The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, June 09, 2017

News Briefs

By The Building Tradesman

Work zones become crash zones, too

Operators of nearly half of all U.S. construction work zones reported that motor vehicles had crashed into them during the past year.

That's the word from the Associated General Contractors, which released a study on May 25 that found 44 percent of work zones operators reported a vehicle crash. That's up five percentage points from 2016's study.

"There is no meeting, email or text that is more important than the safety of workers or motorists," Stephen E. Sandherr, chief executive officer for the AGC. "It is absolutely essential for every driver to slow down, pay attention and put the phone down while driving through highway work zones."

Sandherr said that 49 percent of contractors who reported work zone crashes on their projects said that motor vehicle operators or passengers were injured, and 13 percent of those crashes involved a driver or passenger fatality. Highway work zone crashes also pose a significant risk for construction workers, Sandherr noted. He said 25 percent of work zone crashes injure construction workers and 11 percent of those crashes kill them.

Work zone crashes also have a pronounced impact on construction schedules and costs. Sandherr said that 27 percent of contractors reported that work zone crashes during the past year have forced them to temporarily shut down construction activity Those delays were often lengthy, as 52 percent of those project shutdowns lasted two or more days.

AGC officials said that a majority of contractors (82 percent) report that motor vehicle crashes pose a greater risk today than they did just ten years ago. That is why the association is launching a new national advertising campaign that is designed to help improve the safety of the nation's highway work zones.

The campaign will feature new radio ads that will air in dozens of cities around the country that caution drivers to be careful in highway work zones. The ads warn drivers that speeding, texting and losing focus while in work zones aren't worth the "nightmare" of killing workers, drivers or passengers.

"With the summer travel season starting, our message to every motorist is this: when you see construction signs and orange barrels, take your foot off the gas, get off the phone and keep your eyes on the road," says an ad.

Trouble brews for multiemployer plans

A record number of multiemployer pension plans are receiving financial assistance from the federal government this year, and retirees are starting to greatly outnumber the employees paying into the plans.

That warning comes from a May 19 report by the Bureau of National Affairs. It said multiemployer pension plans, which include the organized construction industry, "have become the biggest drain on the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation," the federal agency that insures pension plans.

However, only a single building trades union, a Cement Masons and Plasterers local in Texas, is on the top 10 list among plans that are receiving bailout money. 

In fiscal year 2016, the BNA said, 10 multiemployer plans went insolvent and requested financial assistance from the PBGC. The federal agency is now giving financial assistance to a record-high 71 multiemployer plans.

The report said the ratio of retirees and separated vested participants in all multiemployer plans increased significantly from 1995 to 2013, from 48 percent to 63 percent during this time frame. Accordingly, the number of insolvent multiemployer plans jumped from nine in 1995 to 58 in 2015.