ways you can incorporate technology into your business with less worry that it will render your services obsolete.

Why Is the Construction Industry Averse to Technology?
Most of the technological devices you use to do things used to be done by someone manually. You might not complain too much if you are able to use gasoline and an engine to power a vehicle instead of horses. The horses may not be upset by this, either. But if it’s a professional doing the work that can now be done by a machine, that’s where people tend to worry. Innovations in building practices, as well as technological developments, require fewer workers at the jobsite to accomplish bigger projects. In short, people tend to fear adopting technology if they think it might make their own positions unnecessary.

What Counts as Technology, Anyway?
If you ask people from different generations what counts as technology, you might get widely differing answers. Many people tend to look at tools that existed when they were young as just tools, while everything that came after is technology. In truth, everything from a hammer to your smartphone qualifies as technology. The tools you use nowadays might be far more advanced than your predecessors building in the 19th Century, but they’re still tools. If it makes your job faster, safer and more accurate, it’s worth considering.

Why Should Workers Learn to Use Construction Technology?
If you’ve already been working in the industry or even your chosen field for several years, you might wonder why you should change your processes at all. It’s a matter of remaining relevant. Think of something you use every day off the jobsite, like a smartphone. Clients and construction professionals in their 20s and 30s may be far more comfortable using their phones to communicate or fill out a quick estimate to provide concrete information in real-time. Pros who still need to go back to the office to fill out a form and mail it might be hours or even days behind. Even if you don’t choose to take in all the technology, it’s important to know what it is and how you might use it.

How Can Contracting Businesses Test Out New Technology?
There are so many tools out there for you to try that you might not ever get through them all. The Internet of Things is revolutionizing every aspect of our lives, so it’s not surprising that it has made it into construction. When you go to a construction conference, be sure to give yourself plenty of time to browse the floor. Many businesses producing tools for construction will demonstrate their latest products or let you try them out. This will help you determine which ones are right for your business.

How Quickly Should Contractors Adopt Technology?
Being willing to adopt technology doesn’t mean you have to incorporate every innovation the moment it comes out. That’s unrealistic if not impossible. Instead, keep an eye on the fastest-growing technological areas as they relate to construction. These include:

  • 3-D modeling/printing
  • Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Automation

Be careful about your purchases, especially if they commit you to using a proprietary system. This might limit your options if you decide to pursue something else. It’s easy to start with tools that work on devices you already own, like your smartphone or computer. Once you get more comfortable with the offerings in one area, you may have an easier time making a choice about other products.

Developing an understanding of construction technology is one way that your contracting business can meet the needs of construction in a new decade. To begin building your contracting career, visit CSLS today!

What Your Contracting Business Can Do During a Construction Dispute

It’s going to happen eventually, and it might even happen a few times a year. You end up in a dispute with a contractor, subcontractor or client. Some disputes are easy to resolve, while others might put a halt on the project. Since time is always money for your contracting business, trying to avoid disputes is one of the best things you can do to keep the work going. Here are a few tips you can use to get everyone back on the same page.

  1. Keep Communicating

Communication is a big key to keeping a disagreement from becoming a formal dispute. Without it, what you have is two parties who are left trying to make decisions independently. This means that you have to work together on a regular basis before you start the project, in order to hammer out the plan and confirm that the specifics will meet everyone’s requirements to proceed. You need to keep up this communication throughout the project, possibly as often as every day. Even if you feel like the other party is acting unreasonably, be sure to focus on professional interactions. Maintaining an open path to discussion increases the likelihood that you’ll find a fair compromise.

  1. Get Details in Writing

Having a phone conversation or a meeting in which you discuss specific aspects of the project is often a requirement for construction work. It also can be insufficient. Both sides may think that they remember what they agreed to do. Without documentation, it’s your word against theirs. If your previous contract didn’t include enough details to proceed, now’s the time to try to fix that. Follow up a verbal conversation with an email or other written record to show what you discussed and confirm that everyone now understands what is going on.

