GUEST BLOG: Superior Construction Boasts Diverse Workforce for the I-65/I-70 North Split in Downtown Indianapolis

Submitted by Jennifer Hashem, public information manager, Superior Construction. (Superior Construction photo/www.superiorconstruction.com)

Superior Construction, the contractor selected by the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) for a nearly $320 million dollar infrastructure project that will reconstruct the I-65/I-70 North Split in downtown Indianapolis, has spent the last nine months organizing the most diverse team in its Midwest business unit’s history since securing the project last spring.

The North Split project team, which humbly began with only seven individuals, required an additional fifty roles for its success, ranging from controls and quality to roadways and structures. The sprint to fill these positions with the right talent was no easy feat, not to mention the added layer of a global pandemic.

“We knew that even with the challenges the coronavirus presented us with, we still needed authentic leaders and learners that brought a wealth of experiences along with them to take this project, and Superior, to new heights,” said Tim Johnson, chief operating officer for Superior.

Despite the obstacles the summer months brought them, Johnson and other senior level leaders still managed to tap into their networks, lean on industry recruiters, and attend virtual career fairs to interview more than 200 potential candidates.

The search for those leaders and learners presented Superior with a team that now boasts over 55 full-time employees that represent various skillsets, work experiences, and countries, including representation from Nepal, Nigeria, Colombia, Zimbabwe, Egypt, India, and South Korea. The construction industry, which has historically been comprised of middle-aged, white males, has seen a great shift and push for a more diverse, inclusive workforce.

“Diversity isn’t just a checkbox for us, it’s a critical function of how we conduct our business and encourage teammates to feel welcome, safe, and empowered to use their backgrounds to elevate our company’s mission,” said Johnson. “As our recruitment continues throughout the lifespan of this project, we envision continuing to cultivate the wealth of knowledge and skills we’ve accrued to this point and expanding it to future projects. The future of Superior Construction will come out of the other end of this project.”

Aishwarya Kodnikar, who began with Superior as an intern and is now a full-time employee in the structures department on the project, shared how joining a team like the North Split has helped her better assimilate into the United States since arriving from India back in 2018.

“When you come from a different country and have to assimilate into a new culture, you want to feel like you can eventually call your new country home,” said Kodnikar. “In my time with Superior, I’ve not only gained new opportunities and knowledge for my job, but I’ve built quality relationships that have helped make my journey on this project smoother and more enjoyable.”

Learn more about Superior Construction by visiting their website at www.superiorconstruction.com. For information on the North Split project, visit www.northsplit.com.

Multiemployer Pension Update

Source: James Young, Senior Director, Congressional Relations, HR, Labor and Safety, AGC of America

Among the flurry of week one Biden Administration executive actions and legislative maneuvering, House Democrats have released legislation to shore up the multiemployer pension system. The Emergency Pension Plan Relief Act of 2021 includes previously considered multiemployer pension reform elements that includes the concept of a special partition program for eligible “critical and declining” plans. While the proposal avoids draconian funding rule changes or premium increases that have been debated in recent years, the bill DOES NOT include authorization of Composite Plans.

The legislation, in its current form, is highly unlikely to become law unless the US Senate makes significant changes to their filibuster rules due to its estimated $52 billion cost to the US Treasury. However, elements of the funding relief could be considered alongside a future COVID relief package without Republican support. To further confuse everybody, two versions of the Emergency Pension Plan Relief Act of 2021 were introduced with the only difference being how long plans would be eligible for partition relief:

Emergency Pension Plan Relief Act of 2021, HR 423Emergency Pension Plan Relief Act of 2021, HR 409
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AGC is pleased to see one of the first legislative proposals introduced in the new Congress addresses the multiemployer pension funding crisis and will continue to work with our labor partners and advocate for adoption of the Composite Plan design.

Buy American vs. Buy America

President Joseph R. Biden Jr. signed an executive order intended to strengthen Buy American provisions. Congress passed the Buy American Act in 1933. This program covers specified products and requires the U.S. government to purchase domestic construction materials. The Buy American Act created a national preference for the government to procure only domestic materials used for public construction unless a waiver had been granted. The 1933 Act applies to direct purchases by the federal government, but not third parties, such as private contractors given procurement funding through government endowments.

In summary, the executive order intends to strengthen oversite and leadership and increase waiver scrutiny and inter-agency communication about domestic preferences with respect to Buy American Act provisions.

The Executive Order does not apply to the Buy America Act. The Buy America Act is familiar those operating primarily in the transportation industry performing on projects utilizing funds administered by Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) for state and local public works entities. The Buy America Act was established within Section 165 of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1982, which was a transportation funding and policy act created under the Reagan administration. This provision addresses concerns over the surface transportation of highways and bridges. The Buy America Act was intended to give preference for the use of domestically produced materials on any procurements funded at least in part by the federal government.

