Metal Roofing and Siding Panels Recreate the Look of Reclaimed Metal

Reclaimed Metal Rust is a pre-painted metal roofing and siding panel from Western States Metal Roofing that recreates the look of reclaimed metal. The panel is made of new steel that looks like an old barn. The panel features white and silver coloring with orange and reddish rust streaks throughout its design to mimic the look of old, faded galvanized that is rusting. The panel is available in Kynar 500 paint system and comes in ten different profile finishes. Reclaimed Metal Rust is a proprietary color of Western States Metal Roofing and offers a solution for architects and designers that want the look of reclaimed metal without the problems of reclaimed metal.

“Our customers wanted something that looks like faded galvanized and a rusted roof at the same time. Previously, the only way to get something like that would be to locate an old building that had reclaimed sheet metal on the roof,” said Paul Rubio, Vice President of Western States Metal Roofing. “That’s expensive and hard to find. We thought there has to be a better way. That led us to create the Reclaimed Metal Rust panels, which are new steel panels that look like they were taken from an old barn that’s 100 years old.”

According to the company, this specialty paint print is available in coil, flats, metal roofing, siding, and wall panels. Reclaimed Metal Rust panels come in a PVDF/Kynar 500 paint finish. These panels are designed for interior and exterior applications.

LEARN MORE

Visit: www.paintedrustedroofing.com

Call: (855) 426-7836

Email: sales@paintedrustedroofing.com

SBA Relaxes PPP Loan Requirements for Coronavirus Relief

On March 27, 2020, Congress enacted an unprecedented $2 trillion stimulus package, called the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), aimed at assisting people, states, and businesses nationwide that have been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic.

As part of the CARES Act, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) was authorized to issue special loans to employers in need of financial assistance. Through two rounds of funding, approximately $659 billion has been allocated to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), intended to provide short-term financing to small businesses that would otherwise be forced to lay off employees, and in some cases close the doors, as workers continue to stay home as a result of the outbreak. As of the date of this article, approximately $100 billion is still available in the fund.

Under the PPP, eligible businesses include all businesses — including 501(c)(3) nonprofits, 501(c)(19) Veterans organizations, Tribal concerns, sole proprietorships, self-employed individuals, and independent contractors — with 500 or fewer employees, or no greater than the number of employees set by the SBA as the size standard for certain industries. As for the construction industry, now more than ever, cash flow is essential to short-term and long-term sustainability. However, in addition to the size requirements, construction companies seeking a PPP loan were also required to ensure that their annual revenue would stay within SBA-set limits that the agency typically uses to determine eligibility for other SBA loans.

Understandably, with unanticipated delays and ever-changing plans to “reopen” varying from state to state, construction companies have been faced with the difficult task of providing thorough and accurate information regarding anticipated annual revenue numbers when applying for PPP loans. On April 4, 2016, the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) recognized the difficulty construction companies faced to obtain much needed financial assistance and urged federal officials to revise the rules in order to encourage construction companies to seek assistance.

As discussed below, in response to the AGC, the U.S. Treasury Department issued new guidance that cleared the way for construction companies to apply for loans through the PPP, and in recognition of the growing need for additional funding and further expansion, Congress revised a number of PPP qualifiers and loan requirements.

The New “Either/Or” Standard

Initially, construction companies were required to meet both the workforce-size and annual revenue limits, which caused many construction companies to balk at PPP assistance. However, on April 6, 2020, the Treasury Department issued formal guidance stating that in order to be eligible for a PPP loan, construction companies must now meet either the 500-employee threshold or the annual revenue ceiling, but would no longer be required to meet both criteria.

The Payroll Percentage Reduced

When the PPP was first introduced, it required all borrowers to use 75 percent of the loan for payroll purposes and further required companies to retain and bring back furloughed or terminated employees in order to qualify for loan forgiveness. In many states around the country, however, construction crews were not permitted to work, making it difficult for companies to spend the required amount on payroll expenses.

Now, with revisions and expansions from Congress, the payroll percentage threshold to qualify for forgiveness is lower, at 60 percent, which allows construction companies to spend more of their PPP loan on other much needed business necessities. Additionally, under the new terms of the PPP, companies are only accountable for the percentage under 60 percent that is not used for payroll purposes at a 1 percent interest rate.

The Time Frame for Spending

Under the initial PPP requirements, construction companies had eight weeks to spend their PPP funding on qualifying payroll expenses. However, for construction companies and materials suppliers, it was difficult to spend 75 percent of their loan on payroll expenses in the face of uncontrollable and unavoidable delays in such a short time frame. Under the relaxed PPP requirements, companies are now given 24 weeks for such spending, which provides much needed relief for small- to mid-sized construction companies. Construction companies who have already obtained PPP funding should contact their lender to request an extension under the new rules.

The Hire-Back Deadline

With the exception of employees that were unwilling to return to the jobsite, the PPP originally required businesses to re-hire furloughed or terminated employees by June 31, 2020. Under the new rules, the period to re-hire employees has been extended to December 31, 2020, and still allows a company to qualify for forgiveness even if it is unable to fill a vacated position due to specialization, such as licensed architects and engineers, or employee refusal.

The PPP Application and Repayment Deadlines

The original application deadline for the PPP was June 31, 2020. From the time the PPP was introduced, up until the recent revisions and expansions, nearly 5 million companies applied for relief. Such high demand, coupled with rumors that funding was severely limited, caused many construction companies to pass on applying for a loan. Today, however, approximately $100 billion is still available to qualifying companies and the application deadline has been extended to December 31, 2020.

In situations where a company could not qualify for loan forgiveness, the previous version of the PPP required loan repayment within two years of receipt. That repayment period has now been extended to five years, allowing greater relief to companies who may not be able to qualify for full forgiveness in the future. Construction companies in need of financial assistance should contact a local lender to learn about the application process and to ensure that all proper forms and agreements are in place to qualify for forgiveness or an extended payback period.

