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Everything you need to know about BMD and the industry.

Finding Opportunity in Adversity: Optimism for the Construction Industry

It is said that opportunity hides itself in adversity, and so, for those industry stakeholders still struggling with the impacts of the pandemic, it is fair to ask: what opportunities has the COVID-19 pandemic created within the construction industry?

Opportunities to Collaborate are at an All-Time High. Collaboration is, at times, a byproduct of necessity. For many years, contractors, subcontractors and lower tiers have all talked about a more collaborative approach to building, but habit always seemed to get in the way, as many of those same parties were quick to resort to familiar, one-sided contracting methods and traditional risk allocation mechanisms. Now, however, faced with the need to revise project programs, manage disrupted supply chains, accommodate public health restrictions, and mitigate project delays, project owners and construction managers are learning that it is in their best interest to work with team members in unison, not restricted by lines of contractual privity. This presents a real opportunity for the industry to come together to develop processes and procedures that correspond to the changed public health and market conditions.

We expect that along the way, project owners and program managers may see the benefit of increased participation in joint efforts related to managing project budget, scope and time. Adding stakeholders to the conversation lends itself to the future use of more collaborative project delivery methods, and improved contracting processes through which parties agree to fairly allocate risk based on their ability to control, and prevent, such risk. 

Innovations in Technology and Building Methods.  Physical distancing is now the norm, which necessarily changes the way contractors, subcontractors and other project participants interact with one another. Interactive web-based meetings have replaced in-person meetings. Tours and inspections are being conducted virtually to allow stakeholders to monitor project progress from miles away. Artificially intelligent sensors and devices can be worn to ensure physical distancing measures are being observed. All of these tools offer real-time information so that issues can be identified and resolved quickly, thus improving productivity and efficiency. 

We can also expect to see an increase in the modular building trend. Here, control is the key. When physical components or units are built off-site, the benefit is two-fold: first, more opportunities to better control the safety of that off-site environment, and second, a greater ability to control, and reduce, on-site congestion. 

Made in the U.S.A.  The pandemic has exposed another truth: the construction industry in the United States is still dependent on international materials and workers. Reports indicate that nearly 30% of building materials used in the United States are imported from China. When international borders are closed, or trade relations are strained, disruptions in critical supply chains are inevitable. Herein lies an opportunity to bring production and manufacturing operations back to the United States, particularly where owners and developers may be willing to pay higher prices for materials that come from a more reliable supply chain. The construction of those very manufacturing facilities could, in and of itself, also be a boon for the industry. 

Safer and Cleaner Project Sites.  Practices such as temperature checks, frequent handwashing, improved mask and glove policies, and sanitization of work sites and equipment are all drivers for improved public health, and are likely to continue beyond the pandemic. We may also see evidence of secondary benefits from certain health and safety measures. For example, staggered shifts will lead to less crowded work areas, which should aid accident prevention efforts. Less congested work areas may also lessen burdens to coordinate work, which in turn may increase productivity. With these practices likely here for the long-term, the project participants most willing to embrace the new measures are most likely to succeed.

Justin M. Alaburda is a member and co-managing partner of the Akron office of Brennan, Manna & Diamond. He can be reached at jmalaburda@bmdllc.com. 

The Masks Are Back: New OSHA Regulations for Healthcare Employers

Employment Law After Hours is back with a News Break Episode. Yesterday, OSHA published new rules for healthcare facilities, including hospitals, home health employers, nursing homes, ambulance companies, and assisted living facilities. These new rules are very cumbersome, requiring mask wearing for all employees, even those that are vaccinated. The only exception is for fully vaccinated employees (2 weeks post final dose) who are in a "well-defined" area where there is no reasonable expectation that any person with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 will be present.

New OSHA Guidance for Workplaces Not Covered by the Healthcare Emergency Temporary Standard

On June 10, 2021, OSHA issued an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) for occupational exposure to COVID-19, but it applies only to healthcare and healthcare support service workers. For a detailed summary of the ETS applicable to the healthcare industry, please visit https://youtu.be/vPyXmKwOzsk. All employers not subject to the ETS should review OSHA’s contemporaneously released, updated Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace. The new Guidance essentially leaves intact OSHA’s earlier guidance, but only for unvaccinated and otherwise at-risk workers (“at-risk” meaning vaccinated or unvaccinated workers with immunocompromising conditions). For fully vaccinated workers, OSHA defers to CDC Guidance for Fully Vaccinated People, which advises that most fully vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing masks or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state, or local laws or individual business policies.

Employer Liability for COVID-19 Vaccine Side Effects

As employers encourage or require employees to obtain a COVID-19 vaccine, they should be aware of OSHA recording obligations and potential workers’ compensation liability. Though OSHA has yet to revise its COVID-19 guidance in response to the latest CDC recommendations, OSHA has revised its position regarding the recording of injury or illness resulting from the vaccine. Until now, OSHA required an employer to record an adverse reaction when the vaccine was required for employees and the injury or illness otherwise met the recording criteria (work-related, a new case, and meets one or more of the general recording criteria). OSHA has reversed course and announced that it will not require recording adverse reactions until at least May 2022, irrespective of whether the employer requires the vaccine as a condition of employment. In its revised COVID-19 FAQs, OSHA states:

The New Rule 1.510 - Radical Change for Summary Judgement Procedure in Florida

In civil litigation, where both sides participate actively, trial is usually required at the end of a long, expensive case to determine a winner and a loser. In federal and most state courts, however, there are a few procedural shortcuts by which parties can seek to prevail in advance of trial, saving time, money and annoyance. The most common of these is the “motion for summary judgment”: a request to the court by one side for judgment before trial, generally on the basis that the evidence available reflects that a win for that party is legally inevitable and thus required. Effective May 1, 2021, summary judgment procedure in Florida has radically changed.

Vacating, Modifying or Correcting an Arbitration Award Under R.C. 2711.13: Three-Month Limitation Maximum; Not Guaranteed Amount of Time

In a recent decision, the Supreme Court of Ohio held that neither R.C. 2711.09 nor R.C. 2711.13 requires a court to wait three months after an arbitration award is issued before confirming the award. R.C. 2711.13 provides that “after an award in an arbitration proceeding is made, any party to the arbitration may file a motion in the court of common pleas for an order vacating, modifying, or correcting the award.” Any such motion to vacate, modify, or correct an award “must be served upon the adverse party or his attorney within three months after the award is delivered to the parties in interest.” In BST Ohio Corporation et al. v. Wolgang, the Court held the three-month period set forth in R.C. 2711.13 is not a guaranteed time period in which to file a motion to vacate, modify, or correct an arbitration award. 2021-Ohio-1785.