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Heat Safety Tips for Construction Workers

heat safety tips

While equally important, in the construction industry, safety requires more than just wearing a hard hat and protective googles. The weather can also prove to be a significant safety hazard for construction workers. To help ensure the safety of our construction workers during the summer months, here are six heat safety tips you should be aware of.

Know the Signs

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people suffer heat-related illnesses, such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke when their bodies are unable to compensate and properly cool themselves. Because heat-related illnesses are 100% preventable, it’s important for people to be aware of the warning signs of these two potentially life-threatening illnesses, and know when to seek immediate medical attention.

Warning Symptoms: Heat Exhaustion

Breathing that is shallow and fast, headaches, excessive sweating, pale or clammy skin, muscle cramps, tiredness, disorientation, nausea or vomiting, fainting, and a rapid, weak pulse. The skin may feel moist and cool to the touch. Get to a cool, air conditioned place, apply cool compresses and if conscious, rehydrate.

Warning Symptoms: Heat Stroke

Dizziness, a high body temperature (above 103˚F degrees), red, hot and dry skin without sweating, a rapid, strong pulse, a throbbing headache, nausea or vomiting, disorientation and possibly, loss of consciousness. If you see any of these signs, have someone call 9-1-1 while you begin cooling the victim.

Pace Yourself

Pace your work and take frequent breaks. This is especially important if you’re not accustomed to working in the heat. It may take several weeks for a person’s body to adjust to working in a hot environment. Lastly, it’s important to use the “buddy system;” working in pairs during the heat so that symptoms can be effectively communicated.

Drink Plenty of Fluids

Drink plenty of water and other liquids. Don’t wait to rehydrate until you’re thirsty. Adults should drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day. More if you exercise or spend a lot of time outdoors. Avoid caffeinated and carbonated drinks. These can lead to dehydration and increase the effects of heat-related illnesses.

Wear Appropriate Clothing and Sunscreen

Protect yourself from the sun by wearing lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing (also keeps you cooler). You should also wear a wide-brimmed hat along with sunglasses. Apply sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher (the most effective products say “broad spectrum” or “UVA/UVB protection” on their labels) 30 minutes prior to going out. Continue to reapply throughout the day following package directions.

Use Common Sense

  • Avoid hot, enclosed spaces, such as cars
  • Eat meals that are well-balanced and light
  • Try to stay in relatively cool areas during breaks

Creating Safer Work Zones

safer work zones

It only takes a split second of distraction to dramatically change lives forever!

In Michigan, last year, there were 4,908 reported work zone crashes. Of these, there were 17 fatalities and 75 injuries. Unfortunately, despite yearly campaigns such as the National Work Zone Awareness Week, these numbers are up from 2015 numbers.

Joining forces with national safety agencies to warn drivers of the dangers of driving through construction zones is the Michigan Department of Transportation. This year’s theme? “Work Zone Safety is in Your Hands.”

You can show your support for NWZAW by wearing orange on Wednesday, April 5, 2017. To participate, simply share a photo on social media of you and/or your work crew wearing orange, including the hashtags: #Orange4Safety and #NWZAW.

Safe Driving Tips

To maintain a safe work zone during times of construction, everyone must play their part. To play your part, ensuring the safety of drivers, workers and pedestrians, follow these tips when driving through a work zone:

  • Slow down
  • Stay alert
  • Be patient
  • Merge early
  • Don’t tailgate
  • Obey all posted signs
  • Expect the unexpected
  • Change lanes safely; using your turn signal
  • Dedicate your full attention to the road in front of you
  • Follow flagger instructions (they are there for your safety)
  • Plan ahead, taking an alternate route to avoid congestion, if possible

In Michigan, you now risk more than just a speeding ticket if you go over the posted speed limit – 45 mph, in areas where workers are present. Traffic violations for speeding in work zones are double that of the normal fines/points for speeding.

For more information, click here.

Here at Sobie Company Inc., we realize construction work involves many types of physical hazards, which is why we are 100% committed to ensuring our workers safety each time they are out on the field. To contact us, call (616) 698-9800.

