Enter your email:

Construction Topics




















Become a FB fan

Construction Network

Trades Hub


April 10, 2009

Connect on the Updated Forum
Filed under: Construction Superintendents — nedpelger

We’ve heard your feedback and updated the Forum page on to better meet your needs. I think you’ll find it a great place to connect with others in this wonderful business. You can rant about that idiotic boss, ask a technical question that someone else might actually be able to answer or just chat. Please hop on the site and read what others are saying, then sign in and make a post yourself.

If you want to see how a similar construction forum works, go to ContractorTalk and check it out. From what I can tell, though, ContractorTalk mostly consists of residential contractors who own their own firms. The focus of the Forum will be more for commercial and industrial building construction supervisors.

If you enjoy this blog, please check out the Forum and let me know what you think.


March 30, 2009

Kevlar Helmet deflects bullet for Construction Supervisor

I saw this inspiring article and thought you might enjoy it as well. Since it’s government written, it’s in the public domain so I copied the entire piece. As you go about your work today, think about the men and women serving at risk all around the world. I have a challenging meeting coming up this morning, but I doubt anyone will be shooting at me as we review the issues. I count my blessings and hope you count yours.

Purple Heart Recipient Saved by Helmet

2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division Public Affairs RSS

Story by Sgt. Rodney Foliente

Purple Heart recipient saved by helmet

CAMP ECHO, Iraq – A 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division Soldier, whose life was saved by his Advanced Combat Helmet, received a Purple Heart and Combat Action Badge here March 20.

Staff Sgt. Matthew Harvey, construction supervisor with Company E, 2nd Combined Arms Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment, and attached to Special Troops Battalion, received the awards after being shot and continuing to return fire during an enemy attack in Najaf, Feb. 10.

The attack came during a route clearance mission when Harvey, who was truck commander of the lead vehicle, dismounted to clear debris that became tangled underneath his vehicle.

“As I was leaning forward, I saw three rounds hit by my feet,” the Houston native said. He added that he quickly turned and identified the enemy shooter partially concealed behind a berm. “I returned fire and yelled back up to my driver and gunner.”

He continued to return fire until he saw the enemy go down. He then stood up and scanned the area.

“I saw something to my five-o’clock and called up to the gunner. As soon as I turned, I got hit. The round went through my Kevlar,” he said, pointing to a point above and behind his right ear.

The Kevlar altered the course of the bullet, channeling the bullet around his head and down the back of his neck.

Harvey said the force of the impact slammed his head into the vehicle, cutting a gash on his cheek. He went down and noticed blood flowing from his left cheek. In his shock, he said he thought the bullet had passed through his face.

“I yelled up that I was hit,” he said.

As Harvey lay on the ground, he said he continued shooting at the enemy, becoming increasingly disoriented.

“I was trying to shoot the guy. [All of a sudden] I thought I was at a pop-up range, because I couldn’t hit the target,” he said.

“I could see my rounds impacting. Pow! Pow! Pow! I remember thinking: Man, this pop-up target won’t go down. I’m going to get a bad score,” he shook his head with a laugh.

“I thought: this is probably it. I kept shooting and shooting and yelled up to my dudes and told them, ‘Sorry’ and told my wife, ‘I’m sorry,’” he reflected with a smile.

His Soldiers continued engaging the enemy and another vehicle in the convoy pulled around to cover him and load him into their truck.

“They pulled off all my gear and the medic came up and checked me out,” he said.

Other than minor shrapnel wounds, cuts and a possible concussion, the medic told him he was fine. The other Soldiers downplayed the incident and told Harvey that he was probably just hit with shrapnel from bullets striking the vehicle and ground.

“I told them, ‘No, I’m pretty sure I got hit,’” Harvey said. “That’s when their squad leader picked up my Kevlar and said, ‘Hey man, you’ve got a bullet hole through your Kevlar!’”

“I still had my adrenaline going, so I wasn’t really in that much pain,” he continued. “I still wanted to [command] my truck.”

However, his platoon leader made him try to relax and rest. They limped the vehicle back to Forward Operating Base Endeavor on a flat tire.

