General contractors across North America are facing never before seen challenges. The coronavirus pandemic has turned the construction industry upside down with uncertainty, anxiety and consequential roadblocks. Many are concerned with the health and safety of valued employees, family and friends; plus the financial health and future of their businesses.
How do you continue to work and mitigate the dangers of a contagious virus? Should you continue to work? Should it be at full-strength, in shifts, or with partial crews? Can you legally work? Has the federal, state or municipal government deemed your jobsite essential or shut it down?
In these trying times compassion, communication and collaboration are paramount. Information gathering, sharing best practices and official guidelines, and working together to address challenges will help your business survive the pandemic. You can receive help and guidance by collaborating with alliances and associations that have the resources, capabilities and commitment to professional standards and shared benefits.
While the normal challenges to the success of a project have not disappeared—the competency of the general contractor and having the right subcontractors on the jobsite—some challenges have been multiplied because now the jobsite has to be run with high safety and health standards similar to that of operating rooms.
This is especially true when it comes to selecting floor-covering contractors. Not only are they the last trade on the jobsite, installers and journeymen have to install an aesthetically pleasing, structurally sound and sanitary-compliant surfaces that cover a vast portion of the building’s space.
This is why commercial general contractors should take great care when bidding out subcontractors for floor-covering installation work. Hiring INSTALL and Infection Contral Risk Assessment (ICRA) trained and certified labor ensures that their jobs are safety conscious, stay on time, on budget and are done right the first time – eliminating dangerous exposure, costly callbacks and the potential for infection-causing flooring failure.
Below are three reasons why general contractors should hire certified floorcovering installers.
1. Floor-Covering Professionals Are Pioneers in ICRA Training
According to the CDC, 1.7 million hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) occur each year, contributing to nearly 100,000 deaths in the United States alone. While HAIs continue to threaten lives around the country, the healthcare industry is exploring new ways to prevent the spread of infectious agents and contaminants.
This includes innovative building products, finishes and anti-microbial surfaces. Workers certified in ICRA are well-versed in controlling HAI infections and the most reliable workers to have on any job while under the COVID-19 threat.
“One of the major causes of secondary infections is cross contamination, which can occur during construction,” said Mike Bohan, construction ICRA lead for the Indiana/Kentucky/Ohio Regional Council of Carpenters.
“The removal of ceiling tiles, drywall ceilings, walls and flooring releases contaminants and potentially infectious agents into the air that may be trapped above, behind or beneath finish surfaces. If not handled properly, these contaminants and/or infectious agents are transferred through air flow patterns via HVAC systems, by direct contact via high-touch areas, and foot traffic to other areas of the health-care facility—occupied by patients, visitors and staff that may have compromised immune systems who are more likely to be susceptible to secondary infections,” he added.
This is where ICRA training comes into play. A 24-hour ICRA course administered by the United Brotherhood of Carpenters (UBC) teaches floor-covering installers how to contain pathogens, control airflow, protect patients and work without disrupting adjacent operations.
Installers also learn to classify work areas to minimize risks; understand and adhere to ICRA protocols; and communicate with a facility’s ICRA team if available. The curriculum was developed by consulting with leading construction-related infection control experts and is reviewed regularly to keep materials relevant to industry needs.
There is also flexibility for working installers who are making a transition to the healthcare side of the industry. Courses can even be broken up into smaller units and weekend sessions are available for busy installers who are unavailable in the evenings.
The true impact of the floor-covering industry’s commitment to ICRA stretches far beyond the jobsite. Trainers and certified installers, journeymen and industry leaders are able to help train the healthcare industry and individuals working in commercial architecture and interior design on the importance of ICRA and hospital acquired infections.
2. New Practices Protect Installers & Other Trades from Silica Exposure
In addition to HAIs and COVID-19, there is another major health disaster that has disproportionally affected the construction industry – silica dust. In order to ensure proper flooring installation, contractors are often forced to grind, shot blast or chip away at these existing concrete substrates. The problem here is not the necessarily the labor involved, but the toxic byproduct that is created in the process; respirable crystalline silica.
