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Conquering the Cold: Best Practices for Tackling the Challenges of Winter Construction

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Tackling the Challenges of Winter Construction

The colder months can be a challenging and hazardous time for the construction industry. Plummeting temperatures often lead to unpredictable weather conditions and construction firms can face a myriad of obstacles that threaten to disrupt projects, delay supply chains, and break budgets.

Whether it’s the impact of freezing conditions on materials or equipment or the danger of ice to site workers, winter can easily derail building work without the right precautions and measures in place.

To help protect your site and your workers from the perils of winter experts in construction ERP software have put together some practical tips to keep your projects on track and on time.

Focus on Procurement

Tracking orders placed with suppliers is vital for the smooth running of any construction project. However, with so many factors to consider, the process can be complex, particularly during winter when bad weather puts suppliers under added pressure to deliver materials and services on time. One way to mitigate these risks and keep projects on track and within budget is with construction procurement and purchase order software. Not only does it enable managers to monitor the likely availability of materials and equipment closely, but it will also take care of bulk and call-off orders, discounts, invoice 3-way matching, and more. Procurement software can also deliver significant cost savings for construction companies, ensuring materials arrive on time, and teams continue working on-site despite the winter conditions. 

Adopt Anti-slip Measures

Slips, trips, and falls are common causes of construction site injuries, and the dangers only heighten when work takes place during winter months. Ice can form on scaffolding, stairs, ladders, and walkways, making them extremely slippery and hazardous for workers to navigate safely. To avoid injuries occurring keep all walkways, stairs, and working surfaces clear of snow and ice using effective de-icing agents such as grit, sand, and salt. Site managers should also introduce anti-slip grating where possible, and workers should be provided with slip-resistant footwear to reduce the risk of accidents further.

Go Digital with Delivery Notes

Winter is hazardous enough for delivery drivers without the additional pressure of obtaining signed copies of physical paperwork, also known as Goods Received Notes (GRN). These notes are frequently mislaid, ignored, or get so damaged they become ineligible, particularly when there’s snow and winter rain around. The best way to manage and organise this process is with a digital GRN Register which is one of the key features of construction management software. This enables site personnel and suppliers to send electronic documents directly so that finance teams no longer wait for documents to arrive by other means which can be prone to winter weather delays. It also stops essential documents from getting lost while providing real-time data about what materials are delivered, where, and when.

Improve Site Lighting

With fewer daylight hours in winter, construction sites must be well-lit to enhance visibility and keep workers safe during dark mornings and evenings. When teams struggle to see their surrounding area, they’re unlikely to see the dangerous hazards lurking in front of them. Installing tower lights across your site is an effective way to illuminate any potential dangers that could cause injuries. Even improving the lighting you already have will be beneficial for site workers and help keep projects on track.

Leverage Business Analytics

Data-driven decision-making is essential for managing construction projects effectively during winter given the unique challenges brought by extreme weather conditions and the potential disruption to supplies. With business analytics software, which forms part of ERP construction software solutions, construction firms have access to real-time information in easy-to-use, personalised dashboards, providing site managers with data at their fingertips so they can make better, informed decisions that will help projects remain on schedule.

Maintain Essential Equipment

All manual and mechanical site equipment should be properly maintained and regularly serviced to ensure optimal performance throughout the winter. This could mean setting fuel and hydraulic fuels at recommended levels and using winter-grade oils and lubricants to avoid equipment breaking down which could force work to grind to a halt, leading to expensive project delays.

Streamline Project Collaboration 

Keeping all your teams informed and in sync across construction sites is one of the biggest challenges for the industry. Throw in harsh weather, an increased risk of hazards, and the greater need for personal safety and the job gets even tougher. For this reason, many companies use construction project collaboration software to communicate efficiently with teams and provide access to important documents on-site via mobile devices. This offers managers the opportunity to review real-time data of specific projects as well as an overview of all company activity which could face disruption from snow, ice, and other winter challenges. The software also enables clear communication between all parties, regardless of location or where they are based.

