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Opinion: Principles of construction benefit entire community

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The core values of construction companies are relevant for other industries and the community. From safety to integrity, time management to adaptability and inclusion to partnerships, construction focuses on the same principles communities need to grow.

Safety is not only important to all reputable construction companies but also to the government. Companies are legally required to implement safety procedures to help prevent injury inflicting accidents and long-term health issues from dangerous substances.

Protective systems are required for digging trenches and on job sites with fall risks. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires fall protection when working on platforms, elevated workstations or anything higher than 6 feet. OSHA also places regulations on workers who encounter substances that may cause long-term health issues, such as crystalline silica or asbestos. In early 2016, OSHA issued a final rule to protect workers from exposure to respirable crystalline silica, which increases risk of silicosis, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and kidney disease. Construction workers can focus on the task at hand when they know important safety measures have been put into place for dangerous conditions.

All industries are looking for those with the soft skills to show up on the job and work hard. The construction industry is more than just hard work. The word grit is commonly used when managers describe the type of employees they’d like to hire. Construction workers have the skills needed for the trades, but they also have a passion for the work they do and creating something from the ground up. Workers with grit are the type to jump into a project instead of arguing if a task is their responsibility. They’ll work hard to ensure the project is completed on schedule.

Having a group of individuals who exemplify grit isn’t enough for a project. The design and construction industry also requires teamwork. One project will require a full team that must begin communicating in the design stage. Project phases are dependent on each trade completing its phase before another trade can step in. If one trade falls behind, it can put the entire project behind schedule for final completion unless another trade is able to make up for the time. So, the teams also must focus on time management. Developing teams with diversity and inclusion in mind helps bring multiple perspectives to the conversation. According to the National Association of Women in Construction, women made up 9.1% of the construction industry in the United States in 2016. Of those, 45% were in sales or an office job, and 31% were in professional or management positions.

Owners rely on construction companies and workers to have integrity. The end user may not be able to see if a worker cut corners during a project as the guts of a building are usually covered by walls, floors and ceiling coverings. Codes and inspections are in place as checks and balances for life safety issues, but developers still depend on other contractors having the integrity to finish a project as designed.

Construction workers also must be adaptable. When building new projects in the Ozarks, there’s always a possibility of finding unexpected rock in the middle of a site, even if the ground has been tested. Older buildings also have the concern of asbestos or other elements of higher risk to remove. Design teams and contractors must understand the true client of a space. Construction companies may be hired by medical groups, municipalities or school districts; however, the true clients are the end users who are utilizing the final product: patients, victims, government officials, students, etc. If a project includes a renovation, the company must be respectful of the occupant that may still need to utilize the space until completion. Planning and communication are essential.

Communities that focus on partnerships as a collaboration between government, private companies and not-for-profit associations are set up for success. Developing strategic partnerships helps each side navigate critical conversations by utilizing strengths. Workforce development continues to be a critical conversation. Apprenticeship models have been a staple of the industry, but new programs focus on innovative ideas and partnering with education at a deeper level.

The construction industry focuses on the principles required to move the industry forward. All the principles can be applied in other industries or for the Springfield-area community. Springfield wins when we focus on safety, integrity and partnerships.

Megan Short is executive director of the Springfield Contractors Association. She can be reached at megan@springfieldcontractors.org.

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