While silica is one of the most common substances in earth’s crust, it poses a deadly threat to floor-covering installers and other construction trades. When workers cut, grind, drill, or crush materials that contain crystalline silica, very small dust particles are created. These materials include concrete, rock, block and mortar, and brick— common building products here in the US.
The tiny particles released during this process can travel deep into the lungs of workers. This can ultimately cause silicosis, an incurable and sometimes deadly lung disease. Respirable crystalline silica also causes lung cancer, other potentially debilitating respiratory diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and kidney disease. In most cases, these diseases occur after years of exposure to respirable crystalline silica. Some are, however, are more acute.
While steps have been made to curb silica dust on the jobsite, nearly two million construction workers are exposed to respirable crystalline silica in over 600,000 workplaces each year. Of those two million works, 30% of them are exposed to levels great than OSHA standard set in 2017.
“New technology, best practices and training courses can help address these problems—but only if people are willing to put them into action on the jobsite,” said Garrett Ulfig, director, Master Craft Floors. “Our industry is working hard to implement these practices and we are leaders when it comes to jobsite safety.”
Silica awareness classes cover where and how respirable crystalline silica exposure occurs, how it affects the body, how workers can protect themselves, and what employers must do to protect their workers. Courses like these also help companies meet OSHA’s silica standards.
All construction employers, not just floor-covering installers, covered by the standard are required to first establish and implement a written exposure control plan that identifies tasks that involve exposure and methods used to protect workers, including procedures to restrict access to work areas where high exposures may occur.
Contractors are also required to designate a competent person to implement the written exposure control plan. They must also restrict housekeeping practices that expose workers to silica, such as use of compressed air without a ventilation system to capture the dust and dry sweeping, where effective, safe alternatives are available.
For general contractors who want more information on OSHA’s silica standard, a good place to start is the organization’s website: www.osha.gov/silica. OSHA can also provide compliance assistance through a variety of programs, including technical assistance about effective safety and health programs, workplace consultations, and training and education.
The UBC also provides floorcovering installers and members with several awareness classes on silica and other hazardous materials.
3. Trained Floorcovering Installers Bring Professionalism to the Jobsite
Trained and certified floor-covering professionals are the most responsible men and women you can have on a jobsite. Thanks to a strict apprenticeship, career-long skills training, industry specified certifications and countless courses that teach leadership, time management and critical business communication skills, they are at a competitive advantage when it comes to working in teams and among other trades.
Over the last 10 years, the Carpenters International Training Fund has trained tens of thousands carpenters and floor-coverers creating a legion of construction professionals that are best-prepared to take you through this and future crises.
The floor-covering industry also has several advanced courses and seminars on professionalism and personal growth. The Journeymen Leadership Program, for example, is a 4-day commitment with more than 36,000 graduates. Known as the 300 Hitters Program, this incredible opportunity also asks participants serve as mentors to other installers.
Another program, Building Leadership for a Strong Future, helps journeymen develop leadership, mentoring, coaching and communication skills, and learn to engage with newer members and lead by example, all while promoting positive work environments and productivity on the job.
This program is followed by 212 Journeymen: Next Level UBC Leaders. Focused on journeymen who have committed to utilizing the skills learned in the Building Leadership for a Strong Future program, it embraces transformation leadership and helps build higher level skills.
In addition to these examples there are a number of other programs, seminars and classes on collaborative leadership, team building, delegate training and management. They are just one more example of how trained and certified labor is going above and beyond to ensure a successful future for the construction industry.
A Competitive Advantage
These are just three of countless reasons why commercial general contractors should look to reliable professional associations and organizations when bidding out subcontractors for floor-covering installation work. Hiring INSTALL and ICRA trained and certified labor ensures that you that the safety standards are honored and construction is performed safely and competently.
From years of being on the forefront of ICRA standards in construction to understanding CDC and OSHA rules regarding unwanted exposures to maintaining professionalism on the jobsite, INSTALL trained labor provides general contractors with a protection and peace of mind in these trying times. And that is long-term value for your business.