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.

AGC Multiemployer Pension Fund Update

Source: James Young, senior director, Congressional Relations, HR, Labor and Safety, Associated General Contractors of America

As you may have seen, Congress is working on the next round of Covid relief and it includes a new round of multiemployer pension relief. The bill would create a Special Financial Assistance Program for struggling multiemployer pension plans. This concept differs greatly from previously debated relief programs like an expansion of partitioning or loan programs. This new approach by Congress is meant to clear procedural rules to avoid a filibuster and improves the likelihood the relief is enacted into law. Under the Special Financial Assistance Program plans using 2020 assumptions that are Critical and Declining plans, some critical plans and a few endangered plans would receive a onetime lump sum payment that is equal to the amount needed to pay benefits through 2051 (30 years). There is no concept of repayment for this assistance. The package would also include provisions similar to those in response to the 2008 market event: 2-year zone freezes; 5-year extension of funding improvement and rehabilitation plans; investment loss smoothing; and, man hour smoothing.

Starting in 2031 PBGC premiums would be increased to $52/year and indexed for all plans and participants. Premiums are currently scheduled to be about $43 in 2031 because of indexing.

More details on the pension provisions can be found on a Fact Sheet.

Unfortunately, the budgetary rules being used to advance the legislation means that there will be no authorization of Composite Plans or additional plan design tools. AGC will continue to look for opportunities to advance other reforms and the Composite Plan design.

For health plans, the legislation will provide 85% COBRA subsidies for 6 months. This is similar to 2008 response when subsidies were 65%.

Also, there is no paid leave mandate but the voluntary tax credits under FFCRA for paid sick time and paid family leave credits are extended from March 31, 2021 through September 30, 2021. And a provision extends the Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC) through December 31, 2021. Previously it was available through June 31, 2021.

At this time, it is possible much of these provisions will become law by the end of March. Of course, that can change rapidly and it’s a very fluid situation. We will continue to update the committee on developments and our strategy to enact additional reforms and new plan design in the future.

Cold Weather Hazards

First published on 01/13/2016

Several potential hazards exist when winter temperatures fall below zero. This Toolbox Talk addresses three of them.

Frostbite is damage to skin and tissue caused by exposure to freezing temperatures. It can cause loss of feeling and color in affected areas. It can affect any part of the body; however, the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers and toes are most likely to be affected. Frostbite can permanently damage body tissue and, in severe cases, can lead to amputation. The risk of frostbite is increased when individuals do not dress appropriately for the weather conditions.

Symptoms of frostbite include numbness; tingling or stinging; aching; and bluish, pail or waxy skin. If you think you are suffering from frostbite, get into a warm location as soon as possible. Unless absolutely necessary, do not walk on frostbitten feet. This increases the damage. Warm the affected area using body heat. For example, place a frostbitten hand under your arm. Do not rub or massage the affected area, because doing so can cause more damage to the skin. Do not use a heating pad, heat lamp, stove, fireplace or radiator for warming. Affected areas are numb and can easily burn.

Trench foot, also known as immersion foot, is caused from prolonged exposure to wet and cold conditions. It can occur at temperatures as high as 60 degrees Fahrenheit if the feet are constantly wet. Wet feet lose heat 25 times faster than dry feet. Therefore, 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.

Symptoms of trench foot include reddening of the skin, numbness, leg cramps, swelling, tingling pain and bleeding under the skin. If you are suffering from trench foot, you should remove shoes/boots and wet socks, dry your feet and avoid walking, as this may cause tissue damage.

Chilblains are caused when the skin is repeatedly exposed to temperatures ranging from just above freezing to as high as 60 degrees Fahrenheit. The cold causes damage to the capillary beds (groups of small blood vessels) in the skin. This damage is permanent, and the redness and itching (typically on cheeks, ears, fingers and toes) will return with additional exposure.

Symptoms of chilblains include redness, itching, possible blistering, inflammation and possible ulceration in severe cases. If you have chilblains you should avoid scratching, slowly warm the skin, use corticosteroid creams to relieve itching and swelling and keep blisters and ulcers clean and covered.

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Be Prepared for Cold Weather

It’s getting colder, and winter is just around the corner. Now is the time to think about the extra safety precautions you need to take during the winter months, whether driving or working on the jobsite.