Provide Cold-Weather Clothing

It seems obvious, but construction workers must be protected against constant exposure to cold, wintry weather and provided with the appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPR) for the work they’re undertaking. Spending prolonged periods in sub-zero temperatures is detrimental to health and could lead to a rise in sick days and lower productivity. Therefore, essential items such as insulated clothing, warm jackets, gloves, and waterproof footwear will keep the cold at bay and help workers carry out their duties.

Make Early Morning Weather Checks

In winter, the first task of every construction site manager should be to check the weather forecast to identify changes that have the potential to cause major disruption to workflow. When wintry rain or snow unexpectedly arrives without notice or warning it will inevitably lead to project delays that could otherwise have been avoided. Closely monitoring the weather allows managers to predict extreme wintry conditions and provides them with valuable time to winterproof the building site so minimum disruption is caused. For example, tarpaulin will keep workspaces dry and covered, while warm break-out areas give workers a place to shelter from extreme conditions before tasks can restart. 

Keep Service Roads Clear

Winter throws up logistical challenges for construction companies as roads can easily become blocked by snow and ice, causing delays in deliveries of materials and equipment. This can disrupt supply chains and cause a potential shortage of materials on-site, thus lengthening completion times and adding to project costs. Keeping transportation routes open and clear with regular gritting will enable projects to continue in harsh conditions. Similarly, leveraging ERP software to maintain open lines of communication with suppliers and subcontractors will help mitigate further problems that could arise.

Prepare for an Emergency

Managers should review and update all response plans in case of a site emergency in winter. That should involve the re-stocking of first-aid stations and supplies, while workers should receive appropriate training around emergency procedures and protocols. In the event of high winds and heavy snowfall forcing a temporary site shutdown, workers should also have access to safe, dry areas to avoid unnecessary injuries and further project delays.

From supply chain continuity to worker safety, winter poses unique challenges for the construction industry as a whole. However, with careful planning, smart decision-making, and the right tools such as construction management software, site managers can overcome these hurdles so that deadlines can be met, and projects completed on time.

Keeping Your Site Safe in Winter

Construction projects face numerous challenges during the winter months, from supply chain disruptions to hazardous working conditions. However, with proper planning and preparation, construction managers can mitigate many of these issues. Key strategies include implementing procurement software, anti-slip measures, digital delivery processes, improved lighting and analytics, equipment maintenance, collaboration tools, protective clothing, weather monitoring, and emergency response plans. By leveraging technology, data, and communication to enhance visibility and coordination, managers can keep projects on track despite wintry weather. Though winter inevitably poses difficulties, construction teams who are informed, equipped, and ready to respond can continue working safely and productively. With the right precautions in place, the cold months don’t have to put projects on ice.

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Pros and Cons of EV Company Cars in 2024

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ev company cars uk

Businesses and individuals are switching to electric vehicles in ever-increasing numbers. Latest figures show there were more than 1 million fully electric cars registered in the UK in February 2024 on top of a further 56,000 electric vans and 620,000 plug-in hybrids.  

Now, with a government ban on the sale of all new petrol and diesel cars due to come into force in 2035, more and more businesses and employees will be trading in their polluting fossil-fuel company vehicles for a zero-emissions electric model. 

From salary sacrifice schemes to tax benefits, business car insurance specialists, Keith Michaels has weighed up the advantages and disadvantages of driving an electric company vehicle in 2024 and explained what this means for employers and benefit in kind (BiK). 

The Pros of EV Company Cars 

Owning a company car was once a tax-efficient benefit designed to stimulate the UK car market. That benefit soon became diluted as governments clamped down on benefit-in-kind rules, making company cars less desirable for businesses and employees alike. 

The rise in electric cars changed attitudes again thanks to attractive benefit rates for employees and tax deductions for employers aimed at encouraging uptake in EVs, reducing carbon emissions, and helping the government meet its Net Zero target. 

With electric vehicle technology constantly improving, it’s no surprise that businesses are now choosing EVs over standard motor options. Not only is this good news for the environment but there’s less maintenance and lower running costs with electric vehicles compared to those powered by combustion engines. 