IDIQ Approved for Permanent Use

For more than a decade, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has allowed limited use of the indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity (IDIQ) project delivery method. Effective November 16, 2020, per the FHWA’s interim final rule under 23 CFR 635, states are allowed to use of IDIQ and job order contracting (JOC) on federal aid contracts on a permanent basis under certain circumstances. The FHWA states that “allowing ID/IQ contracting on a permanent basis provides benefits to state departments of transportation (state DOT) and other contracting agencies, including expediting project delivery, increasing administrative efficiency, reducing project costs, and increasing flexibility for state DOTs to use federal-aid funds on certain projects.

FHWA is soliciting public comment about IDIQ and JOC. The comments deadline is January 15. The official notice document, as well as the advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM), supporting materials and all comments received may be viewed online through the Federal eRulemaking portal at: http://www.regulations.gov. An electronic copy of the notice document may also be downloaded from the Office of the Federal Register’s home page at: http://www.archives.gov/federal-register and the Government Publishing Office’s web page at: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys.

CARBON MONOXIDE HAZARDS

Carbon monoxide poisoning is the leading cause of poison-related death in the United States and is responsible for approximately 450 deaths and 20,000 nonfatal injuries every year. Carbon monoxide is referred to as the silent killer because it’s a tasteless, colorless, odorless and non-irritating, poisonous gas that can overcome people exposed to it without warning.

Carbon monoxide blocks the absorption of oxygen into the bloodstream and poisons the red blood cells so they cannot carry oxygen. If tissues and organs don’t receive oxygen, they stop functioning.

In construction, the major source of carbon monoxide is engine exhaust. Gasoline, propane and diesel engines all release carbon monoxide. Some forms of welding and heaters can also produce carbon monoxide.

COMMON SIGNS OF OVEREXPOSURE TO CARBON MONOXIDE

  • Headache.
  • Nausea.
  • Weakness.
  • Dizziness.
  • Loss of consciousness.
  • Death.

SOURCES OF EXPOSURE

  • Portable heaters.
  • Portable generators.
  • Concrete saws.
  • Compressors.

CONTROL MEASURES

  • Conduct a workplace survey to identify all potential sources of carbon monoxide exposure.
  • Use equipment in a well-ventilated area, never in an enclosed area.
  • Inspect equipment prior to use.
  • When you’re using gasoline-powered engines or tools outside of a building, don’t place them near air intakes.
  • Limit running time, and don’t let engines idle.
  • Provide employees with small, personal carbon monoxide detectors with audible alarms to wear or install large, mounted carbon monoxide monitors in work spaces.

Download a printable PDF and recording form here.

Members can download the audio version of this toolbox talk here.

WORKING IN COLD WEATHER

Working in the cold winter weather can be like working in the extreme heat:

  • You must be prepared for it.
  • You must be equipped for it.
  • You must get acclimated to it.

Employees who work in the cold weather during the winter months can be at risk of cold stress and injuries. It’s important to recognize cold weather hazards and potential for injury.

CONSIDER THE FOLLOWING WHEN WORKING OUTSIDE DURING THE WINTER MONTHS:

  • Workers taking certain medications, who are in poor physical condition or suffer from illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension or cardiovascular disease may be at increased risk during cold weather exposure.
  • Dress in layers that can be added and removed as you get warmer or colder. Sweating from too many layers can cause clothing to become wet. Overdressing can also restrict your movement and increase the potential of an accident.
  • Wear synthetic or cotton clothing next to the skin to wick away sweat.
  • Hands and head should always be covered to minimize heat loss.
  • Take frequent breaks in a warm, dry area to limit the effects of exposure to cold temperatures.

MEDICAL CONDITIONS RESULTING FROM PROLONGED EXPOSURE TO COLD TEMPERATURES:

  • Trench foot is caused from prolonged exposure to wet and cold conditions. Wet feet lose heat 25 times faster than dry feet. To prevent heat loss, the body constricts blood vessels to shut down circulation in the feet. Skin tissue begins to die due to lack of oxygen and nutrients.
  • Hypothermia is a severe condition when the body is unable to produce enough heat to counter the heat that it is losing. If your body loses heat more quickly than it can make it, your core temperature will fall. As it falls, the body shifts blood away from the skin to reduce the amount of heat that escapes.
  • Frostbite is characterized by reddened skin with gray and white patches, skin and limb numbness, firm skin and limbs and, in severe cases, blisters.

If employees show signs of cold-related stress or injuries, it’s important to get them warm and dry immediately.

Download a printable PDF and recording form here.

Members can download the audio version of this toolbox talk here.