While electronic funds transfer is considered a convenient and quicker way to process payments and receive funds on construction projects, this practice presents significant risk to project participants. Contractual and processing controls are necessary to prevent fraud, which is on the rise locally and nationally.
On March 27, 2019, Home Builders Association of Greater Cleveland President Dean Tompkins and HBA members Josh Edgell and Aaron Evenchik testified in front of Euclid City Council regarding potential residential home construction in the City. Euclid Councilperson Kristian Jarosz asked the HBA to assist the City in evaluating a 2003 law that required all new residential construction be a minimum of 2,000 square feet. The City is concerned the law is preventing new development, especially as much of the existing housing stock is less than 2,000 square feet. HBA members agreed the 2,000 square foot minimum is an impediment to new construction in Euclid.
On Feb. 1, 2019, the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC) reversed an OSHA citation issued to Suncor Energy (U.S.A.) Inc., as the controlling employer, for a fall protection violation. In this ruling, the OSHRC found that as a controlling employer, Suncor was not liable for two main reasons. First, it had a robust safety program in place that not only met, but exceeded OSHA’s minimum standards. Second, it had a rigid enforcement program that removed employees from the worksite for a single violation of its fall protection safety procedures. This decision emphasizes that a controlling employer’s safety role is secondary. The OSHRC then concluded that, given the massive scope of the project, Suncor’s robust safety program, and its zealous enforcement efforts, there was insufficient evidence to support a citation.
On Feb. 28 the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC) reversed a citation issued to A.H. Sturgill Roofing, Inc. for the heat-related death of an employee, finding that all of the elements of proof of the violation had not been met by the Secretary of Labor. Sturgill’s citation was for a general duty clause violation for exposing its employee “to the hazard of excessive heat from working on a commercial roof in the direct sun.”[i] In response to this ruling, the way employers defend against heat-related OSHA citations for violations of the general duty clause may change.
A draft bill provided to the Ohio legislature from Governor Mike DeWine aimed at addressing Ohio’s transportation infrastructure funding problem is in the works. The Ohio Contractors Association is actively promoting awareness of this development to its membership, which includes important information on the bill’s likely impact on the industry. For full details, click here.
Hahn Loeser is involved in a construction fatality where the Cleveland OSHA office’s compliance officer wanted to use a drone to fly over the site to photograph and videotape the site and the equipment involved in the fatality. OSHA agreed to share the drone footage with the employers involved in the OSHA investigation. This request came as part of OSHA’s new inspection procedure.
On May 11, 2018, OSHA’s Director of Enforcement Programs issued a memorandum to all of the OSHA Regional Administrators addressing the use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (DRONES) as a method for OSHA to collect evidence during inspections.
Currently, the OSHA compliance memorandum requires OSHA to obtain express consent from the employer prior to using any drone on an OSHA inspection. However, we predict OSHA will seek an expanded use of drones for inspections and compliance in the future.
Many of us have heard the old saying that “decisions are made by those who show up.” The Ohio Facilities and Construction Commission (“OFCC”) is currently giving design and construction professionals involved in the construction of public schools the opportunity to show up, or more accurately speak up, to provide comments on contract general conditions and specifications of OFCC, including those in the Ohio School Design Manual (“OSDM”), as well as on the materials and methods of design used in the OSDM. This comment period offers industry professionals an important chance to provide input on the construction documents that control school construction projects throughout Ohio. It is crucial that design and construction professionals take this opportunity to give its opinion on current issues, as well as potential issues that may impact the industry in the coming years. Interested parties have until February 15, 2019 to submit comments on materials and methods of design used in the OSDM, and until March 1, 2019 to provide comments on OFCC’s contract documents.
Strict Application of Claims Waiver Provisions Bars Surety Payment Claims
In Berkley Ins. Co. v. Kent State Univ., Ohio Ct. of Cl. No. 2018-00579JD (Jan. 14, 2019), the Ohio Court of Claims expanded its prior rulings strictly enforcing contract dispute resolution provisions in the public construction contract arena. The Court ruled, despite the circumstances that actually existed between the contracting parties, that a contractor’s surety who takes over and completes a project after the contractor’s default and termination is likewise bound by the contract’s dispute provisions. The ruling reinforces the significant risk of waiver of claims by contractors and their sureties when claims are not promptly submitted in accordance with contract provisions governing disputes, even though all parties are aware of the dispute and claim.
In the case of Waverly City School District Board of Education, et al. v. Triad AR, Inc, et al., the Fourth Appellate District Court found that recovery is not limited to the amount of damages claimed; rather, the owner is entitled to recover damages on each contract, apart from any recovery on the other separate and distinct contracts. This means that an owner may recover damages in excess of the total damages identified for each responsible subtrade. Upstream contractors should take care in their subcontracts to ensure that their total liability for the defective work of their subtrades – irrespective of apportioned responsibility – be covered under the subtrade’s indemnity obligations.
The Ohio Department of Transportation recently announced significant changes to the On the Job Training Program (“OJT Program”) that will take effect on January 1, 2019. Because these changes will impact on-going multi-year projects as well as new ODOT projects that will begin construction in 2019, all Ohio contractors are advised to review and familiarize themselves with the new changes. The complete OJT Program manual is available on the ODOT website here. The following is a brief summary of the major changes and how they will impact Ohio contractors in the years ahead.