Payroll Tax Deferral or PPP Loan?

Under the original PPP requirements, construction businesses were faced with deciding whether to defer payroll taxes or apply for a PPP loan. The new rules, however, allow companies to apply for a PPP loan and file for a payroll tax deferral, providing significant relief for large construction companies and suppliers.

What Remains the Same?

The maximum amount available to each borrower is equal to the lesser of (a) $10 million or (b) 2.5 times its average total monthly payroll costs, as defined in the CARES Act. Unlike most typical SBA loans, these loans are unsecured loans requiring no collateral, no personal guarantee, and no showing that credit is unavailable elsewhere. To the extent not forgiven, the loan has a maximum 10-year term and the interest rate may not exceed 4 percent. The current interest rate, as stated above, is 1 percent if repayment is necessary.

Under the revised and expanded PPP rules, construction companies, contractors, and suppliers have been provided additional opportunities to obtain much needed financial support for essential business functions. Construction companies that have already obtained a loan through the PPP, or those that intend to seek assistance through the PPP in the future, are encouraged to contact an attorney and a local lender to take advantage of the relief offered under the CARES Act and to ensure that all PPP requirements are satisfied.

About the author: Keith A. Boyette is an attorney with Anderson Jones, PLLC in Raleigh, North Carolina, a law firm with attorneys licensed in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. For more information or questions about this article, please email him at kboyette@andersonandjones.com.

Author’s note: This article is intended only for informational purposes and should not be construed as legal advice.

Are COVID-19 Liability Waivers Enforceable?

The novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, has fundamentally changed the way Americans do business. Because of the pandemic, business owners now face the dilemma of either trying to keep up with constantly changing orders, rules, and guidelines to keep their doors open, or staying closed and possibly losing their businesses forever.

In this ever-changing world, businesses, especially those providing essential services, need to be proactive to limit the risks associated with the pandemic. This requires businesses to not only protect their employees and customers; it also requires them to protect their bottom line. In addition to complying with all applicable government rules and regulations, many companies are seeking to limit their potential exposure to COVID-19 related claims by seeking liability waivers from their customers.

A liability waiver is a contract between a business and a customer that educates the customer about the risks he or she is undertaking when participating in an activity and seeks to limit the business’s liability for such risks. When customers sign a liability waiver, they acknowledge that they understand the risks associated with the activity and agree to accept them. The customer also typically agrees to waive or limit the right to sue the business for injuries sustained as a result of the activity. Most people have been presented with a liability waiver at some point or another before participating in a potentially risky activity, such as sports, scuba diving, skydiving, or outdoor adventures. However, due to the risks associated with COVID-19, these waivers are now becoming increasingly prevalent for more common and traditionally less risky activities, like dining in a restaurant, shopping in a store, or simply entering business establishments as they begin to reopen.

At this point, it is too soon to tell how much weight these waivers will carry in court. Ultimately, the effectiveness of the waivers may vary from state to state. For example, Virginia and Montana do not allow any liability waivers. New York law provides that a liability waiver is only enforceable so long as it does not violate the public’s interest, it is clear and coherent, and the intention of the parties is unambiguous. (See Gross v. Sweet, New York 1979.) Illinois courts strictly construe liability waivers against the party that drafted them (i.e., the business). (See Harris v. Walker, Illinois 1988, which held “exculpatory clauses are not favored and must be strictly construed against the benefitting party, particularly one who drafted the release.”) And Connecticut courts rarely uphold liability waivers in personal injury claims. (See Hanks v. Powder Ridge Rest. Corp., Connecticut 2005, where a liability waiver was found unenforceable for snow tubers who had no ability or right to control the activity.)

While there may not be a common set of rules for liability waivers among the states, there are some basic legal principles that are almost universally accepted. One is that waivers that limit actions arising from intentional or grossly negligent conduct are unenforceable. (See Mero v. City Segway Tours of Washington DC, D.C. 2013: “Because District of Columbia law prohibits release from liability for grossly negligent, reckless, or intentional acts, the Agreement will not be held to indemnify defendant with respect to such conduct.”) This means parties cannot immunize themselves from claims where they have acted intentionally or with gross negligence. (See Restatement [Second] of Contracts § 195 [1981]: “A term exempting a party from tort liability for harm caused intentionally or recklessly is unenforceable on grounds of public policy.”) Although states and jurisdictions may define gross negligence and intentional acts differently, the overarching premise is its intended conduct, reckless activity or, at the very least, something more egregious than simply failing to act with ordinary care. Depending on how the laws are interpreted and applied to the facts of a particular situation, there is certainly a possibility that exposing someone to a known risk of contracting coronavirus could be considered intentional or grossly negligent, thereby negating the effect of any liability waiver that may have been signed.

Additionally, courts generally will not enforce liability waivers that are considered to be contrary to public policy. In other words, most jurisdictions will not enforce a waiver that involves a matter of great interest to the public. Given the contagiousness of the disease and its potentially deadly impact, it is certainly possible that courts will find that COVID-19 claim waivers are against the public’s interest. However, a counterargument could also be made that these waivers are essential and mandated by public policy because without them, coronavirus-related personal injury or wrongful death claims could potentially force businesses into bankruptcy.

The federal government is currently considering legislation that will create a safe harbor for businesses and nonprofit organizations that follow federal and state guidelines for COVID-19 to protect them against lawsuits. Perhaps they should also consider a COVID-19 compensation fund, similar to the one created by Congress following the 9/11 attacks, to compensate victims and insulate businesses from liability. It is unknown whether any such legislation will pass and even if it does, what protections it will provide — particularly if it requires compliance with the ever-changing and often confusing federal and state guidelines to be effective. Unless or until there is clear legislation and legal precedent governing COVID-19 liability for businesses, business owners may want to seriously consider obtaining liability waivers from their customers to create an additional legal hurdle to bringing a claim or, at the very least, to try and mitigate their liability by providing proof that the customers signing the waivers acknowledged the risk associated with the activities they voluntarily agreed to participate in.

