Ben, who will graduate with a degree in Media Effects from Penn State University’s Main campus this coming Spring, enjoyed receiving hands-on experience throughout his Summer internship with D&B’s corporate Marketing and Business Development team. As a Professional Writing Intern, Ben helped write articles for D&B’s blog through gathering research and interviewing team members. He also helped with various business administrative tasks that allowed him to learn to use Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software, our construction management software, Procore, and email marketing tools such as MailChimp, to name a few.
Although the majority of Ben’s three months with us was spent in the office, our team made sure to take him on active job sites. Ben was able to go to both commercial and residential job sites so he could see what both sides of the industry are like in person.
After completing his internship experience, Ben reflected on his time working with D&B, which he described as a “fun and valuable learning experience” for his future. Here’s a Q&A from Ben so you can learn more about his experience:
Q: What takeaways, including new skills, techniques, and knowledge did you learn throughout your internship with D&B?
A: “I thoroughly enjoyed learning the ins and outs of construction. The responsibilities I was given aligned with the classes I take at school, and I now have plenty of material that I can include in my portfolio as I start to job hunt post-graduation. I have developed better writing skills throughout the course of my internship. When I look back at rough drafts from my first article versus my rough drafts towards the end of my internship, I can see that I have made a lot of improvement. I learned how to use tools like Canva, which was useful. Ultimately, I was able to experience what it is like to work in marketing in the real world, which was a really good way for me to realize that marketing is a career I think I can pursue.”
Q: Did any of the classes you have taken in college directly prepare you for this internship?
A: “Yes! My media effects classes and writing classes prepared me for this internship. For example, my business writing class taught me essential skills to writing professionally. My media effects class taught me many things about how to effectively use social media. Actually, one of my assignments was similar to the benchmarking I did while at D&B, as I was asked to look at a celebrities’ Instagram accounts and analyze the good and bad things about them.”
Q: Did this internship make you re-consider what you want to do once you graduate college or confirm that you are in the right field?
A: “I have done a lot of thinking about what I will be doing when I graduate and start looking for a job. Even though I am not exactly sure what field it is that I want to work in, learning more about the construction industry and experiencing the environment in the office has definitely made me consider a job in this industry. I have also realized that I truly do enjoy working in Social Media / Marketing. Before this internship I thought that I would like a position like this, but I was never 100% sure. This internship also made me realize that there is nothing to be scared of, and I should go into the real world with all the confidence possible. Working for D&B has been a great step for me in finding a job once I graduate.”
Q: What are you most proud of from the work you produced throughout your internship and why?
A: “I am most proud of the articles that I worked on while I was here. I have always had to write for school, but writing for D&B’s Blog allowed me to have published work. I am proud to see the articles posted on the website.”
Q: How did you enjoy going on the job sites? Was the difference in commercial vs. residential jobs what you expected?
A: “I really enjoyed going to the job sites. It was cool to go on the job sites and see how D&B Construction works. Both residential and commercial job sites were completely new experiences for me. The difference is what I expected. The commercial job sites have a more hectic feel than the residential job sites because there are many more people working at commercial job sites.”
Q: What is your most memorable moment throughout your internship and why?
A: “My most memorable moment from my internship was visiting CHOP Souderton. I had never been to a commercial construction site and it was interesting to see the dynamic between the D&B Superintendents and our Trade Partners. I also thought it was really cool to see some of the obstacles they may face while building.”
For this quarter’s trade partner spotlight, we are taking a visit to Fleetwood, PA, where AP Merkel Inc. has resided since the 1890’s. AP Merkel is a four-generation company that offers plumbing, heating, and cooling services. They have come a long way since Augustus P. Merkel first founded the company over 100 years ago. AP Merkel first started out as a company that built farm implements, such as machines that would harvest crops. They are well known for manufacturing grain separators known as threshing machines.
Their transition into the HVAC world all comes down to a smart, strategic business move. “Eventually, all of these farms that AP Merkel was working with needed heat,” explains Nate Lobb, an Estimator who has been with the company for 10 years. One thing led to another, and eventually the company added plumbing into their wheelhouse. Approximately 30 employees later, “the rest is history,” sums up Nate.