“I smoked a cigarette and drank a Rippit. By that time, my adrenaline stopped and I started puking and got dizzy,” said Harvey. “I was kind of going in and out of it. The [medical evacuation helicopters] came in and medics checked me out and gave me [intravenous fluids].”

“I came to as I was going into the hospital at Balad. They checked me out and told me I was lucky,” said Harvey. They gave him additional tests and treated him for minor shrapnel wounds, cuts and a bad concussion.

After a few days of tests and evaluations, he was sent back to Camp Echo and saw his Soldiers for a day before going on his pre-planned environmental morale leave.

“I was already scheduled for leave, so I went home and hung out there,” said Harvey. He said his wife Crystal, whom he has been married to for more than a year, was shocked when she found out, but also strong and supportive.

“She’s pretty strong. She got through it and understands … but she told me to stop getting hurt,” he laughed. “I get hurt too much,” he added with a shrug.

About a month after the attack, he said his headaches began to subside and have now almost completely stopped. But the headaches are a small price to pay for his life, thanks to his helmet.

Harvey has been in the Army for more than seven years and has deployed to Iraq four times. He said he has been shot at or hit by roadside bombs during each deployment and has been saved a number of times because of the equipment and armor provided to him by the Army.

This is Harvey’s second Purple Heart. He received his first during a deployment to Iraq in 2003 after a roadside bomb explosion injured him in the head and neck. In that incident, his older-style helmet stopped or hampered the destructive passage of shrapnel. He said he feels his helmet helped save his life then as well.

He said the incidents increased his confidence in the equipment he uses. The members of his command and his fellow Soldiers are also more confident after seeing the deadly effects of a bullet thwarted by the helmet that many of them once complained about having to wear.

“You guys looked at that Kevlar and saw the direction that [round] was going and where it went out. It did exactly what it was designed to do,” said Lt. Col. Leo Caballero, commander, STB, to the company formation during the award ceremony.

Harvey received his awards from Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan, deputy commanding general for operations, Multi-National Division – Center.

“[The Purple Heart] is a significant award,” said Buchanan, during the award ceremony. “It’s in recognition of the American people and the sacrifice that you personally made. It’s in recognition of your selfless service.”

For Harvey, his Purple Hearts are reminders of the sacrifices he has made and is willing to make for his country and his people. They are also reminders of how close he came to dying and how precious life is.

“I feel lucky. This wasn’t the first time I’ve been hit, but it kind of opens my eyes a little more,” he said”

He said he appreciates life and what he has more than ever.

“I wasn’t married for my other deployments. We’ve been married a little while and are trying to have kids,” said Harvey. “It kind of made me think more, but I still plan on staying in. This is what I do. They’ll probably have to kick me out after 30 years.”

However, he said he hopes, as does his family, that he receives no more Purple Hearts.


March 18, 2009

The Horror of a Drug Test Gone Bad
Filed under: Construction Superintendents — Tags: — nedpelger

Drug tests are a part of the construction business these days, but did you ever think what you’d do if you wrongly tested positive? Jim Parker, a Construction Supervisor in Idaho, has been going through that experience, as reported in the Idaho Mountain Express. A mistaken reading on a pre-employment drug screening test cost him his job, reputation, $6,000 of debt and almost put his family onto the street.

Parker took a new job as a superintendent for an insulation firm, then the drug test came back positive for morphine or heroin. Not being a drug user, Parker proclaimed his innocence and requested the second sample be tested. The drug lab reported that their original results had been correct. Parker lost the job, lost the ability to file for unemployment and couldn’t find another job. “It’s really hard to get a job when your last job lasted only two days and you failed a drug test,” Parker said.

Eventually, Parker found that his second sample had never been retested, the drug lab simply sent out the results from the first test again. He got another lab to test him and they reported opiate levels consistent with eating poppy seeds on a bagel, which he had done. The first lab finally tested the second sample from the original urine and found the same acceptable level of opiates. That lab, though, still denies any wrong-doing, probably anticipating a law suit headed in their direction.