Advancing Construction Technologies

Construction Technologies

The 21st century is certainly taking the construction industry by storm with what were once considered futuristic technologies, such as 3D printing, unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) and augmented reality systems. In use today, these technologies have the ability to increase efficiency, allowing fewer projects to run behind schedule or over budget. Just some of the advancing construction technologies include:

3D Printing

When using a compatible printer, 3D printing gives you the capacity to mold just about anything with the right materials. Many construction firms are excited to adopt this way of printing. The technology has many advantages over “standard” construction methods, such as the ability to create complex shapes, eliminate material waste, and increase overall efficiency. Chinese based company WinSun made global headlines when in 2013, they built 10, single-story houses in under 24 hours. WinSun is also behind the first 3D-printed office system building which opened in Dubai in May of last year.

Drone Surveying

Currently in use today, drones obtain real-time data at a much lower cost than traditional land-surveying methods. In addition to land-surveying, these devices have successfully been used to inspect hard to reach structures, monitor environmental factors and improve worker safety. The success of the drone is made possible by technological advances in GPS modules, 4D cameras, digital radios, and microelectromechanical systems. Operator licenses must be obtained through the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Augmented Reality (AR)

The market for augmented reality is growing. Allowing information to be shared in real-time, AR makes it possible for contractors like Sobie to spot potential issues early on, eliminating risks. AR makes collaborating with clients, investors, and workers easy. Clients can “interact” with their projects, provide feedback on the design, and have their concerns addressed before any work begins. The technology’s capacity to increase efficiency allows fewer projects to run over budget and behind schedule. This alone makes it a worthwhile investment; wouldn’t you agree?

Outdoor Winter Safety Tips for Construction Workers

outdoor winter safety tips for construction workers

While we may only be halfway through November, we’re already starting to get a sense of what to expect this winter, as many Michigan counties are already under a blizzard watch. In light of this, it is important to take some safety precautions, especially if you work outside.

Here are five outdoor winter safety tips to implement this year.

#1. HYDRATE

We know the importance of staying hydrated during the summer, but did you know it’s just as important during the winter? Whether it’s 110+ or -60 degrees, drinking enough water – 3 to 4 liters per day on average – ensures you don’t become dehydrated when working, exercising or playing outdoors. Water (plain or fruit infused), hot herbal tea, hot chocolate, and electrolytes are all good sources for staying hydrated.

#2. BUNDLE UP

Layering is the golden rule for staying warm in the cold. However, selecting the right combination of base layers, jackets and shoes can be daunting. Base layers, like synthetic materials and long-johns, keep the body’s core warm. This in turn helps warm the extremities. You can dress normally over the base layer. Your outermost layer should be wind, rain, and snow proof. As for your footwear, make sure that your work boots are both insulated and waterproof, as well as slip-proof.

#3. MIND MOTHER NATURE

Although working outdoors is part of the job, construction workers should never be subjected to working outside during a blizzard, or extremely adverse winter weather conditions. During the winter, employers should pay attention to the local weather, as well as the National Weather Service to know when temperatures and conditions could pose a significant safety risk to their employees.

#4. WATCH FOR SIGNS OF ILLNESS

When working outside, it’s important to keep your body temperature regulated to ensure you don’t catch the flu, bronchitis, or hypothermia. You can do this by maintaining good circulation. Hypothermia develops when someone’s temperature falls below normal due to being exposed to colder temperatures.

As hypothermia sets in, a person may quickly go from shivering to not shivering, become lethargic, and seem confused or dizzy. If you suspect hypothermia, make sure the affected person gets inside a warm area, such as heated trailer quickly in order to warm up, and then immediately seek medical attention by dialing 911.

#5. DRIVE SAFELY IN ADVERSE CONDITIONS

It doesn’t matter where you’re going. It doesn’t matter whether you’re already running late. It doesn’t even matter that traffic is taking longer than usual. When you’re driving, 100% of your attention must be on the road, thus ensuring your safe arrival. Paying attention to the road, not tailgating, and abiding to the speed limit is particularly important when driving in adverse conditions. Not driving safely during the winter can lead to people like you and Sobie‘s construction workers getting hurt.