Today the company is run by Pete Merkel, standing President, and busy with approximately 50 commercial jobs a year. Nate is usually efficiently juggling 20 or so jobs at a time, which he enjoys. “I like the diversity of projects we work on. We do everything from senior living, to coffee shops, to dentist offices,” he explains. Nate also enjoys working through and overcoming the challenges that come with starting every new project. “Being involved in a job from when it is just a concept in budgeting to when it is complete is something I always enjoy,” he says.
Nate, who received his plumbing license about five years ago, grew up in a construction environment. “My dad was always in construction. I had an interest more in the mechanical / HVAC and plumbing side of things,” he explains. Nate earned his Environmental Studies degree from Temple University in Philadelphia, PA. While in college, he interned for a company in Philly doing HVAC work and ended up coming back to the Fleetwood area and continuing his career at AP Merkel.
Nate stresses the fact that now is a great time to get involved in the industry. “There is a HUGE need for young, licensed tradespeople. There are few young people getting into this field right now. Get your license when you can, take it seriously, communicate, and you can have a great career,” he urges.
One young individual who has impressed Nate is D&B’s Superintendent, Ryan Hummel, who he has worked with since D&B Construction and AP Merkel established a relationship within the past year. “He has been really helpful and knows the industry, especially for being a younger guy. Ryan is really on top of it and not afraid to pick up the phone and check on something with us. We can talk through things and work it out. It is clear he takes his job serious,” explains Nate.
This feeling of open lines of excellent communication is just as strong a value for AP Merkel as it is for Team D&B. When we asked Ryan what he likes about working with AP Merkel, he summed it up simply in one word: “Everything.” However, what stands out most to Ryan is “their level of communication and coordination from their office staff to the field staff.” His experience working with AP Merkel over the last year has shown him that “they run a tight ship.”
An example of this can be found at one of our healthcare projects currently in active construction, Grove Dental Pediatrics. Ryan has worked with Nate and Tom, AP Merkel’s Superintendent who has been with the company for around 25 years. “I bid the Grove job, completed estimating, submittals, and the purchasing of equipment and piping, and Tom took it from there and is currently managing the actual job,” explains Nate.
One highlight of this 3,700 SF medical office space? “This project has medical gas piping, which is something we don’t deal with that often. This type of piping has to be put in very clean. It has a special fitting with a braised fitting joint. The key is to keep it clean, so when we start to install it we have to flush it with nitrogen gas,” explains Nate.
We recently visited this healthcare project in Wyomissing, PA. Here’s some photos of AP Merkel team members, Andy, Zach, and Scott, their lead plumber, working to keep the job running smoothly and safely with Team D&B:
Safe + Sound is a year-round campaign to encourage every workplace to have a safety and health program. It was launched by OSHA in an effort to gain safety awareness. Every year in August, OSHA has a Safe + Sound week, with this year’s taking place from Monday, August 9th to Sunday, August 15th.
This nationwide event recognizes the success of workplace health and safety programs and offers information and ideas on how to keep America’s workers safe. Seven businesses make up the list of organizers who participate in planning calls, working collaboratively with each other to develop and review Safe + Sound materials and communications, and leverage their own resources to support these efforts. In addition to OSHA, these businesses include large organizations, such as the National Safety Council and . The program also has 225 partners who are membership organizations that are responsible for communication and outreach throughout the year to promote Safe + Sound to their stakeholders.
D&B Construction is one of 68 companies throughout PA (and over 1,600 across the nation) who have signed up to participate in Safe + Sound Week 2021. We are excited to show our support and commitment to continue building safer jobsites. People come first at D&B. The safety of our employees, trade partners, and clients is always paramount in every project’s preparation and execution. In order to make this happen, safety and health are at the core of everything we do. Learn how here.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, better known as OSHA, was created in 1970 to ensure safe and healthy working conditions by setting and enforcing safety standards in addition to providing training, outreach, education, and assistance. You may have heard OSHA refer to the “Fatal Four” when describing the four most common causes of worker deaths on construction sites throughout the United States.
The four most common causes of worker deaths in this industry come from Falls,) which account for 33.5% of construction worker deaths), being struck by an object (11.1%), electrocutions (8.5%) and being caught in / between something accounted for 5.5% of construction worker deaths. According to OSHA, as of 2020 “one in five worker deaths in 2019 were in construction.” The “Fatal Four” were responsible for more than half (58.6%) of construction worker deaths. According to OSHA, if these “Fatal Four” causes could be eliminated, they would save 591 workers’ lives in America each year.
