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Market Recap: RISI Crow’s Construction Materials Cost Index

BY HBSDEALER Staff

 

A price index of lumber and panels used in actual construction for Dec. 14, 2012

*Western – regional species perimeter foundation; Southern – regional species slab construction.

Crow’s Market Recap — A condensed recap of the market conditions for the major North American softwood lumber and panel products as reported in Crow’s Weekly Market Report.

Lumber: SPF lumber sales activity slowed, as buyers chose to digest previous purchases. Mill order files extending out into the first week of January also forced buyers to withdraw from the market. Buyers of Southern Pine lumber continued to purchase only when necessary, intent on keeping inventories low before the end of the year. Mills, trying to keep inventory levels in check, discounted volume purchases as much as $10 on several items. Steady sales activity in Coastal lumber and limited availability continued to place upward pressure on prices. Mills willing to sell into January were able to do so. The moderate sales pace reported for Inland species lumber was said to be limited by the length of mill order files and availability of products and not because of a lack of demand. Radiata Pine Shop remained in tight supply with firm prices, and Mldg&Btr buyers placed orders for next month shipment. Ponderosa Pine moulding and shop producers reported a slight uptick in activity compared to past weeks. Most of the increase was for Mldg&Btr, but improved sales of Shop grades were also reported. The strength of the Ponderosa Pine board market resided with lower grades. Brisk sales of #4 Common were reported for 1×4 through 1×12. Eastern White Pine producers reported a steady market. Volumes traded in a narrow range up or down from published levels. Idaho White Pine producers reported good sales. Western Red Cedar producers continued to bump a few scattered prices higher, largely due to tighter supplies and buyers’ need to find coverage.

Panels: Inclement weather and extended order files helped keep a lid on OSB sales activity. Prices in most regions were firm and unchanged. Canadian activity was quiet. Southern Pine plywood producers firmed up pricing and extended order files out into the week of Jan. 7, as demand increased. Yards in the Northeast and Midwest stepped into to purchase more volumes. A greater number of buyers entered the Western Fir plywood market to pick off volumes that will ship after the first of the year. Participation out of the Northeast and Midwest regions increased significantly. Reports in the Canadian plywood market of strong sales out of distribution circulated, as dealers filled holes in inventories and covered upcoming jobs. Mill order files into the end of January kept prices firm. Sales of MDF remained steady, still often described as “very strong.” Although some particleboard producers reported this week slower in respect to sales, most seemed satisfied with December comparisons to last year. 

For more on RISI, click here.

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Setting up an iPad Kiosk with iOS 6: Five easy steps

BY HBSDEALER Staff

By Kevin Hart, Tekserve 

Take a look around your store. Somewhere, likely near the register, there’s a clipboard where you collect customer email addresses for your mailing list. You probably think this clipboard method is the most efficient way to collect this information since it’s worked for you up to this point. Or has it? Do you really have the time to retype all of these email addresses? How many of those email addresses are actually illegible? It may be time for you to upgrade from your paper data collection process to an iPad.

With the iPad filling a growing role in our work and personal lives, it’s a logical next step for retailers to use these increasingly familiar devices to interact with consumers in the form of a mobile kiosk. It was a laborious process to transform an iPad into a kiosk prior to the launch of iOS 6. It was possible, but required special profiles to be installed onto the device, which was complicated for the average user.

One of the lesser-known features introduced in iOS 6 is Guided Access. Hidden deep within the Settings page, this new feature is designed to help children and students with disabilities stay focused while using iOS devices. By allowing an administrator to limit access to specified portions of the touchscreen and deactivate hardware buttons, Guided Access is also a great new tool for setting up an iPad kiosk on the fly. Using Guided Access, a retailer can easily turn off all hardware buttons so no one can switch apps or put the iPad to sleep. The feature also allows restricted access to the settings button within the app, so customers can only access the app the retailer wants them to see. Utilizing these features, a retailer can focus the consumer on one particular app to accomplish their intended goal, for example, gathering customer contact details or assisting the customer in finding additional product information.

Here’s a basic walkthrough of how Guided Access works and how to set up an iPad kiosk:

1. In the Settings app, navigate to General > Accessibility, and then tap Guided Access;

2. Switch it on using the toggle, and then set a passcode (it doesn’t have to be the same as the  device passcode);

3. Navigate to the app you want to restrict and press the Home button three times quickly;

4. A screen will pop up where settings can be configured — the user can turn off hardware buttons, motion, and touch control, and even circle areas of the screen that they want to disable; and

5. To turn Guided Access off, press the home button again three times, enter the passcode, and tap “End.”

That’s it — just five easy steps. Now your retail customers can use iPads to collect and distribute valuable information to consumers like never before. Not only is the set up process simple for retailers, but using these familiar devices can serve as another way for a company to be more relatable to its audience — and gather important customer data along the way. 