Check out these tips for driving in winter weather:

  • Give yourself extra time to drive to work.
  • Use extra caution on bridges and overpasses. Remember that they will freeze first.
  • Drive defensively. Watch out for drivers who may be driving too fast for road conditions, or who may have lost control of their vehicle.
  • Measure the low-temperature protection provided by the antifreeze in your vehicle to avoid frozen radiator and hoses.
  • Keep an ice scraper, shovel, jumper cables, a blanket and some sand, kitty litter or traction mats in your vehicle.
  • Check the tread on your tires. If it’s less than one-eighth of an inch, consider replacing the tires.
  • Check the air tanks on your truck, and make sure liquid isn’t building up. During winter months, air brake lines could freeze because the air tanks weren’t drained. Driving a truck under these conditions is very dangerous.

Dress for working in cold weather:

  • Wear layers of clothing. Many layers of thin garments trap heat better than a few thick ones. You can always remove a layer if you get warmer.
  • Wear a liner in your hard hat.
  • Wear headbands or hooded jackets to protect your ears.
  • Keep clothes clean and dry.
  • Wear water-resistant boots.
  • Wear windproof outer layers.
  • Wear cotton close to the body.
  • Wear gloves with liners, if possible.
  • Wear an extra pair of socks for added warmth.
  • Make sure your safety vest is clean and in good repair. As the days get shorter, early low-light conditions make it very difficult for passing drivers, equipment operators and other co-workers to see you.

When possible, consider taking additional precautions against cold weather:

  • Take breaks in warm areas.
  • Use approved warming devices. Be cautious of carbon monoxide buildup when you are indoors.
  • Use the buddy system, and check on each other regularly.
  • Be cautious of ice buildup on the jobsite. Slip and fall injuries can occur suddenly.
  • Schedule work to avoid being exposed to high-wind conditions.
  • Work with your back to the wind.

The best time to prepare for the cold is before you are exposed. Think ahead, and be prepared for changing conditions. Following these steps can lessen your chances of an accident or injury.

Download the recording form here.

Winter Work Safety

Each season brings its own set of hazards for construction workers. As we enter the winter season, be especially mindful of the weather, its effects on the body and proper actions to prevent serious injury, permanent tissue damage or even death.

Low temperatures, high winds, dampness and cold water can contribute to cold-related stress on your body. Wearing inadequate or wet clothing increases the effects of cold on the body. Alcohol, nicotine, caffeine and some medications inhibit the body’s response to the cold and can impair judgement.

Fatigue, nausea, confusion, lightheadedness and profuse sweating are symptoms of hypothermia. Exposed skin can start to freeze at just 28F causing frostbite. Deep frostbite can cause blood clots and even gangrene.

Following are several tips to consider while working outdoors during the winter months:

  • Keep your body temperature at or about normal (98.6F). This can be accomplished by wearing layers of clothing.
  • Wear cotton or lightweight wool fabrics next to your skin. Add layers when you are cold, remove layers when hot.
  • Keep your clothing as dry as possible. Protect your clothing as needed by wearing rain gear and other durable garments. Keep an extra pair of socks handy so you can change them as needed. You may also want to consider investing in waterproof footwear.
  • Protect your head, neck and ears. Up to 40 percent of body heat can be lost when the head is exposed.
  • Wear the right gloves for the work you are doing. They should have enough insulation to keep you warm and prevent frostbite, but thin enough so you can feel what you are doing if you are manipulating controls or tools.
  • Keep your safety eyewear from fogging up in the cold. Use anti-fog coatings and wipes that are appropriate for your eyewear.

If your skin becomes discolored and it appears that circulation has been limited, then you are probably experiencing the early stages of frostbite. If this occurs, find a way to immediately start warming that particular part of the body. Tips for treating frostbite include:

  • When possible, go indoors or to a warmer area to prevent further exposure.
  • Never rub or massage the affected body part.
  • Never use hot water. You should gradually warm the frostbitten area by immersing it in lukewarm water.
  • If blisters develop, cover them with a bandage or gauze to prevent them from opening and becoming infected.
  • Refrain from smoking as it slows down the circulation of blood to the extremities.
  • Avoid caffeine. It constricts blood vessels.
  • When normal feeling, movement and skin color have returned, the area affected should be dried and wrapped to keep it warm.
  • If the condition does not improve, seek professional medical attention.

Taking preventive action is your best defense against having to deal with extreme cold-weather conditions. Prepare in advance, observe safety precautions and reduce your risk of weather-related injury.

Download the recording form here.