In 2020, OSHA gathered data on the top 10 instances of safety code violations. Learn what they are below, and hear from our Director of Construction and Safety Director, Tom, on how such issues can be avoided and prevented:
What This Means: OSHA states that a violation could include not providing working conditions that are free of known dangers, failure to keep floors in work areas in a clean and dry state, as well as not providing required personal protective equipment at no cost to workers.
Tips on How to Prevent This: Our Safety Director, Tom, encourages the use of safety rails and body harnesses on every job site. “At D&B we provide these on every job site to give our workers the safest environmental possible.”
What This Means: Simply put, this refers to the failure to inform all people on the job site of potential risks and hazards.
Tips on How to Prevent This: “At D&B we fill out a Job Safety Analysis (JSA) and Job Hazard Analysis (JHA) on all job sites,” explains Tom. “This helps us to ensure that we are communicating this vital information with all of our employees and trade partners. Communication is huge in enhancing safety.”
What This Means: Failure to abide to OSHA standards would include improper fall protection / fall arrest systems, unsuitable guardrail height, inadequate footing support, failure to complete inspections, etc.
Tips on How to Prevent This: Work with reputable scaffolding companies that you trust. “At D&B we complete daily and weekly inspections on the scaffolding on our site to ensure we are practicing proper scaffolding safety protocols,” says Tom.
What This Means: Failure to address the practices and procedures needed to disable machinery or equipment that may expose workers to hazardous energy.
Tips on How to Prevent This: “There is no better way to ensure this mishap is avoided then by requiring all electricians on your job site to use lockout and tagout procedures on all powered equipment and panel boxes,” says Tom.
At D&B, we include the following lockout safety poster on our Safety Board at all jobsites:
What This Means: A violation would include not providing the proper respiratory protection.
Tips on How to Prevent This: “In addition to providing dust masks to all employees, it is important to utilize clean air machines and air scrubbers such as HEPA filters on your job sites,” says Tom. “In any situation where there are environmental hazards present, we as a company will hire a reputable remediation company to ensure the safety and health of all people on the job site. I highly recommend doing this when the elements require it.”
What This Means: This could include placing a ladder on a box or barrel, using ladders where there is unstable footing or soft ground, exceeding a ladder’s maximum load rating, ignoring nearby overhead power lines, moving or shifting the ladder while a person or equipment is on it, using an extension ladder horizontally as a platform, etc.
Tips on How to Prevent This: “Have your Site Superintendents check ladders on a daily and weekly basis. If any ladders are deemed unsafe or defective, they should be removed immediately,” says Tom. Unlike hard hats, for example, there is no specific expiration date for ladders. Following proper storage techniques and treating ladders with care can help in making them last longer.
What This Means: This refers to improper vehicle use, lack of training, and a failure to re-certify operators every three years as required.
Tips on How to Prevent This: ” At D&B, we make sure all of our Pettibone and Lift operators are certified, and we require lift plans for any kind of crane lifts. This is something I recommend everyone get in the habit of making a standard practice.”
What This Means: Failure to provide proper fall prevention training is something that can easily be avoided if proper training and communication on fall prevention is completed on all job sites.
Tips on How to Prevent This: “All D&B Construction field personnel are OSHA certified, and we also hold training sessions throughout the course of the year,” explains Tom.
At D&B, we include the following fall protection poster on our Safety Board at all jobsites. This is an easy way to remind everyone on the job site of how to best prevent falls.
What This Means: Failure to provide one or more methods of machine guarding to ensure the safety of the operator and others in the nearby area can result in an unsafe job site.
Tips on How to Prevent This: “All powered tools are inspected for proper and adequate guarding by a D&B employee, such as the Site Superintendent, before use,” says Tom.
What This Means: Failure to make the appropriate personal protective equipment available to all employees at no cost is something that should not occur anywhere.
Tips on How to Prevent This: “Keep inventory of safety equipment, such as safety glasses and hi-visibility vests, for all of your employees. At D&B, we keep a document that is updated every time a new hire starts so we know the date in which they received all of their issued PPE. This makes it easy for us to keep taps on when hard hats will expire and new ones will need to be re-issued. We also provide respiratory and hearing protection on every job site.”
