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New Year’s resolutions are amusing to many of us working in the diamond-hard grit and grind of the concrete business.  Ours is an occupation of action and timing. We don’t wait until once a year to take care of what needs done now.

Maybe personal annual resolutions are your thing, and you’ve started your mornings at 4 a.m. every day this year with a jog and a low-carb breakfast. Many of you got up at the usual pre-dawn, somehow still stuck behind that slow driver, having a breakfast burrito or doughnut on the way to the job site. It’s a workplace at which you’ll get plenty of exercise – the old fashioned way.

Whether you’re in one group or the other on annual resolutions, a self-employed contractor or leading the crew of a big operation, be aware of the following are some important topics to be aware of as we begin this New Year.

Construction industry forecast

According to the National Association of Home Buyers, some of the materials for form building are going up.  Softwood prices are up 12.9% since March 2016 and have increased 7.2% in 2017. Portland cement prices are likely to increase with gas prices and vulnerable to the impact of new trade agreements, particularly with Canada, a major exporter to the United States.

There is good news though.

According to a consensus forecast, 2017 construction activity in the United States will likely have increased over 4%, by the time all numbers are in. Residential is at 6% growth, while non-residential at 2% and non-building increased approximately 4%.

In 2018, even stronger construction growth is predicted, at 5% overall. The best in residential is predicted to be in the Single-family sector, at an estimated 9% growth, depending upon the specific market within the country. Overall residential is predicted to be around the same 6% by most sources.

Non-residential is actually looking at stronger growth compared to 2017 with Institutional growth from education and public buildings growing 6%. Commercial is expected to grow 2% overall; within that sector look at office building construction to lead at 6%. Non-building is expected to reach another 4% growth again this year. And a 6% increase in road and bridge projects is anticipated.

New Regulations

As many have heard, OSHA has announced new regulations regarding Respirable Silica. Inhaling too much silica particulates can have the same detrimental impacts on health as working with asbestos. OSHA provides steps to minimize those risks.

While it does mean those managing crew and in charge of safety will be required to put some time into ensuring compliance, once training has occurred, the impact to productivity or equipment expenses can be somewhat easily managed.  Most criteria is currently being met already by simple use of shrouds, water dispersion and vacuum systems or would require more consistent hours at a single tool than is typically the case (e.g. 4 hours of nonstop sawing).  Stay tuned for more in-depth coverage the OSHA Respirable Silica Regulation in an upcoming post.

Meanwhile might want to stock up on shrouds [LINK TO ACCESSORIES ON] and other dust/sludge management systems.