OSHA: Employers must pay for safety equipment
OSHA now requires employers to pay for employees’ job-related personal protective equipment. The rule, which took effect on February 13, will be implemented May 15.

With the exception of a few items – such as steel-toe boots (considered to be non-specialty-specific protective footwear) and prescription safety eyewear – employers must pay for the minimum level of necessary PPE, including hard hats, chemical protective equipment, fall protection equipment, gloves, goggles, safety shoes, safety glasses, face shields, welding helmets, etc.

Employers can either pay outright for the equipment, give employees an allowance to purchase it themselves or reimburse them for purchases made on their own.

If an employer requires upgraded PPE, it must pay the cost. On the other hand, if the upgrade is the employee’s choice, then the employee pays for it. Employers do not, however, have to provide PPE not listed in previous OSHA standards.

OSHA believes the rule will lead to 21,000 fewer occupational injuries per year.

Employers do not need to document their compliance. “Unless there is some issue where an employee says they paid for PPE and the employer argues otherwise, documentation isn’t necessary,” says Patrick Kapust, safety and health specialist, OSHA. “A prudent employer, however, would keep adequate documentation.”

Employers can receive a citation and/or a penalty fee if an OSHA inspector finds non-compliance while performing a routine inspection, Kapust says, or if an employee fills out a legitimate complaint form concerning a lack of paid-for PPE.
– Barbara Ibrahim Cox

AEMP names public and private fleet technicians of the year
For the second year in a row, a Virginia Department of Transportation employee has been honored with the Association of Equipment Management Professionals’ Public Fleet Technician of the Year award. Craig Donor received the 2007 honor for his continuous efforts to streamline VDOT operations.

“I was splitting a tractor when I received the call,” Donor says. “I was completely shocked to realize I had won such a prestigious award. I told my supervisor we need to widen the bay doors to fit Bruce Nelson’s (last year’s AEMP Public Tech) and my egos into the garage.”

Donor is responsible for a nine-shop district, and helped to develop laptop diagnostic equipment for VDOT repair shops statewide. Donor is also the head mechanic on the V-Ditcher Committee that is designing a prototype piece of equipment now being field-tested. This prototype will allow re-forming and cutting new ditches while removing spoils onto a conveyor belt in one pass. The machine is being built by Maddock of Bloomington, Indiana, and is about the size of a John Deere grader. The V-Ditcher is hydraulically controlled and completely variable on the fly to accommodate a 4/1 V-shaped ditch to / V-shaped ditch splayed flat and more wide than deep. The new equipment will improve efficiency by reducing maintenance costs, required manpower, and the time needed to complete the job, explains Donor.

“The V-Ditcher’s sole purpose is to facilitate easier ditching for variable slopes,” says Donor. “We are looking to have the prototype out in the field late this summer or early this fall. The machine will be tested here in Virginia, most likely at our Richmond hub.”

Donor also helped implement an idea that organized the bed space of field service trucks allowing room for additional spare parts and supplies.

In the 2007 Private Fleet Technician of the Year category, the AEMP recognized Brian Ganson of George J. Igel & Company of Columbus, Ohio. Ganson, the youngest of Igel’s 20 field mechanics, is on the firm’s safety committee and is largely responsible for the integration of Earthwave Technologies’ GPS systems within their fleet.

“As one of our other mechanics said to me, he felt like he won, too,” Ganson says. “He did, as well as the other mechanics I have learned from over the years.”

Ganson made suggestions to Earthwave Technologies regarding GPS improvements that are now integrated in their latest model. Thanks to Ganson’s efforts, the GPS system will inform an end-user if a piece of equipment shuts down.

“If we have a pump running over the weekend with plans of having a dry ditch to work in on Monday we need to know if the pump goes down,” Ganson explains.

Adds Ganson: “I thank the Lord that I am fortunate enough to work for a top-notch company like Igel and to have the privilege of being taught by some of the best technicians in the industry. I have come up through the ranks, and I truly enjoy the challenges that come my way day to day. I was pleased to hear that the company thought well enough of my work to nominate me.”
– Adam Giannini

NAHB forecast shows continued housing market decline
With the nation in the midst of what the National Association of Home Builders calls the most dramatic housing downswing since the Great Depression, relief – at least for now – is not on the horizon.

“All of the more recent housing indicators point downward,” says David Seiders, chief economist, NAHB. “There is no question housing is the weakest component of the economy and it’s pushing the economy into recession.”

NAHB’s recent housing outlook, conducted by Seiders, shows a 25-percent decline in total housing starts, with new single-family home construction down 31 percent for the year.

And the declines don’t stop there. Housing prices plummeted at the end of 2007, resulting in a double-edged sword, Seiders says. “Falling house prices create expectations of further decline, but also open doors for people to buy,” he notes. “But good prices have not been good enough, because the housing data does not indicate higher sales numbers.”

Since low house prices won’t last forever, Seiders says this short window of opportunity could motivate a few “leaners” into the new house market.

Unfortunately, it’s going to take a lot of buyers to put a dent in such a weighed-down market. NAHB’s outlook indicated more than 2 million vacant housing units for sale at the end of 2007, as opposed to 800,000 in 1981.

So when will the market get relief? “Single-family home starts could show improvement by the end of this year,” Seiders says.

Until then, Seiders and Jerry Howard, chief executive officer and executive vice president, NAHB, say the passing of the Economic Stimulus Act should offer some assistance in turning the economy around. Both pointed out, however, that Congress did not address the major problem in the homebuilding industry.

In response, NAHB is advocating a tax credit for home purchases, similar to legislation Congress enacted in the mid-1970s. Then, home buyers were given a $2,000 tax credit, but in today’s terms it would be almost $10,000 due to inflation, according to Howard.

“This type of proposal could go far in releasing pent up demand,” Howard explains. “It could also re-establish consumer confidence in the value of homeownership and help diminish the amount of inventory that’s currently on the market.”

Sen. Johnny Isakson and Sen. Debbie Stabenow have introduced similar temporary tax credit bills, but Congress has yet to vote on them. “We would like to think (if the market continues to decline) Congress will take action,” Howard says. “It’s incumbent upon them to do something and do it soon.”
– Barbara Ibrahim Cox

Industry Briefs
Deere expands presence in China

John Deere will expand its presence in China. Upon government approval, Deere will own 50 percent of Xuzhou Xuwa Excavator Machinery, a subsidiary of Xuzhou Bohui Science and Technology Development.

JLG: Ground Support now service brand
JLG Industries, an Oshkosh company, has announced Ground Support will be the new umbrella branding for its parts, training, used equipment sales, reconditioning, repair and maintenance services, financing and technical support services.

Bridgestone, Bandag extend warranty coverage
Bridgestone Firestone North American Tire will extend the warranty for its premium truck tires and casings to seven years, provided the tread has not been worn to lower than 2/32 inches. The extended warranty will also cover the casing for three retreads, provided it has been inspected and re-treaded by Bandag-certified re-treaders within seven years of the date of manufacture.

CNH plant expansion under way
Case New Holland’s Fargo, North Dakota, plant is undergoing an $18 million expansion. Local Case officials secured $1.8 million in funding through tax-payer backed financial packages for the expansion, which will create an additional 360 jobs.