The advantages of EV company cars for both businesses and employees in 2024 include: 

Emission-based tax benefits  

Businesses may offer employee salary sacrifice schemes in return for an electric company car with zero emissions as it delivers substantial savings through tax benefits. Instead of calculating emissions, tax rates are fixed for all electric company cars, so businesses won’t pay Class 1 National Insurance contributions on the salary given up, but 1A National Insurance on the lower amount of benefit in kind instead. 

Unlike other so-called benefits in kind such as mobile phones or health insurance, income tax charges for electric cars aren’t based on foregone wages, but rather a percentage of the car’s list price as defined by HMRC. For fully electric vehicles, the rate is 2% until 2024/25 rising by a further 1% each year until 2027/28 when it will freeze at 5% which remains substantially less than the taxable value of a petrol or diesel car.  

VAT savings 

Another tax benefit of electric company cars is that employers can recover any VAT incurred for employees who charge vehicles at work or at public charge points. At present, HMRC states that this doesn’t apply to employees who charge their company EV at home, and they are not entitled to recoup any VAT for business use. 

Purchase price discounts 

Employees who enter an EV salary sacrifice scheme in the workplace can take advantage of potential discounts on the purchase price compared to buying the car outright. Most dealers and manufacturers are crying out for guaranteed buyers for their electric fleets and are likely to entice new customers with significant cost savings and attractive packages. 

Zero congestion charges 

Any employee driving an electric company car will be exempt from paying congestion charges in the UK where they apply. Similarly, company EV drivers don’t have to pay Clean Air Zone charges which are currently in force in Birmingham, Bristol, Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, and Glasgow and will soon roll out across other towns and cities. Company EVs are also exempt from London’s ULEZ charges which currently stand at £12.50 per day for vehicles that don’t meet the strict emissions criteria.  

The Cons of EV Company Cars 

Electric company cars provide many benefits for businesses and employees, but there are also disadvantages to consider. From a reduction in take-home salary to limited vehicle options, the drawbacks to driving a company EV include the following: 

Lower take-home salary and pension contributions 

While salary sacrifice schemes can be financially beneficial for employees, they also mean a reduction in take-home salary. This is because the cost of the EV is deducted before National Insurance contributions and taxes apply, potentially leaving workers with less money and a smaller budget at the end of each month. Similarly, salary sacrifice schemes can also negatively impact workplace pensions as a reduction in gross salary means lower pension contributions. This could have long-term implications for an employee’s retirement pot and affect their future financial security. 

Mortgage and loan challenges 

Any reduction in take-home salary resulting from a salary sacrifice scheme could harm an employee’s ability to secure a mortgage and limit their borrowing capacity for loans. Mortgage providers generally base their rules around lending on an employee’s income and monthly expenses. Therefore, a lower take-home salary could be detrimental for employees looking to secure a mortgage or loan or affect the terms of interest they are offered. 

Limited electric car selection 

Those who enter an electric company car salary sacrifice scheme are unlikely to have an unlimited choice of vehicles. Most employers will have a contract or arrangement with specific manufacturers, giving employees a smaller selection of makes and models of EVs to choose from. Not only that, but some employees may also find they are responsible for the upkeep of their company electric car under the terms and conditions of their salary sacrifice scheme. As a result, the employee could be liable for all servicing, repairs, insurance fees, and ongoing costs which could reduce the financial and tax benefits of a salary sacrifice scheme. 

Penalties for early scheme exit 

Many EV salary sacrifice schemes offer limited flexibility when employees leave the scheme early or do not meet the pre-agreed terms of the agreement. There are many reasons why this may happen such as workplace changes or new business ownership, but employees are often charged fees or penalties for exiting a scheme early. Also, when an employee changes jobs they may want to transfer their salary sacrifice scheme to their new employer. However, this solely depends on the agreement in place between the employer and the scheme provider and may not always be possible. 

Overall, electric company car sacrifice schemes can deliver many benefits for both businesses and employees including tax savings and discounts on purchase prices, lower running and maintenance costs, and zero emission charges. However, EV salary sacrifice schemes can also cause a reduction in take-home salary, penalties for early exits, and limited vehicle choice. Therefore, it is essential to weigh up the pros and cons of any electric company car salary sacrifice scheme to fully understand the obligations and limitations involved with switching from fossil-fuel vehicles to EVs. 