Kevin Hart is CEO of Tekserve.

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Fall-protection regulations hit the ground running

BY Roy Maurer

Full enforcement of fall-protection regulations published in 2010 for the U.S. residential construction industry took effect Dec. 15, 2012.

The start date for full enforcement had been delayed four times by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) because of industry opposition.

Under the new requirements, workers engaged in residential construction six feet or more above lower levels are to be protected by what OSHA deems conventional fall protection equipment, such as harnesses tethered to a roof, guardrails, safety nets, personal fall arrest systems (PFAs) or scaffolds. Roofers can no longer rely on the 25-foot, ground-to-eave height threshold. Slide guards—vertical wooden boards attached to roofs—will no longer be acceptable as a form of fall protection, regardless of the roof pitch or height of the roof eave, unless the builder can show that OSHA’s prescribed methods would create a greater hazard than unconventional methods or are not feasible for technological or economic reasons. In these cases, the employer must provide an explanation in the form of a written, site-specific fall protection plan that details reasons why the conventional fall protection systems are infeasible or pose a greater hazard.

These new requirements replace the Interim Fall Protection Compliance Guidelines for Residential Construction that have been in effect since 1995 and permitted employers engaged in certain residential construction projects to use specified alternative methods of fall protection.

Employers did not have to prove that conventional fall protection was infeasible or more hazardous, nor did they need to provide a written fall protection plan.

Residential construction had been exempted from conventional fall protection guidelines because of concerns that the fall protection systems would not be feasible for small construction sites, and the necessary cables and restraints could increase the hazards workers might face.

Falls remain the leading cause of death for workers engaged in residential construction, with an average of 40 workers suffering a fatal fall from a residential structure each year, according to OSHA.

These types of worker injury and fatality statistics prompted OSHA to replace the original interim guidelines with stricter safety regulations.

“We essentially gave residential construction a break [under the previous regulations],” said Assistant Secretary of Labor David Michaels, speaking before the National Safety Council Congress in October 2012. “We said we wouldn’t apply the same rules for fall protection that we applied to the rest of the construction industry. In December 2010, we said we’re going to enforce the same rules across the board.”

Roofers concerned

The National Roofing Contracting Association (NRCA) has been vocal in its opposition to the revised regulations since they were introduced.

“We continue to have serious concern about the directive because of the limitation of options to provide fall protection for our workers on those roofs,” said NRCA Associate Executive Director Tom Shanahan to SHRM Online. “OSHA has prescribed a one-size-fits-all option that doesn’t allow for the flexibility that’s needed in our workplace, or take into account the variety of roof surfaces, heights and slopes that our workers work on.”

Some of the reasons given for opposing the new requirements include the potential dangers of setting up a personal fall arrest system on roofs, which Shanahan said could in some cases be more dangerous than the roofing job itself, and the impracticality of applying guardrails and safety nets on homes when the majority of residential roofing jobs take a maximum of one or two days.

The NRCA prefers a directive that allows for a variety of fall protection options best suited to each project, Shanahan said. He said the directive should allow the use of slide guards and take into consideration the challenges of work where repair projects take less time than the time to install personal fall arrest systems. Installing guardrails and scaffolding are not feasible, and fall arrest systems can cause significant tripping hazards on lower-sloped residential roofs, he said.

“We’re very supportive of workers using personal fall arrest systems,” Shanahan emphasized. “The issue is knowing when it’s best to use slide guards, and when it’s best to use PFAs. Not having the option hamstrings safety.” 

Shanahan noted that the new requirement to submit a written, site-specific fall protection plan that details the reasons why slide guards would be infeasible or create a greater hazard than what OSHA is prescribing is impractical for small contractors working on these short-term jobs. “The likelihood of that paperwork burden occurring is [low]. It’s setting up small contractors for easy citations,” he said.

Shanahan was also skeptical of OSHA approving such plans that deviate from the requirements under the current directive because “by their own admission in the rule OSHA states that it considers conventional fall protection to be feasible and does not create greater hazards, so that hurdle is very high.” 

OSHA provides outreach

Since the original enforcement date of June 2011, OSHA has performed more than 2,500 onsite visits, and conducted hundreds of training sessions and presentations related to fall protection in residential construction, the agency reported. OSHA’s regional and area offices also conducted more than 800 outreach activities on the directive.

“The agency will continue to work with employers to ensure a clear understanding of, and to facilitate compliance with, the new policy,” OSHA said in a news statement.

OSHA’s Residential Fall Protection Web page has resources to help employers comply with the new regulation. Employers are also encouraged to take full advantage of OSHA’s On-site Consultation Program, which provides free compliance assistance services.

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

©2012 SHRM. All rights reserved.

Have HR-related questions and concerns? Get access to essential forms, policies and guides, plus a live call center, at ToolkitHR.com, powered by HCN and SHRM. 

 

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