About the authors: Brian Oblow is a Partner at Cotney Construction Law who represents clients in all aspects of construction law and arbitration. Cotney Construction Law is an advocate for the roofing industry and serves as General Counsel for NRCA, FRSA, RT3, NWIR, TARC, WSRCA and several other roofing associations. For more information, visit www.cotneycl.com.

Author’s note: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.

Focused on Proper Residential Attic Ventilation, Roofing Contractors Documented These Mistakes

Since 1998 our best practices in residential attic ventilation seminars have featured the real-world situations roofing contractors are seeing. Here we cover a handful of attic ventilation mistakes contractors found in the field. (Note: Some photos show multiple mistakes but were chosen to highlight one.)

Problem: Bagged Wind Turbines Suffocate the Attic Airflow

Solution: Unbag the wind turbines.

Photo: Jake Jacobson, SF5 Construction, LLC, Little Elm, Texas

It’s impossible for a covered attic exhaust vent to work if it’s smothered under a bag. Attic ventilation is supposed to provide year-round benefits, fighting heat buildup in the warmer weather and moisture buildup in the colder weather. It’s sometimes forgotten (and maybe never known) that occupants of a house generate water vapor daily through activities such as cooking, cleaning, bathing, breathing, etc. It amounts to 2-4 gallons per day for the average family of four. That warm, moist air can make its way into the colder attic in the winter months, where it can condense and cause trouble as water droplets and frost.

Problem: Bath Fan Ductwork Terminating in the Attic Damages Roof

Solution: Run the bath fan ductwork either vertically through the roof or out the side gable wall.

Photo: Trevor Atwell, Atwell Exterior Services, LLC, Greenville, North Carolina

Even a perfectly balanced attic ventilation system cannot handle the quantity of moisture dumped into the attic by the bath fan. It overwhelms the system. That moisture should be vented directly to the outdoors without any pitstops into the attic. In the home pictured here, Trevor Atwell found three bathroom fans venting directly into the attic. He also found a lot of rotted sheathing.

Problem: Painted Soffit Vents Result in Reduced Intake Airflow

Solution: Buy pre-painted soffits, or paint them more carefully, or replace them with new vents.

Photo: Daniel White, Roof Life of Oregon, Tigard, Oregon

Soffit vents have a specified amount of Net Free Area (airflow capability) when they are manufactured. For example, 9 square inches of NFA per linear foot. That amount, by the way, would balance nicely with a ridge vent (exhaust vent) that is capable of 18 square inches of Net Free Area per linear foot (9 NFA at the soffit on the left of the ridge vent + 9 NFA at the soffit on the ridge of the ridge vent = 18 NFA at the peak of the roof). But the airflow capability of the soffit is reduced if the vent openings become clogged or blocked because of a careless paint job. While house exterior colors are important, don’t sacrifice attic ventilation performance. It’s possible to have both a nicely painted soffit and it’s full, intended net free area (airflow capability).

Problem: Two Rows of Box Vents = One Path of Inefficient Airflow

Solution: Always keep attic exhaust vents in one row.

Photo: Daniel White, Roof Life of Oregon, Tigard, Oregon

Let’s cut to the chase. If it takes two rows of attic exhaust vents to meet the attic’s exhaust ventilation needs, it’s time to find another category of exhaust (maybe horizontal ridge vent; or diagonal hip ridge vent; or a combination of horizontal and diagonal ridge vent; or a power fan). But when attic exhaust vents are aligned in two rows, the primary path of the airflow will be from one row to the next because air will allows follow the path of least resistance seeking the closest exit point from its entry point. The intake vents in the soffit or low on the roof’s edge are supposed to be the intake vents. The pictured scenario here is producing inefficient attic airflow and could cause one row of box vents to ingest weather.

Problem: Mixed Types of Attic Exhaust Vents = Problematic Airflow

Solution: Only use one type of attic exhaust vent on the same roof above a common attic.

Daniel White, Roof Life of Oregon, Tigard, Oregon

Regardless what combination of two or more different types of attic exhaust vents either the homeowner demands (we’ve heard the stories) or a well-intended but misguided roofing contractor recommends (it’s happening), do not mix two different types of attic exhaust vents on the same roof above a common attic. Pictured here are wind turbines with ridge vents; box vents with ridge vents; solar powered fans with box vents; and traditional electric power fans with ridge vents. Now shown is the all-time classic: Gable-end louvers with any other type of attic exhaust.

When attic exhaust types are mixed, it short-circuits the airflow system because air always follows the path of least resistance. The air is looking for the easiest, least difficult exit path. That path is inevitably the distance between the two types of attic exhaust vents because they are closest to each other. That means the airflow will be concentrated in that area of the attic; which leaves significant areas of the attic incorrectly vented. The intake vents low on the roof’s edge or in the soffit/overhang have been pretty much bypassed. Furthermore, if one of the exhaust vents is suddenly an intake vent, does than mean it’s ingesting weather along with the air? You do not want to find out.

Trevor Atwell, Atwell Exteriors, LLC, Greenville, North Carolina.

About the author: Paul Scelsi is marketing communications manager at Air Vent Inc., the leader of its Attic Ventilation: Ask the Expert in-person seminars, and the host of the podcast “Airing it out with Air Vent.” He’s also chairman the Asphalt Roofing Manufacturers Association Ventilation Task Force and the author of the book Grab and Hold Their Attention: Creating and Delivering Presentations that Move Your Audience to Action. For more information about the company, visit www.airvent.com.