  1. Address Inconsistencies Promptly

Contracts often include a lot of jargon or vague terms that could be interpreted in a variety of ways. It’s tempting to ignore them and see if they actually become a problem, but this can make the situation worse. Disputes are more likely to cause bigger issues over time, particularly if some aspect of the initial plan led to work that’s no longer meeting the requirements of the project. To avoid investing too much time going in the wrong direction, carefully analyze all the terms in the contractt. Ask questions or clarify if something seems unclear or likely to cause problems.

  1. Solve Problems for the Future

When you first start a contracting business, it may feel like you are reinventing the wheel every time you begin a new project. Although this should dissipate in time, your approach makes a big difference. Getting through a tough dispute should prompt you to evaluate what you could change to avoid the problem in the future. Some issues are truly not of your doing, but there are ways you can minimize their effects. If the dispute is related to design, which is an increasingly common issue in construction, revising the way that you create and collaborate about design could pave a smoother path for the future.

  1. Consider Mediation

Many contracts stipulate that relevant parties will attempt to negotiate a satisfactory arrangement before escalating the dispute. While getting together and figuring out how to move forward can often solve the problem, it isn’t always effective. In this case, you may want to hire a mediator to ensure that each side can communicate their concerns. Having an objective third party might be enough to get everyone on the right track. It may also save you the time and effort spent bringing it to arbitration or litigation. In those cases, you’ll need to hire a lawyer to advise you of your rights and obligations.

People are human, and sometimes they disagree over the details of a construction project. Learning how to navigate disputes is part of keeping your business afloat. To begin building your construction career, visit CSLS today!

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.

Coverage
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.

Plans
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!

Is Your Contracting Business Prepared for a Power Outage?

Periodic power outages happen. You know that rolling blackouts can be a big problem, particularly during summer and wildfire season. When PG&E is shutting down your jobsite, you’ve got issues you need to solve. Your workday doesn’t stop just because the lights aren’t on, so you must be prepared. These tips help you evaluate your energy needs for your business, with a few solutions you can consider.

Consider Your Power Needs
In order to find the best approaches to take during a power outage, you have to know what you need. Make a list of equipment you use for common projects. Don’t forget to include the tools that you use on a daily basis but may not rely on for regular work, like your smartphone or computer. Take note of the power source for each piece of equipment. For tools and devices that run solely on electricity, figure out how many amps they need. This will help you determine how fast you’ll burn through power running them.

Choose Batteries vs. Fuel-Powered
If the plugs aren’t working and you don’t know when they’ll turn back on, you need some kind of backup. Many construction tools run on fuel, but others can run on batteries. In some cases, you may be able to choose between them. It’s a trick to keep batteries charged, particularly if you can run through them in less than an hour or two. If you pick battery-powered options, you’ll need to find a way to recharge them. If you choose fuel-powered, you’ll need to ensure that you can provide a regular supply of the right kind of fuel. Keep in mind that fuel-powered tools may not need electricity, but they need ventilation if you’re using them indoors.

Find Ways to Recharge
Some aspects of your system simply cannot work without electric power. For that, you may need to invest in a generator. Lots of people buy a generator as an emergency backup but then never learn how to use it. Typically, a generator uses fuel to run an alternator that creates an electrical current that can be converted to energy to run devices that are connected to the right circuits. If you don’t have enough fuel or the right fuel, it’s useless. If you buy a generator that is too small for your needs, you’ll run out of energy and be back where you started. Make sure that you know how to use it and periodically test it to confirm it still meets your needs.

Watch for Planned Outages
They say luck favors the prepared, and this is because having a plan makes all the difference. Planned outages can be extremely frustrating for everyone in the region affected by them. But if you don’t know that they are coming, you may be caught unprepared. When the weather is hot and everyone’s running an air conditioner, get ready for brownouts or rolling blackouts. Keep an eye on the weather forecast, particularly during seasons when big storms are common. If you know about it in advance and can do some work from a safer place, you may save yourself some time and hassle.