Parker eventually convinced another firm to hire him. Gary Storey, of Storey Construction, listened to his explanation, believed him and decided to give him a chance. Parker says, “I’m on the way to fixing my life, but I have this big situation and I’m not going to let it go until I make it right. We almost got kicked out of our home, we had to sell most of our furniture, my kids didn’t even have Christmas. When the fight’s the right fight, I’ll fight it to the death.”

What are the lessons learned from Parker’s experiences? Don’t assume that the system will work justly, or even correctly. If you see yourself getting caught in a squeeze, understand that it’s totally up to you to manage your way out of it. Act swifty.

In the specifics of Parker’s case, I would have recommended:

  1. Besides demanding a re-test of the sample, offer to give another sample to another lab immediately, at your cost.
  2. Take hair samples immediately, in the presence of the new boss, and store for future definitive samples.
  3. Don’t let a single day go by without pushing forward on every front, make yourself a pain in their neck.
  4. Realize the stakes are high and be your own advocate, get expert advice (early and often) from as many other sources as you can

We will all have some unfair things happen in our lives, hopefully not to the level described above, but it happens. Be prepared to respond well in those tough times.

If you’ve had some interesting or funny drug test stories, post them below or on the Forum. Other people really do enjoy reading them.

If you want a laugh, check out this previous post about a drug testing story involving my nephew called “What’s Mine is Urine”.


February 18, 2009

Liars, Damn Liars and Other Construction Site Oddities
Filed under: Construction Superintendents — Tags: — nedpelger

I hate lying. Whether it’s a big whopper some idiot tells or just someone making a commitment that they know they aren’t going to keep, I’ve tried to arrange my business and my life so I don’t have to deal with many liars. I’ve been reasonably successful.

When one of our daughters was about 16, I caught her in a bold-faced lie. I said to her, “You just lied to me, you stood there and told me a lie!” Trying to explain to me the current state of the world, she responded, “Dad, that’s what people do when they get caught. They lie.” I had to laugh at her honesty about lying and her desire to help me see the light.

Dereck Hench (Construction Supervisor) and I are building a bunch of 24 and 32 unit apartment buildings. We have about a third of the 320 apartments built and occupied.  Dereck just told me about a Drywall Finisher who needed to get some water in one of the occupied buildings. Rather than going outside to one of the many exterior wall hydrants, he unscrewed the sprinkler cap and got a bucket of water from the sprinkler system.

As you can imagine, the water flow switch activated the fire alarm and alerted the fire department, who responded to the site with sirens and flashing lights. As Dereck was trying to figure out what happened, he asked the Drywall Finisher if he got water from the sprinkler system (I wouldn’t have even thought to ask). The fellow said, “No, not me.”

Dereck looked into the drywall bucket and saw the dark black water and knew he had a liar on his hands. Dereck usually responds a bit more forcefully to situations than I do (a good combination) and it’s unlikely that fellow will ever touch a sprinkler system valve again.

Over the years I’ve worked with many subs who promised crews the next day then simply didn’t send them. The lies than flowed about what happened between their comittment and their lack of delivery. I got tired of the same guys telling the same lies. Now, if I can’t rely on someone to be straight with me, they just don’t even get a chance to bid. Then I don’t get tempted by a low bid number to again endure the aggravation of working with liars.

You probably don’t have the luxury of choosing who you work with, but you can pay attention to a few things. Do you lie when it’s convenient or try to be straight? Do you panic lie (get nervous and just say what the other person wants to hear)? Do you hold others accountable when they lie to you, willing to confront them and find out what’s really going on?

I challenge you today to commit to be a person of truth. You’ll discover your life has much less stress because you don’t have to keep track of the lies. You’ll also build better relationships with everyone you encounter.


October 29, 2008

You Go, Girls
Filed under: Construction Superintendents — Tags: — nedpelger

I’ve often heard that few women work in construction supervision. In fact, I’ve never seen any. Of course I’m familiar with a few female Project Managers, but no Construction Supervisors. I was pleasantly surprised, then, in the last two days to read two stories about women who won awards for their work in construction supervision.