Pieces of History

A home built in 1879. A hotel built in 1902. An industrial site that produced destroyers during World War II. What do these sites have in common? Roofs that stood the test of time, and then were recently restored with modern systems that preserve the historic integrity of the structures.

If you’re a bit of a pessimist, sometimes you might find yourself wondering how any roof gets successfully replaced. Re-roofing involves a coordinated effort that typically includes manufacturers, distributors, contractors and installation crews. Factor in architects, consultants, building owners, tenants, and members of other trades, and the odds of pleasing everyone increase exponentially. When you’re talking about a historic restoration project, the degree of difficulty gets even tougher, as historical societies and other organizations can have rigid standards designed to guarantee the building maintains its historic authenticity.

Historic projects can show the roofing industry at its best, and in this issue, you’ll find three case studies documenting roofs being restored on structures that have been around well over a century.

When the original soldered flat-panel roof on the historic Dilley-Tinnin home in Georgetown, Texas was damaged by lightning, crews from Texas Traditions Roofing were faced with a difficult, labor-intensive puzzle as they installed a double-lock standing seam roof system on multiple intersecting roof planes with low-slope transitions.

On the Chippewa Hotel on Mackinac Island, the Bloxsom Roofing faced a challenging re-roofing project and also found themselves facing turn-of-the-century problems on an island that doesn’t allow motorized vehicles. The roofing materials were delivered by ferry and transported to the jobsite by a team of horses.

At historic Pier 70 in San Francisco, an ambitious restoration project converted an empty industrial facility into a modern office complex. But ensuring occupant comfort proved a difficult task in a building without air conditioning. Central Coating Company devised a plan to install a spray foam roofing system on the uninsulated metal roof to minimize heat gain and ensure the historic look of the building.

These stories share common themes, including the importance of quality craftsmanship, then and now. In the case of Pier 70, Central Coating Company President Luke Nolan points out that aside from a few persistent leaks, the original corrugated metal roof was in pretty good shape.

“For us as a foam roofing contractor, we typically do roofing projects that have the benefit of adding insulation to the building,” Nolan said. “This one was different in that we were doing a foam roofing project that was really an insulation job.”

Safety Obligations Under the OSH Act Can Extend to Non-Employees and Other Trades

The nature of roofing (particularly re-roofing) frequently involves the presence of non-employees on or around active construction sites. This is true in both the residential and commercial contexts. However, the risk increases significantly on commercial projects, such as retail and mixed-use projects, where many parties can be present, including the property owners’ customers and employees, as well as other trades working at the project simultaneously.

As such, it is essential that roofing contractors understand the scope of their obligations to non-employees under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act). While accidents and injuries can certainly trigger an investigation by OSHA, employers are frequently charged with violations of the OSH Act for merely failing to implement appropriate procedures. Not to be taken lightly, OSHA citations carry significant consequences, including penalties of up to $134,937 per violation, as well as creating a stigma against the company and loss of future opportunities. Moreover, company owners may not always be free to “walk away” from these consequences by closing the business (a common misbelief in the industry).

In the OSH Act, Congress authorized the Secretary of Labor to develop safety and health standards (OSHA regulations). One of the most important of these standards to contractors, arguably, is 29 CFR 1910.12, which provides: “Each employer shall protect the employment and places of employment of each of his employees engaged in construction work.” [Emphasis added.] This provision, like OSHA’s general duty clause, seems to imply that OSHA-imposed obligations extend only to an employer’s own employees. However, this is frequently not the case.

For many decades, the phrase “his employees” has been a major point of contention because OSHA has frequently penalized employers for hazards which did not affect the employers’ own employees. While early court decisions initially rejected OSHA’s imposition of liability in these circumstances, the tide eventually shifted, and now the opposite is true. Today, most courts will impose liability under OSHA’s “Multi-Employer Citation Policy” where the contractor “could reasonably be expected to prevent or detect and abate the violations due to its supervisory authority and control over the worksite.” This is true even where the contractor’s own employees were completely unaffected, or even absent when the hazard occurred.

While the borders of OSHA’s policy are unclear and still developing, contractors should at least suspect they may be held responsible for the safety violations at a jobsite if they either: (1) created the hazard; or (2) exercised some degree of control over the subject worksite. With that in mind, roofing contractors can address this risk preemptively by starting with a plan to mitigate hazards and potential liability on their jobsites.

Identifying Risk

One method of doing so is by creating a Jobsite Hazard Analysis (JHA). According to OSHA, a JHA “is a technique that focuses on job tasks as a way to identify hazards before they occur.” By identifying risks, such as exposure of the public and other trades to an active construction site, roofing contractors can implement effective measures to mitigate known hazards.

While planning requirements will vary by jobsite, most roofing contractors’ JHA should address the following questions on this topic:

  • Will non-employees be present at the worksite during active construction? Could they gain access without the company’s knowledge or consent?
  • Can measures be taken to reduce or eliminate access to the worksite by non-employees?
  • What types of hazards could non-employees be exposed to? (e.g.,falling debris)
  • What steps will the company take to reduce or eliminate risks to non-employees?

In addition to addressing these risks in company policies, such as JHAs and a safety manual, it is also prudent to include provisions in the company’s contract which seek to limit exposure of non-employees to hazards. For example, the roofing contractor could include a provision in the contract which forbids the property owner’s employees from using certain entrances to the building during specific phases of construction. Roofing contractors may also seek indemnification from owners for claims of third parties based upon third parties’ failure to comply with contractual requirements. 

Under any circumstances, roofing contractors should take a preemptive approach to hazards, understanding the adage, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” is especially true in their industry. The first step in this process is assessing and appreciating the risks that safety hazards present. The second is implementing proactive safety policies which seek to eliminate or reduce those risks.

