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Building energy consumption has emerged as an important component in the movement toward greater energy efficiency. Specific industries stand to gain more than others as their buildings adopt more efficient technology. For example, a recent study projects tremendous growth in the market for building energy efficiency in the healthcare field.
Boulder, Colo.-based market research firm Navigant Research has released a study, “Energy Efficient Building Technologies for Healthcare Facilities: Global Market Dynamics, Value Propositions, and Forecasts,” examining the global market for energy efficient technologies in healthcare buildings.
“Healthcare facilities face some unique challenges when compared to other types of commercial buildings,” said Tom Machinchick, principal research analyst with Navigant Research.
Unlike in other buildings, energy- and water-related disruptions can be life-threatening in a healthcare facility. Competition and pressure to cut costs, while still offering high quality service, are also extremely high. Navigant looks at these challenges, as well as the potential for energy savings, which are significant. For example, the study notes that the average hospital uses 2.5 times the amount of energy compared to other commercial buildings.
With that kind of energy consumption, efficiency technology can have a huge impact. Cost efficiencies can help administrators meet their budgeting objectives. Efficiency technology can also help improve the indoor environment for the patients who stay in hospitals and the employees who work there.
The study examines the opportunities and challenges afforded by the installation of energy-efficient HVAC, lighting, controls, water efficiency, water heating and building envelope products, as well as commissioning and installation services. It also notes that, when integrated with intelligent building solutions such as the internet of things and software as a service, efficiency technology can add even more value to healthcare facilities.
Global annual spending for energy efficient technologies for healthcare facilities is projected to reach $6.4 billion by 2027.
The petition requests that OSHA require employers to provide employees with 15- to 45-minute rest breaks at certain heat thresholds, as well as provide access to shade and personal protective equipment (PPE), such as cooling vests and light-colored breathable fabric.
The petition also requests that OSHA require employers to create a “heat acclimatization plan,” which would include a written heat alert program, instructor-led worker training and signage warning of the dangers of heat stress.
Finally, it requests that OSHA require employers to provide access to water and electrolytes and provide heat exposure monitoring and medical monitoring for workers exposed to heat above certain levels.
Currently, according to the petition, only California, Washington state, Minnesota, and the U.S. Military have heat protection programs in place.
However, according to Wes Wheeler, NECA’s director of safety, OSHA already has the ability to enforce actions like these under its General Duty Clause. Furthermore, OSHA provides resources for contractors to help protect workers from heat-related illnesses.
“As such, it doesn’t seem that any additional regulations would be needed,” he said. “In addition, our contractors already do a good job of providing hydration and break times that are needed on these particular jobs.”
Moreover, employees who do feel as though they are experiencing problems because of heat are instructed to report these concerns to their foremen.
Wheeler’s concern is additional regulations wouldn’t change these existing strategies and wouldn’t accomplish the goal of protecting workers from heat-related illnesses.
“However, they could make it more difficult to perform on the job,” he said. “For example, they could limit the amount of outside work that could be done on hot days during the summer, which could create a burden on employers to get projects completed.”
Wheeler said one of NECA’s primary missions is to support safe work conditions for employees.
“However, we do have some concerns about the language in this proposal,” Wheeler said.
NECA and other trade associations appear to be watching this development to see how or if OSHA will respond. OSHA has stated it has received the petition and that it is under review. If OSHA determines a standard is necessary, it will begin the development process, which would involve soliciting input from advisory committees, other agencies, and the public.
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There are several reasons for today’s well-publicized labor shortages, according to Kevin Tighe, executive director, labor relations & workforce development, at the National Electrical Contractors Association. First, obviously, the industry is booming, and unemployment rates nationwide in general are extremely low.
“Second, the baby boomer ‘bell curve’ is moving through the industry, and they are retiring,” he said. “Third, about 20 years ago, we started to see a decline in the career training education classes in high schools.”
Finally, during the economic downturn in 2007 and 2008, many people left the industry and never returned. This has led to the “perfect storm,” Tighe said.
There are a number of initiatives underway nationwide to address this problem. One of them is Construct Your Future, launched by the Electrical Training Alliance. Formerly the NJATC, the Electrical Training Alliance was created over 70 years ago as a joint training program between NECA and the IBEW. Today, the Alliance is the largest apprenticeship and training program of its kind, having trained over 350,000 apprentices to journeyman status through local affiliate programs.
“We realized that the message has not been getting out to any of our key demographics, but especially to young people, that apprenticeships in the construction trade are viable options for them as careers,” said Marty Riesberg, director of the Electrical Training Alliance. “Young people aren’t getting much of this information in high school, college or anywhere else.”
Besides encouraging people to consider careers as electricians, the Construct Your Future initiative also highlights opportunities as boilermakers, bricklayers, carpenters, insulators, iron workers, laborers, millwrights, operating engineers, painters, plasterers, plumbers, roofers and sheet metal workers.
The site notes the employment of electrical workers is projected from grow 14 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations.
“The new initiative and its accompanying site are designed to make it clear to people that there are very distinct benefits to being in apprenticeship programs,” Riesberg said.
The site also emphasizes benefits of being involved in multi-employer apprenticeship programs.
“One drawback to a single-employer program is that, if you are with just one employer, and that employer runs out of work, the apprenticeship ends,” he said.
“We are making a real push to make this the go-to site for information on construction career opportunities,” Tighe said. “Marty has done tremendous work, and we want to elevate it even more and take it to the top.”
The goal is to make apprenticeships as much a part of educational conversations as being a doctor or a lawyer. The program also has plans to reach out to military personnel through the national non-profit program, “Helmets to Hardhats,” which connects National Guard, Reserve, retired, and transitioning active duty military service members with skilled training.
“These people have had life experience,” Riesberg said. “They understand how important it is to show up for work every day and work hard. In addition, we owe them. They have been out there defending our country, and our program is a way that we can pay them back.”
How can ECs get involved in Construct Your Future?
“One of the catchphrases we like to use is ‘continuous recruiting,’” Tighe said. “This means making this site and this discussion a part of every conversation every day. When contractors make this an ongoing discussion with every person every day and encourage their employees to do the same, we can start to flip the script from being the best-kept secret to being the best-known opportunity.”
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