The Courrier News in Elgin, IL has an article about Shelley Costello of TranSystems, the construction supervisor on a downtown streetscape project. The downtown businesses presented her an award for excellent customer service. The funny hook in the article stated that they hardly recognized Shelley at the awards banquet. They were accustomed to seeing her in concrete caked work boots and an orange vest, but now saw her in a sparkling black dress with her hair done.  I take that as a sartorial challenge for Construction Supervisors everywhere.

In another news article, Holly Bowers, a 29 year old Construction Supervisor in Raleigh, NC, helped win a Gold Award in the local Parade of Homes. She started with Oak City Homes as a bookkeeper, but grew fascinated with construction and was given the opportunity to move into construction supervision. Having her first project win a Gold Award is quite a feather in her cap.

So a few reports of female Construction Supervisors doesn’t make a trend, but hopefully it encourages more women to enter this rewarding occupation. As Winny said, “You have nothing to fear but fear itself.”


October 22, 2008

The Importance of a First Favor Impression
Filed under: Construction Superintendents — Tags: — nedpelger

Lots of people tell you to try to make a great first impression on others. I don’t disagree with the standard advice of good eye contact and a firm handshake. What I’ve discovered over the years, though, is to distrust the first impression. The creepiest people often make great first impressions. Con men and swindlers learn to make that great first impression, relying on the fact that once you assume they are good folks, you’ll stop paying attention to what they actually do.

The first favor impression matters much more to me than the first impression. As a young engineer and project manager, I remember working for High Construction, part of a group of companies. A guy from High Steel or High Concrete would call and ask a simple favor. Perhaps they needed a beam sized or a quick budget for a project they were considering. These tasks weren’t in my job description, but I knew they mattered. These guys didn’t know me well and this was the first time they had asked for a favor.

I tried to make these first favor requests among my highest priorities. I knew that I’d develop the reputation of being competent and reliable if I quickly helped them with their problems. Other opportunities came to me, people recommended me for projects and jobs, because I’d established myself as a can-do guy. You must manage your reputation if you want to advance in this business.

Recently a young man offered to help me on a simple home project, but then never followed up. I remembered my concept of the importance of the first favor impression. This fellow now belongs, in my mind, to that large group of people that talk but don’t effectively act. Which group do you want to be part of?


October 10, 2008

Construction Supervisor Rescues Abandoned Infant
Filed under: Construction Superintendents — Tags: — nedpelger

Robert Lee Hearn, a Construction Supervisor, just completed a site meeting with the Utility Locaters for a development project near the rural community of Indiantown in western Martin County, Fla.  As many of us have done on a new large site project, he drove around a bit, just exploring the roads. He wanted to get a feel of the place.

He crawled out of his truck to have a better look around and heard a whimpering sound. Initially thinking it was an animal, he planned to leave. But then he heard the unmistakable sound of a baby. He discovered a naked, abandoned newborn infant with the umbilical cord still attached, lying on a fire ant mound. Hearn said his first impulse was to “Beat a fast path out of there”. Instead, he scooped the infant into his hands and went to his truck.

As he called 911, he realized fire ants were crawling all over both he and the baby.  “Oh my God, it’s fulla’ ants! Hold on,” he yelled into the mike, brushing ants off the baby and himself.  The infant was barely alive, dehydrated and bitten hundreds of times by fire ants.

But that was 1989 and that baby boy didn’t just survive, he thrived. He’s in college now, part of an adoptive family that helped him steer a course from his rough start. Read the rest of the details here.

So I’d like to say to Robert Lee Hearn, whereever you are, thanks for getting involved and doing the right thing. You are certainly one of the heroes in this young man’s story. If you have any other stories about a Construction Supervisor acting as a hero, please share it with us in the comments section.


October 7, 2008

A Project Failure in North Korea
Filed under: Construction Superintendents — Tags: — nedpelger

One of my favorite quotes comes from the brilliant, free market economist Milton Friedman who said, “If the Federal Government was in charge of the Sahara Desert, within 5 years there would be a shortage of sand.”

A few years ago the North Korean government decided to build the world’s tallest hotel. They sort of succeeded. The tall building pictured below was built, but they ran out of money to finish it. Then the poor quality concrete work started failing, so it’s never been occupied.