About the author: Travis S. McConnell is a construction law attorney with Cotney Construction Law, LLP. McConnell’s legal practice focuses on all aspects of construction law. He works extensively on matters relating to OSHA defense, which includes the management and development of safety and health strategies for construction contractors across the United States. McConnell’s OSHA practice concentrates on litigation and the appeals of citations involving catastrophic construction related accidents. He can be contacted by email at tmcconnell@CotneyCL.com.

New Hire Fall Protection and Safety Kits

Malta Dynamics, a full-service manufacturing company specializing in fall protection solutions, offers its New Hire Fall Protection and Safety Kits. The New Hire Fall Protection and Safety Kits are designed to simplify the process of outfitting new employees. The kits include all safety materials needed in a convenient carry bag so that there is no delay in production.

The New Hire Fall Protection and Safety Kits include the following essentials:

  • Full body harness
  • Short- and long-sleeve high-visibility shirts
  • High-visibility surveyor vest
  • Clear and tinted safety glasses
  • Safety gloves
  • White cap-style hard hat
  • Durable carrying bag with handles and detachable, adjustable shoulder strap

According to the company, Malta Dynamics’ equipment is tested to meet safety requirements for OSHA and ANSI, and the New Hire Fall Protection and Safety Kits offer workers the tools they need to be visible and work safely at heights.

“It’s so important for employees to have their own PPE right now,” Malta Dynamics Sales Manager David Ivey said. “As more people get back to work, we wanted to provide an all-in-one kit to make it easy to gear up and stay safe on the job.”

LEARN MORE

Visit: www.MaltaDynamics.com

Call: (800) 494-1840

Email: Info@MaltaDynamics.com

Social Media for Roofing Industry Professionals

Social media is everywhere — from TikTok videos to Instagram posts to LinkedIn professional updates. Consider these social media statistics:

  • At the end of 2019 the total worldwide population was 7.8 billion people.
  • The internet had 4.54 billion users.
  • There were 3.725 billion social media users, just under 50 percent of the world’s population.

The average person has 7.6 social media accounts and spends a staggering 142 minutes a day on social media, according to Brandwatch.com. Eighty-one percent of small and medium-sized businesses are on social media, and 91 percent of retail brands have two or more social media channels.

If you work in the roofing industry either as a contractor, employee, architect, construction materials manufacturer or consultant, why does social media matter and what platforms are right for you?

Audience

To use social media effectively, you must first understand who you are trying to reach — customers, potential employees, or both. Once you figure out who you want to reach, determine which social media platforms they use. This will tell you where you want to be active. Start with the basics: LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook (you don’t want to spread yourself too thin). If you have the resources, YouTube and Instagram visuals broaden your potential to reach an even larger audience. According to the construction marketing association, 50 percent of construction marketers say LinkedIn and Facebook are the two most effective channels to reach members of the industry.

Facebook

Facebook is a very dynamic platform, allowing you to highlight your customers, tagging them in your posts and they in turn can engage with your posts (sharing with their friends or asking your company questions, for instance). On Facebook you can also easily include contact information about your firm. (e.g., blogs, e-books).

Twitter

Twitter allows organizations to talk with audiences in a way that other social networks do not. Companies use Twitter to connect with users in real time, answering questions, posting updates, and replying to other posts. You can engage on Twitter by simply “liking” or retweeting content. You can also share short tips and exercise thought-leadership as well as easily connect with other influencers. It’s also a great platform to engage in real time with people live at events.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a business-oriented social networking site which is primarily used for professional networking. LinkedIn currently has more than 575 million registered users and 260 million active users. It is a strong platform for business development. Here, you can connect with like-minded roofing companies and suppliers, list jobs opportunities within your company, network for new projects and share news updates.

Share-Worthy Content

Once you get started, assess your content frequently. A good way to tell whether or not you’re sharing great social media content is to ask yourself this: If I didn’t work for this company, would I look at this post? If the answer is no, it’s a sign you need to revamp your content. Make social media about your audience, not just your business. That way, even if you’re in a highly specialized industry, you can still deliver share-worthy content on social media and continue to build your audience.

Finally, be sure to add visuals — photos, charts or other graphics. Humans are visual creatures, and the saying “A picture is worth a thousand words” particularly holds true with social media. Adding a photo that shows your team at work on a roof or a recently completed project will certainly appeal to your audience. You can also consider unique imagery that gives your followers an inside look at your company. Using photos in your posts has been proven to significantly boost engagement.

About the authors: Louisa Hart of Precision Public Relations Inc. provides expertise in media outreach and internal communications for a wide variety of clients in the private, public and non-profit sectors. Hart has taught on the university level, at The American University in Washington, DC, and at the EW Scripps School of Communication at Ohio University.

Mittie Rooney, Principal, Axiom Communications, has expertise in the development and execution of media, relationship marketing, social marketing and public education campaigns for and providing strategic counsel to corporations, technology start-ups, trade associations and the federal government.

Social Media Tips

The following tips should be helpful, whether you are just starting out, or have years of experience navigating the social mediasphere.

1. First, can you describe the “voice” of your social media outreach? This is not necessarily a real person — it probably isn’t — but an ideal representative who can appeal to your audience, using language that they understand and referencing issues or values they share. Is this the voice of your corporate leadership? An employee? What age and gender are they? Are they a friend of the reader? Do they have a good sense of humor? You should be able to define this individual very well and know why he or she will appeal to the audience you are trying to reach. A conversational approach is usually the best way to engage your audience. Humanize your feed, and remember that you are connecting with people, one person at a time.

2. Plan before you start. And if you have already started, assess your social media strategy at least every six months. It’s tempting to let your social media accounts take on a life of their own, but they need the same attention that you give to your other communications outreach tactics. A good place to start: define three actionable, measurable objectives that clearly support your business goals.

