Switching to an Estimating System | 5 Things You Should Know

Making the change from using Excel to a full-blown estimating software may seem like a daunting task. 

After all, like many estimators, you likely have a fine-tuned process and developed your system after years of industry experience. 

Not to mention, you have elaborate spreadsheets and years worth of pricing, labor, and historical data to consider. 

So, with all this in mind, if you’re considering making the switch to an estimating system, here are some things you should know:

Eliminating Errors is Key 

Even the most seasoned estimators know that when you’re working with spreadsheets, errors happen.

Consider this: have you ever had an extra row in your spreadsheet cause the totals to be incorrect? Item costs that did not get added to the bid? Forgotten to add a cost for an indirect or bond? 

Now, what if I told you the chances of a miscalculation in a spreadsheet can be virtually eliminated? 

ProEstimate.NET has built-in checks and balances as well as “Bid Check” functionality to limit the risk of such omissions. This improved accuracy reduces the time spent correcting bid errors and virtually eliminates mistakes.

You will also no longer need to worry about a file being accidentally deleted or moved to a different folder. All data is stored in one location where every user has shared access.

Error-free estimating has a pretty nice ring to it. 

Standardization Improves Bid Accuracy 

Speaking of eliminating errors, standardizing your estimating process also greatly reduces the chance of mistakes.

By using an estimating system, you can add structure to your project set-up, crew building, bid closeout, and more. This structure improves productivity, enhances profitability, and, again, reduces errors. 

The standardization of reports within the system allows management to review an estimate in the same manner, every time, regardless of who put the estimate together.

Implementation Shouldn’t Be Painful

If you decide to make the switch to using an estimating system, the implementation process is an important part of getting started. 

However, this process shouldn’t require an exorbitant amount of work on your part. Beware: some companies require you to fill out 15+ spreadsheets to get your system up and running. 

At Oman Systems, we only ask for labor and equipment to get you started with ProEstimate.NET

An estimating system is meant to make your life easier, not burden you with spreadsheet homework.

Treat Training and Support Like a Necessity, Not an Added Luxury 

When you make the switch to estimating software, you should have access to expert training and unlimited technical support.

Many companies require you to purchase an additional support package to get the help you need. 

The standard should be 24/7 support without any additional price tags or hoops to jump through. You should also be able to pick up the phone and easily reach a real person, every time.

Don’t settle for less than optimal, all-inclusive support.

Finding Systems that Work for You is What’s Most Important

Most companies will say you need to use all of their products (and yes of course we highly recommend our field management, crew scheduling, dispatch, and bid tabulation software), but what is most important is making sure you’re getting what works best for you. 

Your estimating software should be able to pull data from a variety of systems rather than forcing you to make a switch that you might not want or need. 

Your estimating system should be able to integrate with all of your systems, including accounting, field, takeoff, and more. 

Before switching to an estimating program, make sure you get all of the information you need and make this a one-time move, done the right way. 

Construction Industry Information Sources

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Highway Construction Accidents | How We Can Keep Crews Safe

Slow down in construction zones

It’s no secret that road construction comes with its fair share of hazards. After all, working with heavy machinery, next to multi-lane highways is no typical office job. 

However, did you know that on average more than 20,000 roadside workers are injured every year?

The statistics are sobering, to say the least:

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that from 2003 to 2017, 1,844 highway crew members died on the job. The number of fatal work-related injuries on-site averages over 100 per year.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention notes that heavy/civil engineering construction and specialty trade contractors account for 62 percent of worker fatal injuries.

In December, an entire night crew was struck by a drunk driver in Arlington, Virginia. This is one of many instances where workers were injured or killed by impaired drivers. 

“The roads (…) are our office,” Jim Reed told WXYZ-TV Detroit after his colleague was hit by a drunk driver. “This is where our people work. Thousands of individuals from Michigan work on the roads every day. It’s important that we slow down and do the right thing.”

Safety shouldn’t be a fleeting luxury for our workers in the field. So, what can we do better?

Grab Distracted Drivers Attention

Distracted drivers are one of the biggest hazards for road crews. To get their attention, it is best to use multiple signals. 

Use certified flaggers to slow down traffic and allow passage through one-lane areas. Signs should be in place to signal that there are flaggers and road work ahead.

Construction Executive states ”Directives, such as evacuation route, do not enter, reduced speed ahead, road closed, and no outlet, assist drivers entering work zones and construction sites.”

Require Daily Safety Chats 

Accidents may seem like an inevitable part of construction work. However, workers should receive daily reminders to mitigate the risks that are in their control. 

These steps include preventing falls, wearing proper safety gear, maintaining distance from rotating equipment/unguarded parts, and exercising extreme caution around utility lines.

This video is a safety meeting from the Manhattan Building company. This comes from the vertical side, but the tone and delivery are still on point for heavy highway/civil.

