Cotney Construction Law is dedicated to keeping contractors informed on current events that are impacting the industry. From worker misclassification to infrastructure, we’ve covered numerous topics over the past year. However, only a handful of topics truly defined what 2019 was like for the construction industry.
Below, a Ft. Myers construction lawyer with Cotney Construction Law takes a look back at 2019. Although the year was marked by incredible growth within the industry, we also saw a number of events and problems that hindered construction companies across the nation. If an issue ever threatens your company’s success in 2020, consult the team of Ft. Myers construction attorneys from Cotney Construction Law.
1. OSHA Inspections
2019 was the year that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) stepped up its efforts to curb worker injuries and fatalities. In 2019, OSHA conducted an incredible 33,401 inspections, which was more than in any of the previous three years. These inspections addressed “violations related to trenching, falls, chemical exposure, silica and other hazards.” While OSHA’s efforts are nationwide, Florida roofers, in particular, were given steep fines related to fall hazards, one of OSHA’s “Fatal Four.” If an OSHA compliance officer ever makes an unannounced visit to your project site, be sure to consult one of our Ft. Myers construction lawyers.
Related: OSHA Priorities in 2020
2019 also saw an increase in megaprojects. Despite the high risk that comes with megaprojects due to their complexity, the industry continues to bank on these incredible wonders. As we discussed previously, megaprojects are growing in frequency as well as size, with most being located in the Southern and Western regions of the United States. These massive undertakings are necessary for our countries growth; however, construction companies must be mindful of the inherent hurdles that come with taking on a megaproject. The vast majority of megaprojects end up going over budget.
Related: Megaprojects: High Risk, High Reward
3. Advanced Technology
As we say goodbye to 2019, we continue to see the impact that technology is having on the construction industry. Construction companies can now take advantage of wearables that monitor worker health, exoskeletons that enable workers to lift hundreds of pounds with ease, and virtual reality that can train the next generation of workers. Of note, drones are now being used to provide imaging at heights that would be hazardous for even the most skilled worker using the required fall protection. Remember, OSHA requires employers to provide employees with a safe work environment, and technology is proving to be an effective pathway towards becoming OSHA compliant.
4. The Opioid Epidemic
It’s no secret that the construction industry, and our nation as a whole, is in the grips of an opioid epidemic. The construction industry is particularly susceptible to this crisis due to the frequent injuries that workers endure. In fact, a recent study published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence shows that, out of all professions, construction workers are the most likely to use opioids and cocaine. This is an epidemic that claims the lives of tens of thousands of Americans every year, many of whom are construction workers.
As a contractor, it is your duty to closely monitor your workforce and ensure that they are not under the influence while on the job. In order to do so, you’ll need to draw the line between prescription and recreational drug use. By implementing a workplace drug policy and having a comprehensive employee manual drafted by a Ft. Myers construction attorney, you can prevent opioid misuse and make 2020 the safest year for your workers yet.
5. The Ongoing Trade War
We can’t talk about 2019 without mentioning the trade war between the United States and China. What began as a way to encourage consumers to buy American products quickly escalated into a number of tariffs on Chinese imports. While the trade war began in 2018, it continued into 2019 and up to the time of this writing. Everything from electronics to seafood was targeted by tariffs, and contractors saw an increase in imported material prices, including steel and aluminum.
Considering that the industry is already known for bankruptcy, cash flow issues, and low profit margins, contractors became increasingly concerned about rising material prices. Although things have settled down in recent months, there’s no telling what 2020 could mean for construction companies and material prices.
6. The Labor Shortage
We now come to an issue that is affecting almost every contractor in the industry. Although the Great Recession took place over a decade ago, the construction industry has yet to recover and attract skilled labor. In 2019, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported over 300,000 vacancies within the construction industry — a number that is only expected to balloon in the coming years. It’s clear that construction companies are struggling to attract young workers to the industry, and it’s resulting in delayed projects and increased labor costs.
Will 2020 be the year that the construction industry finds a way to address widespread labor shortages? Only time will tell. What remains clear is that construction companies need a legal ally that can assist them in the new decade. For all of your construction-related legal needs, partner with a Florida construction lawyer from Cotney Construction Law.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.