3. Decide what constitutes success, and be ruthless about judging your results. You may have a lot of Twitter followers, but if they are not the right people to help you grow your business, then it is wasted effort. Don’t focus on “vanity” metrics. Aggregate numbers mean something, but they don’t tell you everything you need to know about the impact of your social media efforts.

4. Continue to invest in social media and make sure it is absolutely current. Set a minimum of how often you will add new content. And clearly define staff responsibilities for your social media efforts.

5. Don’t forget about video content. This doesn’t need to be complicated. Your smart phone can capture the excitement of a new product launch, or the expertise of your employees in the field. A live feed on Facebook can generate multiple times the engagement of a recorded feed.

6. Cross-promote your social media feeds. You should think of your online presence as an interrelated whole. The “voice” of each platform does not have to be the same, but these voices should talk to each other. Take one piece of content and make it work across all of your social media platforms.

7. Pay attention to hashtags. Identify a set of up to 50 that you will use repeatedly to clarify your brand identity.

8. Publish, and then republish. Most likely much of the material you will generate will be “evergreen” so don’t feel you have to come up with something new every day. In fact, material that repeats your key messages should be used several times.

Construction Contracts and Coronavirus Complications

As a result of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), many construction projects around the United States have been, and are being, significantly delayed or curtailed. In many instances, the delays have arisen from supply chain disruptions, state or local government stay-at-home orders, new safety protocols, and workforce disruptions on every level of the construction project — design, field construction, manufacturing, and inspection.

One thing certain to change in the post-COVID-19 world will be protection clauses in construction contracts. Boilerplate legal terms typically couched in fine print, such as “force majeure” and “frustration,” will be closely reviewed by contractors, owners, and their attorneys in the future.

Depending on the circumstances and the terms of the construction contract, the effects of COVID-19 may allow a party to invoke different rights to relief and compensation, or otherwise excuse delays or non-performance. Whether a party to a construction contract will be relieved, compensated, or excused from performance will depend on, among other factors, the language of the force majeure clause, the facts at issue, and the law governing the contract.

Construction businesses should consider the following with regard to current and future contracts:

  • Does the COVID-19 disruption constitute a force majeure event under the contract?
  • Is epidemic, pandemic, or illness specifically identified in the force majeure clause?
  • If not, does COVID-19 fall under some other event often referenced in force majeure clauses, such as an “act of God,” a “natural disaster,” or something beyond the contractors’ control?
  • Does the force majeure clause entitle parties to extensions, termination, or some other form of relief or modification?
  • Does the law that controls the contract — federal, state, or international — reinforce or limit how the force majeure clause is applied?
  • Are there alternate avenues for relief outside of the force majeure clause, such as commercial impracticability or impossibility?
  • How should parties impacted by COVID-19 reserve their rights or document their position?

Force Majeure Clauses: Events and Interpretation

Force majeure clauses set forth certain conditions under which a party is permitted to extend, suspend, or terminate a contract as a result of unexpected and unavoidable events. Under U.S. common and civil law, force majeure protection generally extends to natural and unavoidable catastrophes that impact the parties’ ability to perform their contractual obligations and allocates the risk in such events.

So, what constitutes a force majeure event? Generally, a force majeure event exists where said event is unforeseeable and outside of the contractor’s control. In addition to the specific facts at issue, determining whether a force majeure clause offers relief for such an event will likely depend on three factors: (1) whether the language in the force majeure clause specifically references the event as beyond the parties’ control; (2) whether the force majeure event was unforeseeable; and (3) whether the force majeure event caused the party’s non-performance.

In analyzing the contract language, look to see if the force majeure clause specifically references events like “epidemic,” “pandemic,” or “outbreak of disease.” If so, then COVID-19 is almost certainly covered by that cause. Courts will generally construe the precise language of the force majeure clause to exclude events that are not specifically identified. To that end, if the force majeure clause limits covered events to those involving nature, such as “severe floods,” “hurricanes,” or “earthquakes,” the court may be less likely to find that the parties intended to cover the COVID-19 pandemic.

Analysis of specific language used in construction contracts is critical. Standard form contracts, such as AIA and ConsensusDocs, do not have specific force majeure clauses but do, however, contain excusable delay clauses that could likely be applied to COVID-19 delays. For example, AIA forms generally contain language concerning excusable delays, termination, and suspension of work while ConsensusDocs expressly provide relief for “epidemics” as well as termination and suspension of work.

In some instances, the force majeure clause may contain both specific and broad forms of events and include a catchall provision intended to cover potential scenarios other than specific events. Some courts have deferred to common law principles such as unforeseeability to determine whether the event in question is covered by the contract. There, the determination would ultimately depend on what the parties contemplated and if the parties voluntarily assumed the risk of COVID-19, or, more likely, a general pandemic.

Finally, the force majeure clause may reference “acts of God” as an excusable delay or grounds for suspension or termination of the contract. Whether COVID-19 falls under the definition of “acts of God” is dependent on the state where the contract was entered into or where the contract will be performed. Where a state defines an “act of God” to include wars, riots, floods, epidemics, and natural disasters, COVID-19 would likely be covered. However, where a state more narrowly defines “acts of God” as something caused by nature, COVID-19 may not be covered and the court will likely defer to what the parties contemplated with regard to risk allocation.

Other Force Majeure Considerations

A construction business seeking to invoke a force majeure clause must follow the contractual requirements for doing so. A party should pay particular attention to the form and substance of any required notice as well as time limits to provide such notice as required by the contract. Many states demand strict adherence and compliance with the notice requirements, and failure to adhere to even one aspect could render a claim or request for extension void or result in a waiver of entitlements to relief. Parties should keep in mind that a force majeure event that is continuing in nature, or otherwise evolving, such as COVID-19, the contract may require regular updates and reporting of extra costs in order to obtain relief.