What is Fireproofing?

fireproofing

No one wants to believe a house fire can happen in their home. Yet, in 2013 alone, fire departments responded to 370,000 home structure fires in the United States. These fires resulted in damages totaling $6.8 billion. This according to the National Fire Protection Association. (NFPA, 2013)

Two out of every five home fires start in the kitchen between the hours of 5:00pm and 7:00pm – just as families are preparing dinner. Sixty-two percent of reported home fires had no, or no working, smoke alarms present. Often, no effective measures were enacted, as residents falsely believed they were safe from harm.

Taking effective measures to prevent, or at best, minimize the disastrous effects of home fires is important. We can’t stress this enough! Besides educating family members, both young and old, on fire safety all homes should have working smoke alarms and fireproofing materials.

In fact, fireproofing is a requirement for most multi-family and commercial buildings, as it can effectively protect property and life. Even those entirely made of metal and concrete would benefit from being treated with a quality fireproofing material. Just how effective is fireproofing?

Well, according to a study conducted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology in 2009, fireproofing not only saved buildings but also offered a greater degree of safety for occupants by allowing a 15-times longer escape time than non-treated homes and buildings.

Fireproofing is used to keep a building’s internal structure, typically steel, below the temperature that causes structural weakness. Electrical circuits can also be treated. Once treated the material prevents electrical circuits from overheating. Hiring a professional contractor that specializes in fireproofing is your best bet.

Structural steel, spray-on fireproofing, offers exceptional fire resistive and physical performance characteristics. Active ingredients that are commonly associated with spray-on fireproofing include Monokote MK-6, Cafco 300, and Cafco Blaze Shield. Modern sprays are free from asbestos and are safe for use in homes.

In addition to fireproofing, every household should adhere to the following fire safety tips, which will greatly reduce their risk of becoming injured or worse.

  • If a fire occurs in your home – get out, stay out, and call 9-1-1.
  • Install working smoke alarms on every level of your home, inside bedrooms, and outside every sleeping area for the best protection.
  • Test smoke alarms once per month to ensure they’re functioning properly. If they’re not working, change the batteries immediately.
  • Talk with family members, create, and practice a home fire escape plan with two ways out of your home in the event of a fire. Designate one person to be in charge of getting infants, small children, and pets safely out of the home. Choose a safe meeting place outside. Practice this plan twice a year.
  • Smoke is toxic. Teach children to get low and get out if there is smoke when they’re leaving the home. Practice the drop and roll as well as feeling the door, doorknob, and cracks with the back of their hands. Teach them to never play with matches, lighters or fireworks.

Hardwood Flooring Benefits

hardwood flooring

Hardwood flooring or tile? Both types of flooring materials have distinct advantages and disadvantages as far as installation and maintenance go. Hardwood flooring, however, provides benefits not found in tile including: better acoustics, healthy indoor air quality, and elegant aesthetics. Here are just some of the advantages, and disadvantages, of hardwood flooring and tile flooring so that you can make an informed decision when choosing your next flooring material.

Hardwood Flooring Benefits

  1. Hardwood flooring is easier on your feet. This is especially important if you spend a lot of time in the kitchen cooking, entertaining, or both.
  2. Hardwood flooring is warmer on your feet. Tile draws heat away, leaving your feet feeling the draft, especially during winter. For extra warmth, consider installing radiant heat.
  3. Hardwood flooring can help make your space look larger. By using the same surface and color in each room, hardwood will give the illusion of a larger space, even in the smallest areas of your home.

Tile Flooring Benefits

  1. Tile floor is extremely water resistant. No more worrying about spills. In fact, you don’t have to worry about much at all. Tile is nearly indestructible.
  2. Tile flooring has many design possibilities. You can get really artistic with tile designs by using multiple shapes and sizes or adding borders. It’s also easy to match tile with wood cabinets – adding more contrast and becoming more eye appealing than all hardwood flooring and wood cabinets.
  3. If you are using radiant heat, tile will conduct heat better. Any type of tile will work. With hardwood and radiant heat, your options are limited, and you often have to purchase high-end wood flooring for the best effects.

