A Look Back at Construction in 2017

by Melanie Baravik
January 2, 2018

2017 brought good things to the construction industry — despite a shortage of skilled labor, spending rose in the second half of the year and unemployment reached its lowest point since the Great Recession. After a successful year, let’s take a look back at some big news in construction in 2017.

ELD Mandate took effect

Though its impact is felt most widely in the trucking industry, the ELD Mandate brought changes for construction fleet owners, too. There may be vehicles in your fleet — including any that weigh more than 10,000 pounds, or that have hazmat placards — that need to comply with the rule. It’s been in effect since December 18, and the compliance grace period ends April 1, 2018. That doesn’t mean you’re off the hook until April — read more about the grace period in a previous post on The Yard.

New OSHA rules were introduced

OSHA introduced new lower exposure standards for workers in construction to limit the negative health effects of inhaling silica dust. Silica dust is often created on the jobsite by tools like jackhammers and handheld saws, and during demolition and blasting or tunneling. Employers need to provide proper protections for workers and utilize silica dust control measures, like using water to reduce the dust a saw produces. This rule took effect in September, and businesses were given 30 days to receive compliance assistance from OSHA, so make sure you’re protecting your workers from silica dust according to the new standard.

Another OSHA rule gave businesses required to keep illness and injury reports a December 15 deadline to submit form 300A electronically, which was then extended until December 31. Businesses required to make these reports fill out three forms, 300, 300A and 301, but only needed to submit form 300A for 2016 electronically. From here on out, all three forms will need to be electronically submitted. Check out our previous post on this new rule for more information.

New innovations in construction technology

A big trend in 2017 construction technology were wearables aimed at worker safety. Ekso Bionics began testing their EksoVest, a partial exoskeleton, using assembly line workers at two Ford plants. The EksoVest supports workers’ arms as they perform repetitive tasks over their heads, constantly lifting above their heads and putting strain on the neck, back and shoulders. Exoskeletons in construction could provide the same assistance, reducing the long-term effects of physical work and preventing injuries.

Microsoft released the HoloLens, a mixed-reality (MR) headset that attaches to hard hats. The Lens would give construction workers information right in front of their eyes — literally — allowing them to quickly identify parts, read and follow complex instructions and visualize completed projects at every stage. Like exoskeletons, the HoloLens is largely being tested by manufacturers like Volvo. Volvo workers use the headset for training purposes and to get a look at their tasks for the day — a practical solution for construction workers, too.

Telematics, technology that is driving efficiency in a notoriously inefficient industry, were another area ripe for innovation in 2017. Our telematics solution, ES Track, gives contractors a top-down look at the state of their entire fleet. Any machine or vehicle fitted with this technology is connected to the big picture — fleet managers can see the asset’s location, fuel usage, idle time and maintenance schedule from one browser. You can stay on top of projects with accurate, easy recordkeeping and reduced equipment downtime. 

KCI Airport & STL Aquarium got underway

Two big projects here in our home state of Missouri made progress this year. The St. Louis Aquarium at Union Station has long been anticipated, but construction finally began in November with an expected completion date in the summer of 2019. The Aquarium’s construction is part of a restoration and repurposing of historic Union Station, already home to shops, a hotel and restaurants.

This fall, voters approved a measure to construct a new terminal for the Kansas City International Airport. Its current design — three horseshoe-shaped terminals — isolates visitors and has created security concerns for the TSA in the past. The proposed single-terminal design will be easier to navigate and offer more choices for dining. The city anticipates that a new airport will help bring more people and businesses to KC, and the 75% of voters who approved the measure undoubtedly agree.

Though historically slow to innovate, the construction industry is rife with opportunity — and with all that happened in 2017, we can only imagine what 2018 will bring. Subscribe to The Yard and we won’t let you miss a thing.

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