COVID-19 will likely not be interpreted as an event that completely relieves a party from its contractual obligations. As such, the general principal of construction contracts that all parties to the contract must mitigate and minimize the impact of adverse events, will apply. Depending on the circumstances and the terms of the contract, the duty to mitigate could include incurring extra costs as the affected party or serve as a condition to relief.

Generally, a force majeure event will only temporarily excuse performance of those obligations impacted by the event, meaning both the affected party and unaffected party must continue to perform contractual obligation not impacted by the event. Upon the occurrence of a force majeure event, an affected party may, however, claim extension of time for performance based on the impact of the event or as long as the event prevents performance, provided that the contract permits such extension. In drastic situations, the contract may also permit termination of the contract should the event continue for a certain extended period of time. Such clauses may require that all or substantially all of a party’s obligations be affected for a specific period of time before termination is permitted. In these situations, parties generally agree to share the costs of the delay.

Planning for the Future

Contractors entering into construction contracts in the future should take necessary steps to minimize the likelihood of disputes, claims, and litigation resulting from the occurrence of force majeure events. When seeking to limit exposure, contractors must be specific and clear in their contract language when defining the scope and effect of a force majeure clause to protect themselves from unexpected liabilities. Moving forward, parties to a construction contract should address future concerns by drafting more precise force majeure definitions, develop flexibility in supply chains to reduce risk of disruption, maintain appropriate records of cost increases, and consider the inclusion of a well-drafted termination clause.

About the author: Keith A. Boyette is an attorney with Anderson Jones, PLLC in Raleigh, North Carolina, a law firm with attorneys licensed in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. For more information or questions about this article, please email him at kboyette@andersonandjones.com.

Author’s note: This article is intended only for informational purposes and should not be construed as legal advice.

The Right Protocols to Protect Your Roofing Teams from COVID-19

Surgical masks and other face coverings can prevent others around you from becoming exposed to any respiratory droplets you may exhale.

In the roofing industry, proper safety protocols are of paramount importance when it comes to protecting our most valuable assets: our people and our profits. And though many of us have long had training programs and procedures in place, it is crucial that we continue to adapt them in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Below are best practices that can help you mitigate the risks of COVID-19 and ensure the protection of your employees and customers. Though we have a team of safety coordinators at our company, you do not necessarily need a dedicated safety department to implement the prevention protocols outlined in this article. Additionally, some tools — such as online training courses — are available at no cost. Read on to find out how to best keep your roofing workers safe amid this ever-evolving situation.

Expand Safety Education

As mentioned above, various remote training programs have already been developed in response to the pandemic, with some of them provided free of charge. One such program is the COVID-19 Safety Guidelines for Home Inspectors and Contractors Course. Offered by the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors, this online course is designed to educate contractors and other construction industry professionals on the best practices and safety guidelines regarding COVID-19 protection. We chose to enroll our 19 authorized Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Outreach Trainers on staff in the course, which they have all now completed.

Our OSHA Outreach Trainers play a pivotal role in our safety training, which has long been a priority for this company. They have completed the Trainer Course in OSHA Standards for Construction and other necessary requirements as mandated by the OSHA Training Institution (OTI) Education Centers. This certification enables them to teach both the 10-hour and 30-hour OSHA Construction Safety and Health training programs, which are offered to our frontline employees and supervisors to educate them about jobsite hazards and risk reduction. Since the roofing industry is constantly monitored by the federal government through OSHA, we work closely with Fed OSHA and, in California, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (CAL/OSHA) inspectors who are an integral part of our safety culture and are proud of the fact that we have earned recognitions of our safety records.

Neck gaiters are made from a closed tube of fabric that is worn around the neck and can be pulled up over the nose.

To ensure that we are able to continue to provide OHSA training to our employees while following the social distancing practices recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), we began offering the 10-hour and 30-hour training programs via Zoom video conferencing in June. This digital format eliminates any coronavirus transmission risk since attendees will not be gathered in the same space, while the live video aspect enables them to interact with their instructors in much the same way as an in-person course. Employees can access the training courses via phone, computer or tablet. Tailored to the requirements of the OSHA programs, the training includes a specific module on COVID-19 and infectious diseases.

We have also incorporated COVID-19 into our regular list of tailgate safety topics. We distributed our coronavirus tailgate pamphlet for two consecutive weeks in March and have sent it to our crews the first week of every month since. The pamphlets contain information on how to prevent coronavirus exposure, how to detect COVID-19, and the proper protocol to follow if you think you have been exposed to the virus or infected with it. One important point to remember when communicating with employees via written materials is that they may not all have the same level of reading comprehension, due to language barriers or other factors. To that end, our coronavirus tailgate pamphlets are available in both English and Spanish and feature explanatory images to accompany the text.

As for the tailgate talks, which usually involve a crew of four individuals or less, they now take place with the proper social distancing and face coverings worn. To further reinforce the coronavirus safety information shared in the tailgate talks, we also posted the tailgate pamphlet on an informational board in the break room, along with our company’s coronavirus preparedness plan and a COVID-19 infographic explaining how to break the chain of infection.

Safety training is required not only for our frontline workers, but also for our division and operations managers, and general superintendents. To that end, we have a team of 24 employees who serve as dedicated, full-time safety coordinators in place. They oversee safety-related operations and lead monthly training seminars. Our corporate policy is to provide whatever funding it takes to fulfill our motto that “at the end of the day we will send every employee home safe.”

Review Federal Recommendations and Local Regulations

As a national roofing and solar installer, we have looked to guidance from federal agencies when creating our own safety procedures specific to COVID-19, though it is crucial that all companies also monitor the locally mandated protocols in every region where they work.