Foremen should always be watching for any safety hazards, correcting unsafe practices, and sharing daily toolbox talks with their supervisors.

Which brings me to my next point:

Document, Document, Document

So, you’re having daily safety chats to keep your crew members informed, but have you documented it?

Too many times when accidents happen, companies are caught scrambling for proof that they took necessary precautions. Without proper documentation, not only are you unable to save yourself from litigation, but you also can’t be sure you’re doing everything in your power to protect your employees. 

To learn more about how you can easily create custom forms for field documentation, click here.

Spread Awareness

Eighty-three percent of Americans drive frequently, so we can all either be part of the problem or part of the solution. 

Slow down my dad works here

If you have the tools to reach an audience (no matter how small) take the time to share the statistics in this post.

Make an effort to remind people to slow down by adding a human element behind the “Caution Road Work Ahead” signs. 

These are our fellow industry professionals, and they deserve to go to work and feel as safe as I do sitting at my desk. Maybe that isn’t entirely realistic, but we could all use a reminder to drive more carefully. 

Come See Us At These Events

Is anyone else going through trade show withdrawals?

We’ve been itching to get back on the road and start networking with our fellow industry professionals again.

Check out the events we’ve got on the schedule so far:

Oman Systems Events

Information (including how to sign up) for the events listed above:

AGC of Indiana: AGC of Indiana Golf Outing

AGC of Missouri: YEC Golf Classic

AGC of Georgia: YLP Golf Classic

Carolinas AGC: Myrtle Beach Networking Event

If you have an industry event you’d like us to sponsor, or you are planning on attending any of these events, we want to hear from you! Let us know via the Live Chat, ContactUs@Omanco.com, or by calling 1-800-541-0803.

We hope to see you soon!

Construction Worker Safety – How to Beat the Heat This Summer

Summer is practically here, and most of us are already feeling the heat.

In the Southeast, we know our way around a 95 degrees, 100 percent humidity day. With this in mind, we need to know how to keep our construction workers safe in the field.

As most of us know, working outside during the summer can increase the risk of dehydration, sunburn, heat exhaustion, and heatstroke. Along with these physical ailments, hot weather can lead to slowed cognitive function, which can impair judgment and reaction time (both of which are critical for workplace safety). 

Here are some proactive steps you can take to keep construction workers safe this summer:

Have a Heat Index Tool on Hand

According to Veronica S. Miller and Grhahm P. Bates, “Protection of the health of workers without unnecessarily compromising productivity requires the adoption of a heat index that is both reliable and easy to use.”

OSHA has created a free heat index app that can be used on Apple and Android devices. All you have to do is enter your location, and the app will input today’s temperature and calculate your workers’ risk. 

Hand-held tools with more robust data, like the Kestrel 3000HS Heat Stress Meter or the Pocket Heat Index Monitor, are also available. 

Note: Temperatures of 92 degrees and above are considered high risk. 

Avoid Dehydration

Dehydration is the fastest way to succumb to a heat stroke. Foremen should be sure there is ample water on hand at all times, and allow water breaks throughout the day.

Workers should aim to drink a gallon of water a day. A great way for supervisors to promote hydration is to provide gallon water bottles/jugs to all field workers.

Workers should also try to avoid eating salty, high-calorie foods during workdays as these can contribute to dehydration. 

Know the Warning Signs of Heat-Related Illnesses

The CDC lists the following warning signs for heat exhaustion:

  • Heavy sweating 
  • Cold, pale, and clammy skin
  • Fast, weak pulse
  • Nausea or vomiting • Muscle cramps 
  • Tiredness or weakness 
  • Dizziness 
  • Headache 
  • Fainting (passing out)

The following symptoms are warning signs of a heat stroke:

  • High body temperature (103°F or higher)
  • Hot, red, dry, or damp skin 
  • Inability to drink
  • Fast, strong pulse
  • Headache
  •  Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Losing consciousness (passing out)

Plan for Emergencies 

Crew members should be trained and prepared for heat-related illnesses. 

If one of your team members is suffering from heat exhaustion, move that person into the shade while you get the AC running in a vehicle. Have your worker take off heavy clothing like jackets, long sleeve shirts, tool belts, and helmets (if you are in a safe area). 

Have a cooler full of ice and wet washcloths on site. Placing the cold cloths on your neck and wrists will help bring your body temperature down.

We also recommend having a thermometer on hand to check the temperature of a crew member who becomes ill (remember: the core body temperature of someone suffering from a heat stroke is 103 degrees or above). 

If someone is displaying the symptoms listed above for a heat stroke, particularly fainting, confusion, seizures, or inability to drink, seek medical assistance immediately. 

By taking steps prevention, knowing the warning signs of heat-related illness, and having a course of action in place in case of an emergency will keep construction workers safer during the grueling summer months.