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the construction industry had 195,600 workplace injuries and 3,600 workplace illnesses in 2019. More specifically, Pennsylvania’s non-fatal workplace injury and illness rates were above the national average. The Center for Construction Research and Training’s Fatality Map Dashboard also shows that since data started being collected in 2011, Delaware has had 17 fatal injuries in construction, New Jersey has had 145, and Pennsylvania has had 213 fatal injuries. With these statistics in mind the importance of practicing safety is pretty clear.
“Safety Weeks such as this one exist so we can create awareness and reduce the number of fatalities our industry sees,” concludes Tom. “Chances are that some of the fatalities seen could have been prevented if better communication and more training took place. That’s why our team at D&B is focused on achieving safety every day through daily safety checks on site.”
Let us know how you work to prevent incidents on the job site in the comments below, and consider joining D&B and thousands of other companies in taking the pledge to be Safe + Sound – both throughout this week and every day.
White-sand beaches, warm weather, great food, and high-end luxuries are everything that Miami is known for. The small town of Surfside is no exception with its reputation of being pleasant, quiet, safe, and affordable. As you likely may have heard, Surfside recently become the center of attention for many people after tragedy struck the small town in June.
On June 24th Surfside’s 12-story beachfront condo, Champlain Towers South, partially collapsed at about 1:25 AM with its residents inside. As of Monday, July 26th, the last victim’s remains were identified. This brought the final death toll to 98 people after tedious efforts were made to account for every resident, and officials have now confirmed that remains for each person considered missing after the collapse have been recovered. The efforts made were the largest emergency unrelated to hurricanes ever conducted in the state, with search and rescue teams from throughout Florida, many other states, and even Israel and Mexico coming together to bring closure to families.
According to the New York Times, this disaster is one of the deadliest structural building failures in American History. Many residents are still in shock. Community Members Peggy Streter and her husband own The Carrot Café located in downtown Surfside. The two have claimed to know about 50 people who lived in the condo. The Streters are not the exception. Miami’s building chief, Charles Danger said, “Everybody in Miami knows somebody from that building or knows somebody who knows somebody.”
The rest of the building was demolished on Sunday, July 4th in efforts to continue the search. Once all remains were identified of those missing, officials began steering their focus to determining what could have caused the collapse. Since then the building has continued to be in the limelight, as many of the building’s records that would help investigators learn why the building fell could not be found, and the not-so-easy conversation over the fate of the site has started to take place. Here’s a quick summary of what is known:
People living in Surfside Condos, which were completed in 1981, had previously voiced their concerns about the structure of the building they called home, so the collapse does not come as a surprise for some. After a DEA building collapsed in Miami almost half a century ago, taking the lives of seven employees and injuring 16 others, two Miami counties instilled new regulations requiring buildings that have stood for 40 years to be investigated for any problems. Since Champlain Towers South was in one of these counties, their mandatory 40-year inspection took place in 2018.
When the condo was inspected by engineer Frank Morabito in 2018, he identified that there was a flaw in the original construction of the building that was causing structural damage. Morabito mentioned the main issue was that the pool deck and outdoor planters had been “laid on a flat structure.” Since there was no slope where the pool stood, standing water was not able to drain off the pool deck. Instead, the water would sit on the waterproofed concrete until it evaporated. At the time of inspection, the water-proofing concrete had failed, causing the water to seep through resulting in “major structural damage to the concrete slab below these areas.” The report also pointed out distress and fatigue in the concrete, columns, beams, and walls of the parking garage below the pool area.
Morabito’s report said that “failure to replace the waterproofing in the near future will cause the extent of the concrete deterioration to expand exponentially.” He could not predict that this may lead to the collapse of the building, however he said that repairs to the concrete were needed for “maintaining the structural integrity” of the building. The waterproofing and structural issues of the condo were never addressed by the owner’s association.
Fast forward to 2019 when a neighboring luxury tower was being built. Residents of the Champlain Towers South condominium complained that construction would often cause their building to shake. This led to a resident and board member of the condo association, Mara Chouela, voicing her opinion that workers were “digging too close” to the property. She said they “have concerns regarding the structure of our building.” Just 28 minutes later, official Rosendo Prieto responded to Chouela stating that “there is nothing for me to check.”