Hardwood Flooring Disadvantages

  1. Hardwood flooring is not waterproof, so be careful to pick up spills right away.  The good news is that if small sections are damaged by water, they can be replaced and you can refinish the whole floor later.
  2. Real hardwood floors will need to be refinished periodically. This is not terribly expensive, but it is a necessity when getting hardwood flooring. The good news is, it may only need to be done every 8-10 years.

Tile Flooring Disadvantages

  1. They can (and often do) crack. This can be for a number of reasons, but the most common reasons stems from poor installation. Some installers often don’t realize how important floor prep is, and as a result, often install on top of plywood and/or don’t level the floor.  Both of these will cause the tile to crack..  Another reason for damage could be that over time a house can just settle a bit and cause cracks. If you’re tile is cracked, it is extremely difficult (and often impossible) to repair just a few tiles without causing additional cracks in other areas.  In the long run, solid hardwood will probably last much longer.
  2. The grout gets dirty and starts to chip away. If you reseal your grout every year, this will help, but over the long run, the grout will often need to be replaced.

For all your flooring options, consider Sobie Company, Inc.!

Tips for Finding a Reliable, Licensed Contractor

licensed contractor

“You get what you pay for.”

Who hasn’t heard this expression before? This saying is never more relevant than when you’re planning to hire a contractor. You must be prepared to do a fair amount of research in order to find a highly trusted, reliable, licensed contractor. Going by price alone increases the risk of project failure and could end up costing you more.

The next 5 tips will help you find a reliable, licensed contractor.

  1. Verify Their License(s)

Never hire an unlicensed contractor; period! If the contractor’s offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Hiring an unlicensed contractor may end up costing you more money when all is said and done. No license equals no insurance! To verify a contractor is licensed in the State of Michigan, please click here.

  1. Insurance Coverage

All contractors are required by law to maintain general liability insurance, worker’s compensation, and property damage coverage at all times. Ask the contractor for copies of their insurance certificates, and make sure they’re current, before starting any new projects with them.

  1. Do Your Research

At your request, a contractor should be able to give you the names, addresses and phone numbers of at least three clients with projects similar to yours. Ask each client if they were satisfied with the project. Was it completed on time? Were there any unexpected costs? Did workers show up on time and clean up after finishing the job?

  1. Get Three Estimates

Whether you’re planning a big remodel or just want to add some finishing touches, you have to arm yourself with enough information to make an informed decision, which includes soliciting at least three estimates. How will you know you’re getting the best deal if you don’t take the time to get those estimates?

  1. Request a Written Contract

Before any work commences, make sure you have received a written contract, which outlines all the agreed upon terms. Make sure you fully understand these terms before signing on the dotted line. Avoid contractors that ask for cash instead of a check or credit card slip made out to the company as well as those that ask for more than 30% of the total project cost upfront. In most cases, an estimate is not a guarantee of service, so always request a written contract.

The Top 6 Flooring Materials

flooring materials

Shopping for new flooring can be a daunting task. There are many flooring materials to choose from, each with their own share of options. Home and business owners must also consider the room in which the material is to be installed. Not all flooring materials are suitable for moisture-prone rooms such as kitchens, bathrooms, and laundry rooms. This article briefly describes the top six flooring materials.

Cork

Soaring in popularity is cork flooring. Selected primarily for its amazing acoustic-insulating qualities, cork is also much more comfortable to walk on than more traditional flooring materials, such as hardwood and tile. Cork is durable, long-lasting (if properly maintained), and environmentally friendly. It is available in a variety of colors and styles. Cork shouldn’t be installed in moisture-prone areas such as kitchens and baths.

Bamboo

Considered to be one of the World’s hardest flooring materials, bamboo is available in a variety of colors and styles, sure to compliment most any décor. The benefits of bamboo are many. As a fast-growing grass, bamboo is without question, a renewable resource. As such, it is recognized as a green material under LEED. Like cork and hardwood, bamboo should not be used in moisture-prone rooms, such as kitchens and baths.