Built in the capital city of Pyongyang, the Ryugyong Hotel was placed on city maps and even stamps before it was built. Now the tour guides pass by the structure without mentioning it (as could only happen in a totalitarian government) and it has been removed from city maps.

The building that was to inspire great pride in accomplishment turned into an embarassment and a blight. I wonder if the Construction Supervisors and the Design Professionals were punished for the project failure. Do you think they should have been?


October 4, 2008

The Effective Construction Supervisor

James Adrian, a consultant and speaker for the construction industry, understands the importance of the Construction Supervisor to successful construction projects. He states in an article titled How to Identify an Effective Construction Supervisor that the 100 decisions a Construction Supervisor makes in a day greatly affects project outcome. He lists 10 skills and attributes below:


October 3, 2008

Construction Worker Damaged by Dry Hump
Filed under: Construction Superintendents — Tags: — nedpelger

I found an article from a site in New Zealand that has a construction company boss saying things like,“Don’t  flick Mr C’s balls because he doesn’t like it”. I imagine I’d belong to that group of men that would prefer not to have their balls flicked as well.

I remember working as a roadie to pay for college and having a young woman, on a dare, grab my family jewels unexpectedly. A terrible feeling of helplessness came over me. Richard Nixon was correct when he said, “If we’ve got them by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow.”

I’ve copied portions of the article below.

A construction company employee has won thousands in compensation after being subjected to workplace antics such as “dry humping” and “genital flicking”.

The Employment Relations Authority (ERA) case, heard in Christchurch, exposed a sexually-oriented culture in the unnamed company, but one the company defended as being common within the industry.

The complainant (Mr C) worked for the company between 2005 and 2008.

He said one incident in 2007 involved the company’s managing director (Mr E) approaching him from behind while he was bending over and “rubbing his genital area” against his backside – a term the report described as “dry humping”.

Mr C said he was shocked and immediately took evasive action.

Mr E later denied knowledge of the incident, but Mr C said he must have had amnesia.

At a Christmas function the same year, Mr C said he was the subject of another unpleasant experience, which the ERA report described as “genital flicking”.

“This was a process where, when a group of workmates were standing together, typically in a social environment, one or other of them would flick at or near the genitals of a colleague nearby, allegedly with purpose of making the recipient spill his drink.”

Mr E said he recalled some genital flicking, along with Mr C’s protests, but that he had told staff “not to flick Mr C’s balls because he doesn’t like it”.

A solicitor for Mr C wrote to the company warning of the behaviour but the company replied by suggesting it was endemic within the industry.

After the genital flicking incident, Mr C was left out of a company fishing trip and told his physical safety couldn’t be guaranteed.

Mr C also alleged Mr E had made offensive remarks relating to his 25-year-old daughter.

The situation took its toll on Mr C and he ended up leaving his job through stress and wound up a sickness beneficiary.

The ERA report said witnesses generally accepted the behaviour alleged by Mr C probably happened, but that it was part of the job and Mr C in effect needed to “harden up”.

The company referred to “rituals of Kiwi mateship” involved in the building industry.

“Such rituals underpin the culture of the building and construction industry. It is not intended as sexual and is not viewed by those in the industry as sexual.”

It said steps were taken to stop Mr C being the target of rituals once it became apparent he was offended by it, and Mr C accepted that was the case.

The ERA said it had no hesitation in concluding that Mr C had suffered from the behaviour and was entitled to remedies.

It said remedying the situation by simply protecting the complainant was not satisfactory as it only ostracised him, and that a good employer would have taken steps to remove the culture altogether.

The ERA said it was treating the situation as an unjustified disadvantage action rather than unjustified dismissal.

It ordered the company to pay compensation of $12,500 plus loss in earnings between when Mr C left and the date of the hearing.

While I know this is a serious topic, I have to laugh when I read “Mr C said he was shocked and immediately took evasive action.” I can imagine Mr C serpentining across the jobsite.

So what’s the take away from this post, for myself and others? Grow Up. Don’t act like junior high school boys when you’re at work.

« Newer PostsOlder Posts »