Build-in Extra Time
Power outages can cause delays in your project delivery, but they also create other problems. Failing to plan for them and not giving yourself adequate time to complete the project can cause you to take risks that you wouldn’t do otherwise. Being in a hurry is a major cause of workplace injury. For example, if you’re relying on a building’s ventilation system to keep the jobsite safe for you and your employees, you might not think about that system going down during a power outage. You’re more likely to make that mistake when you’re already behind schedule. Instead, build in some padding for problems like this, and you’ll have more room to plan.

Power outages are a part of life in California, but they don’t have to bring your business screeching to a halt. For more tips about getting your contracting business started, visit CSLS today!

Is Your Contracting Business’s Substance Use Policy Due for an Overhaul?

Minimizing the use of substances that affect people’s ability to operate construction equipment seems to make sense at the construction site. In reality, it’s a mess of conflicting guidelines. For example, at the federal level, marijuana is still illegal. At the state level, it may be approved for recreational use. This creates a situation that can be tricky to navigate. Zero tolerance used to seem like an easy practice to implement, but it’s not always legal to enforce. Here’s a few things you should consider when setting a policy concerning substance use in your contracting business.

Understand the Law
If you want to know the latest California laws concerning the growth, sale and use of cannabis, you’ve got to check back on a regular basis. The California state government has passed or refined legislation concerning what people are allowed to do with marijuana every year since 2015. At present, adults over age 21 are allowed to produce and consume cannabis products in the state. There are limitations on how, where and when they can do this.

Federal vs. State Regulations
Although many states have relaxed their laws related to the sale or consumption of cannabis, it’s still illegal at the federal level. This is more of an issue of enforcement, depending on who’s calling the shots. For example, the Obama administration directed federal agencies to ease up on enforcing federal drug policies in states that had legalized marijuana for medicinal or adult use. The Trump administration rescinded that in 2018. It remains to be seen how the federal government will take action concerning this conflict in laws.

Medicinal vs. Adult Use
The way you set substance use policies depends greatly on the reason employees might be using it. With recreational use, you’re not obligated to allow people to smoke or consume cannabis products while they’re on the clock. In that way, it’s similar to a policy you might set for alcohol consumption.

Medicinal use is a different matter entirely. Employers are bound by law not to discriminate against employees for health concerns or treatment for conditions. And considering that marijuana may be prescribed to treat conditions ranging from injury to chronic pain and cancer, you could encounter people with a legitimate prescription for medicinal marijuana at any time. This means that you might not legally be able to enforce a zero-tolerance drug policy, even if that seems the easiest path to take. If you’re not sure what to do, consulting a lawyer who specializes in human resources policies may be a worthwhile investment.

Make Safety Paramount
Instead of putting yourself at risk for discrimination, it may be a good time to rethink your substance use policy. In construction, marijuana use for any reason can be a serious risk to life and limb. The National Institute on Drug Abuse notes that workers who test positive for cannabis are more likely to be involved in accidents or receive injuries while on the job. As an employer, you may need to evaluate each situation on a case-by-case basis. It might not make sense to test people for cannabis that they may consume in their off-hours anymore. But you definitely need them sober and attentive while they’re operating heavy machinery or in a dangerous area of the jobsite, for their own safety and yours.

Consider Flexible Job Requirements
If you want to hire an employee who needs to use marijuana in a medicinal context, it may help to consider creating some flexibility in job requirements for all positions. People working in a small business tend to fill several roles at the same time anyway. You can reduce your risk of problems by acknowledging that people may have a legal reason for using cannabis, and helping them find a way to accommodate it. This way, you aren’t putting them, yourself or your projects at risk.

Creating substance use policies that work with the changing times is just one part of running a contracting business. Getting a solid grounding in the various aspects of your field is another. For more information about how our programs can help you get started, contact CSLS today!