Concrete

Concrete has quickly become the new flooring material choice for homeowners and businesses alike. It is trendy, sleek, durable, and affordable. It also requires minimal maintenance. Available in a multitude of colors, textures and finishes, concrete can adapt to almost any décor. Concrete floors can be found in retail stores, restaurants, offices, and homes everywhere.

Luxury Vinyl

Luxury vinyl is not your average peel-and-stick flooring. This new category of flooring combines the high-end look of hardwood, ceramic tile or stone with the durability of vinyl. Luxury vinyl offers the most natural and realistic hardwood, ceramic tile or stone looks you’ll find anywhere. The ceramic tile and stone products can be installed with or without grout. Create distinctive spaces in your home or business with luxury vinyl.

Reclaimed Wood

Reclaimed wood is wood that has already been used for some other purpose. Sources of reclaimed wood often include: old homes or barns, shipping crates, wine casks, and wood stumps. This wood offers advantages in cost, design, durability, and the look of a project. It’s also environmentally-friendly! You’re giving old wood a new chance at life rather than discarding it.

American Hardwood

Made in U.S.A, American hardwood flooring provides lasting beauty, warmth and functional value to homes and offices everywhere. The U.S. Forest Service reports that the volume of hardwood in American forests today is 131 percent greater than it was in 1953 because more than twice as much hardwood grows each year than is harvested. Oak, hickory, maple, and pine are all reminiscent of America hardwood flooring.

Spring Safety Tips for Construction Workers

spring safety tips

Thousands of work related fatalities, injuries, and illnesses are reported each year in the U.S. Most, if not all, of which could have been prevented through the observation of proper work safety procedures. “Making a living shouldn’t have to cost you your life.” – said by Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). To help ensure the safety of your construction workers, here are five spring safety tips you should know, and adhere to at all times.

#1. WEAR PROTECTIVE GEAR

First, and foremost, workers should be outfitted with appropriate protective gear at all times while they are on the job site – no exceptions. Personal protective equipment, commonly referred to as simply “PPE”, helps to minimize serious workplace injuries and illnesses. Protective gear includes boots, hard hats, face masks, ear plugs, respirators, gloves, safety harnesses, light-weight reflective clothing, and more.

#2. STAY HYDRATED

Rising temperatures can result in dehydration if there is not a sufficient water supply. Water should be made readily available to workers, and kept at a cool, drinkable temperature. Drink fluids every 15 to 30 minutes to stay properly hydrated. Workers should refrain from drinking sugary drinks as this can lead to a false sense of hydration. Electrolyte replacement beverages, such as Gatorade, are a good choice.

#3. TAKE REGULAR BREAKS

There is also a significant risk of sunburn if workers fail to wear lightweight, UV resistant, moisture wicking clothing. It is advisable to use sunscreen products with an SPF of 30 or greater at all times. Workers should be provided with sufficient rest periods, in which they can escape the heat, and relax in a shaded or air conditioned area for a minimum duration of 15 minutes.

#4. PROTECT THE BACK

Back pain is a common complaint among construction workers. To avoid workers injuring their backs, instruct them to keep the load as close to the body and lift using the legs, not the arms or back. If possible, have them use equipment designed to do most, if not all of the heavy lifting. Equipment to consider include cranes, push carts, wheelbarrows, and pallet jacks.

#5: LEARN THE SIGNS OF HEAT-RELATED ILLNESSES

It pays to be alert! Pay attention to your workers. Should they start showing any signs of heat-related illnesses, move them to a shaded area, and have them drink lots of water or electrolyte replacement beverages. Symptoms of heat-related illnesses often include confusion, dizziness, nausea, excessive sweating, and/or an increased pulse. Heat-related illnesses, according to OSHA, include:

  1. Heat stroke
  2. Heat exhaustion
  3. Heat cramps
  4. Heat rash

Of the four, heat stroke is a true medical emergency, which can result in death if not promptly treated. CALL 911 IMMEDIATELY! Signs of heat stroke include confusion, loss of consciousness, and seizures.