There is no concrete evidence that construction of the condo’s neighbor contributed to the collapse of the building, and it is still unclear if the lack of action from the owner’s association was a major factor in the building’s collapse. Cassie Stratton, a resident who was inside the building during the collapse, reportedly told her husband on the phone that she saw the pool cave in first, backing up Morabito’s claim that the waterproofing of the pool was necessary to maintain the structure of the building.
The fact remains that residents were concerned for the structure of the condo, and they felt as if no one took the necessary action to redeem the structural integrity of the building.
The city of Surfside hired a structural engineer, Allyn Kilsheimer, to inspect the site and determine the cause for the buildings collapse. Kilsheimer says it is “maybe not an individual cause, but two or three things that contributed and/or caused this failure.” While the pool could have been a major issue to the structural problems, it is still unclear and there are many theories that will be examined.
In addition to hiring Kilsheimer, another group was hired to lead the charge to uncover what caused the collapse since this was such a big case. The NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) will be working constantly to investigate the situation. They say that “a fact-finding investigation of the building performance and emergency response and evacuation procedures will likely result in significant and new knowledge or building code revision recommendations needed to reduce or mitigate public risk and economic losses from future building failures.”
Like many others, we have been wondering what caused this to happen. Matt Knight, Senior Estimator at D&B Construction, has been working in the industry for over 20 years. He has been involved with the construction of many large, well-known buildings, including the 9/11 Memorial.
Matt did not do any research, but from what he saw “the building collapsed from the bottom up,” which makes him think “there would be structural cracks in the floor, columns, beams, etc.” As we know now, these structural cracks were found by engineers and deemed to be a major structural concern prior to the collapse of the building. Much like Allyn Kilsheimer, Matt believes that it is likely there are multiple causes for the failure of Champlain Towers South.
One of the theories that Matt believes had a big role in the building’s collapse was the fact that the condo had been sinking at a rate of two millimeters per year from 1993 to 1999. Scientists also discovered evidence of other areas nearby sinking as well. Matt says that one of the most important things when constructing large buildings is to make sure you are building on good soil. Since the condo was slowly sinking, Matt believes they likely “built on unsuitable soils and never got the compaction they needed.” He notes that if soil is not properly compacted so that it is suitable for the building, everything else will eventually fail. “If you are building from the ground up your soil underneath is, of course, most important,” he concludes. For now, Matt is waiting to learn more about what caused the failure once the investigations are conclusive.
At the end of the day, the collapse of Champlain Towers South was a tragedy, however Matt tries to look at how the industry as a whole can learn from what happened. “Usually a lot of good things will come out of a catastrophic failure. For example, we learned a lot from 9/11, and today those World Trade Center Towers are not being built the same way,” he says. Matt believes the industry will learn valuable lessons from this, and it will improve how we are constructing buildings overall. He would not be surprised if there will be changes for older building’s codes, especially around that area. Matt also proposes the idea of a new law emerging from this that would make building owners, when aware of structural damages, either make the repairs or move everyone out until they do.
While we wait to learn more, one question many still have is whether or not limitations on technology when the condo was built play a factor in the failure of Champlain Towers South? When the condo building was constructed in 1981 many of the rules and regulations that we have today were not in place. Miami was also known for “slipshod construction,” and in some cases they were known to take the look-the-other-way approach when enforcing building codes and regulations. While their construction practices were not nearly as good then as they are now, they also did not have access to the technology we have now.
Specifically, VDC (Virtual Design and Construction) and BIM (Building Information Modeling) are tools that Matt says, “could have helped if they had it during original construction”. BIM is a tool for 3D modeling and data input of physical objects, while VDC uses BIM models to plan the construction process from beginning to end. Watch a video to learn more about VDC and BIM here. Using technology like BIM and VDC essentially allows you to build the entire project virtually before building it in the real world, which can decrease cost and time put into a project while also increasing safety. We may often take technology like this for granted, but it is interesting to think about what the world of construction would have looked like in the 80’s if society had access to these technologies that we can now use every day.
D&B is interested to hear your thoughts. Do you think new technologies will help to prevent disasters like the one in Surfside? What policies and procedures do you think should be put into place to help increase safety and avoid disasters such as this from happening in the future? Let us know in the comments below!