Mental Health in the Construction Industry | What We Can Do Better

Photo by Christopher Burns

“Rub some dirt on it.” 

That’s often the phrase you hear to describe the tough-guy mentality for handling pain. 

But what about the pain that dirt doesn’t quite reach? The kind that stems from stress, anxiety, and depression?

In the blue-collar world, this grit-and-bear-it attitude stretches outside the physical demands of the job.

According to the Center For Disease Control, suicide rates in blue-collar industries are up 40 percent in 17 years. 

This is on top of the sobering fact that the construction industry has the highest rate of suicides of any profession on a global scale. 

So what can we do?

First is understanding the problem.

Industry Factors That Can Cause Depression

According to Steve Mongeau in his interview with Boston 25 News, the factors that contribute to industry-related depression include “working in a high-pressure environment, a higher prevalence of alcohol and substance abuse, separation from families, and long stretches without work.” 

Photo by Silvia Brazzoduro

Along with a physically demanding job, construction workers often deal with short-term employment that requires long hours, tight deadlines, and irregular sleep schedules. 

“It’s a high-pressure environment,” Mark Carrington, the managing director of Worksafe Partnership, told The Guardian. “A lot of guys are away from family all week. When every night you might be on the booze, you’re in a room by yourself. Loneliness, the drink, the pressure – the banter when it goes too far and becomes bullying.”

These factors have been ingrained in the industry for years, and with unemployment skyrocketing across the country and fieldwork being shut down in some states, these factors are even more worrisome today.

Warning Signs

Now that we know the factors that contribute to the problem, the next step is understanding the warning signs of someone who is at risk.

The following warning signs from the National Institute of Mental Health are important for employers to recognize in the field:

  • Talking about wanting to die or wanting to kill themselves
  • Talking about feeling empty, hopeless, or having no reason to live
  • Talking about great guilt or shame
  • Talking about feeling trapped or feeling that there are no solutions
  • Talking about unbearable pain, both physical or emotional
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Using alcohol or drugs more often
  • Acting anxious or agitated
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Changing eating and/or sleeping habits
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Taking risks that could lead to death, such as reckless driving
  • Displaying extreme mood swings, suddenly changing from very sad to very calm or happy
  • Giving away important possessions
  • Changes in work performance like increased tardiness or absenteeism

Prevention

What can we do to improve mental health in the construction industry?

One way is to spread awareness. The Construction Industry Alliance for Suicide Prevention is working to spread information and resources for how to combat this industry crisis.

CFMA is asking industry professionals to take the pledge to create “safe cultures, provide training to identify and help those at risk, raise awareness about the suicide crisis in construction, normalize conversations around suicide and mental health, and ultimately decrease the risks associated with suicide in construction.”

Employers should also consider taking progressive steps to increase workplace mental health by offering benefits like access to on-site counselors, funds for sites like BetterHelp and Talkspace, and providing training sessions on how to cope with the stress and anxiety on and off the job.

This rough-and-tumble industry breeds tough, hardworking people, but that doesn’t have to come at a price. For those who truly understand the daily grind of construction work, lets spread awareness and overcome the stigma behind asking for help.

For more information on industry-related tools and resources visit The Construction Industry Alliance for Suicide Prevention website.

If you or someone you know is at a point of crisis, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

For help with alcohol or substance abuse, contact Drugfree.org by calling 855-378-4373 or texting 55753. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration can also assist with referrals to treatment facilities, counselors, support groups, and more. Call 1-800-662-4357 to speak with a counselor 24/7.

Oman’s Stone and FDR’s Pool

Did you know there is an indoor swimming pool in the White House?

While you might not find this question on a U.S. history test, it does provide an interesting anecdote. 

Throughout his adult life, Franklin D. Roosevelt used swimming as a means to exercise and ease the side effects of polio. In 1933, he decided to bring his physical therapy to the White House by requesting the construction of an indoor swimming pool. 

FDR's swimming pool (credit: 
National Archives).

The pool is located in the West Wing, and for years was only accessible through a trapped door in the press briefing room. 

Now, you might be thinking: what does this have to do with Oman Systems?

FDR's Thank You Letter to John Oman

John Oman Senior started his career as a stonemason and founded Crab Orchard Stone to operate alongside Oman Construction in 1929. 

In 1933, Crab Orchard Stone was used to provide the non-slip material for Roosevelt’s swimming pool. This stone, found only in the Cumberland Plateau of Tennessee, allowed the president to move around the pool with ease and eliminated the need for mats.

Roosevelt was so please with the floors, he wrote a personal thank you letter to John Oman. The letter still hangs in the Oman Systems office today.

An outdoor pool was later built at the request of Gerald R. Ford in 1975. However, FDR’s “grand old tub” will always hold a special place in our hearts. 

White House Envelope Addressed to John Oman.