The CDC offers comprehensive recommendations regarding proper hand hygiene as an important protocol designed to protect employees from COVID-19. According to the CDC, “with appropriate hand hygiene, you do not need gloves to protect you from COVID-19. When possible, wash your hands regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60 percent alcohol.” The CDC further outlines the key times to clean hands, which include the following: before and after work shifts and breaks; after touching tools, equipment or other objects handled by coworkers; before putting on and after taking off work gloves; after putting on, touching or removing face coverings; before putting on or taking off safety glasses, goggles or other eye protection; after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing; after using the restroom; before eating and before and after preparing food.

To make it easier for our employees to comply with hand hygiene requirements, we have distributed hand sanitizer to them. Additionally, we have asked the general contractors on each site to provide handwashing stations for them. We have also been mindful of how we now approach heat exhaustion prevention. Instead of getting water from a shared water source like a five-gallon jug, employees are now supplied with individual water bottles.

Social distancing is another recommendation of the CDC (and Fed OSHA) that should be practiced at all times to reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure, starting with when your crews leave for their worksites. At our company, we no longer allow employees to carpool together in a company truck. Instead, they are required to drive to the site in separate vehicles. Once at the site, crew members must remain a minimum distance of six feet apart from each other, as advised by the CDC. Social distancing measures are further implemented by having employees take breaks at staggered intervals to prevent groups from gathering in the same space. 

Coordinate Safety Measures on the Jobsite

It cannot be emphasized enough how important it is to communicate with employees, builders, general contractors and all the other subcontractors on a project to ensure that coronavirus prevention is a coordinated effort. To that end, any information relevant to COVID-19 protocols and precautions should be shared with all parties.

Before we dispatch our teams to any site in Northern California’s Bay Area, for instance, we do a preliminary check to make sure all crewmembers are symptom-free. We then send the names of the cleared employees to the worksite, where a COVID-19 inspector is posted at the gate, courtesy of the general contractor. Every individual must undergo a temperature check before entering the site, which aligns with the CAL/OSHA guidance. According to the agency’s recommendations pertaining specifically to COVID-19 infection prevention in the construction industry, “employers may choose to prohibit employees with a high temperature (e.g., above 100.4 degrees F) from entering the worksite.” In addition to the temperature check conducted at the Bay Area sites, employees must also fill out a questionnaire asking if they have traveled, if they have been in contact with any confirmed COVID-19 patients and lastly, if they are exhibiting any symptoms. If it is discovered that an individual known to have COVID-19 has been on a work site, it will be communicated to the entire network — builders, general contractors, subcontractors — so that all are aware of the situation and can protect their teams accordingly.

Invest in Effective Face Coverings

One essential way of protecting your teams is to have them wear face coverings. By covering your face, you prevent others around you from becoming exposed to any respiratory droplets you may exhale, which can spread COVID-19 to others if you are infected — even if you are asymptomatic. Though face coverings are an effective tool when it comes to COVID-19 prevention, the subject has been a source of some confusion, as noted by the National Roofing Contractors Association. “When roofers are exposed to hazardous gases, vapors, fumes, dusts and mists, OSHA’s respiratory requirements are triggered,” according to the NRCA. “However, these scenarios aside, roofing workers fall into OSHA’s low to medium risk category of occupations for COVID-19 exposure — meaning required use of N-95 respirators is likely unwarranted. Shortages of N-95 respirators (and surgical masks) resulting from the pandemic have caused the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to recommend wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain—especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.”

However, surgical masks and similar face coverings are rendered ineffective by facial hair in most cases. Neck gaiters are an ideal solution for your crews, since unlike a mask, each one is made from a closed tube of fabric that is worn around the neck and can be pulled up over the nose. The price per piece can range anywhere from $3 to $14, but the investment is well worth the protection it provides.

We have given two neck gaiters to each of our employees, so that there is always a spare to wear while the other one is being washed after each use. They are mandated to wear them at all times during the workday except when eating lunch. Made from polyester microfiber and manufactured by Hoo-rag, these neck gaiters wick away moisture and can be dipped in water for a cooling effect, thus offering additional protection against heat illness. Looking ahead, we are currently investigating options for a face covering that adds a third layer of protection as well: silica filtration.

Implement Stay-Home Policies to Limit the Spread

Even when all preventative measures are put in place, there is still a risk that asymptomatic patients may go undetected and unknowingly spread the virus to others at the worksite. One way to decrease that risk is to require that any employees who have been in close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 patient stay home from work.

We are following CDC recommendations when it comes to protocol concerning confirmed exposure to the coronavirus, so any employee who may have been put at risk is not permitted to return to work for two weeks. “It is important to remember that anyone who has close contact with someone with COVID-19 should stay home for 14 days after exposure based on the time it takes to develop illness,” according to the CDC.

And if any one of our employees starts to feel sick, whether there has been known COVID-19 exposure or not, that person is also required to call out from work. Our number one rule in response to the pandemic is to stay home if you feel ill. Regarding a safe return to the jobsite, the CDC recommends that “sick employees diagnosed with COVID-19 shouldn’t return to work until the criteria to discontinue home isolation are met, in consultation with healthcare providers and state and local health departments.”

As we in the roofing industry continue to navigate this challenging situation, it is vital that we stay vigilant. The number of COVID-19 cases in the United States had climbed past 1.9 million as of press time, according to the CDC, with 37 jurisdictions reporting more than 10,000 cases. And total deaths from the disease had eclipsed 112,000. By closely monitoring conditions and modifying our safety measures as warranted, we can beat the statistics and keep our workers and customers safe.

About the author: Travis Post is the National Director of Safety at Petersen-Dean, Inc. Founded in 1984 by Jim Petersen, Petersen-Dean, Inc. is the largest, full-service, privately-held roofing and solar company in the United States. Specializing in new residential and commercial construction, the company works with some of the nation’s largest builders and developers. For more information, visit www.petersendean.com.