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DeepTech Startup AVGARDE Wins the DRDO Dare to Dream 4.0 Contest for National Level Innovations in Counter Drone Technologies

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AVGARDE

Deeptech startup AVGARDE was declared the winner of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) Dare to Dream 4.0 Contest for national level startup innovations in ‘countermeasures for drone and swarm of drones’. Incubated at IISc Bangalore and IIT Guwahati, AVGARDE is building a cutting-edge AI-driven object sensing platform for low-altitude airspace management. Founded in Assam, AVGARDE has offices in Bangalore and Guwahati, with Pan-India operations and associates supporting customers across the country.

The prestigious DRDO Dare to Dream competition provides a unique opportunity for startups and innovators to address key challenges in emerging technologies that can help boost India’s aerospace and defence capabilities, while contributing towards the country’s Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) ecosystem to achieve technological self-reliance.  

Manash Bhuyan, Managing Director & Co-Founder of AVGARDE said: “We are honoured and proud to be a winner at DRDO’s coveted innovation contest, Dare to Dream 4.0. This award is a testimony of our globally competitive technology developed by our amazingly talented team. With this recognition, the innovation journey of AVGARDE is further validated as we continue to develop our best-in-class AI-driven airspace management platform for various applications, including drone countermeasures. With the proliferation of drones, the low-altitude airspace is confronted with many potential risks and threats for civilian and military dual-use cases. As we address these new-age challenges, AVGARDE is motivated to develop pioneering indigenous technology and contribute effectively towards a self-reliant India.”

Currently, the AVGARDE DeepSense platform offers three product lines – (1) DroneSafe – an AI-enabled Counter Unmanned Aerial System (C-UAS) to detect, classify, mitigate and report aerial risks/threats from drones, UAVs and other aerial objects; (2) DIWAR – an all-band GPS Jammer for tackling drones and inhibiting its airborne motions; and (3) BirdsEye – an intelligent Bird Detection and Monitoring Radar (BDMR) for dual-use aviation safety and preventing Bird Aircraft Strike Hazard (BASH). 

Nilutpal Choudhury, CEO & Co-Founder of AVGARDE said: “This award is a phenomenal milestone for AVGARDE and I have immense admiration and gratitude for our diverse and great team. DRDO’s Dare to Dream is a great platform to validate innovations as it’s a multi-stage screening process with various selection criteria considering aspects of novelty, applicability, implementability, technical merit and maturity. Therefore, it is a great honour to be recognized by DRDO, our country’s esteemed R&D organization for aerospace and defence. Our team is further encouraged to innovate continuously to develop advanced home-grown technologies to fulfill our commitment towards Atmanirbhar Bharat.”   

About Avgarde Systems

Avgarde Systems Private Limited (“AVGARDE”) is a radio frequency, wireless technology and artificial intelligence focused deeptech startup building an AI-driven object sensing platform for low-altitude airspace management. With the proliferation of drones, AVGARDE is reimagining wireless technologies to innovate the next generation products for the drone airspace and allied operations, with applications across  airports airspace safety, critical infrastructure protection, drone fleet operations, unmanned traffic management, aerospace and defence.

Founded in India as a private limited company, AVGARDE has offices in Bangalore, the world’s fastest growing tech hub, and Guwahati, the gateway to the Northeast – India’s land bridge to Southeast Asia. AVGARDE has incubation and research partnerships with some of India’s top institutions, including Indian Institute of Science (IISc) Bangalore, and Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Guwahati.

About DRDO – Dare to Dream Innovation Contest

Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) is a premier agency under the Indian Ministry of Defence, which is responsible for the military’s research and development. DRDO technologies have been adopted by the Indian Army, the Indian Navy, the Indian Air Force and others. DRDO also promotes R&D though it’s Technology Development Fund (TDF), which is focused on supporting Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) and the development of indigenous technologies. To promote startups and innovators, the DRDO Dare to Dream Innovation Contest was launched in honour of Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, a renowned scientist and former President of India.

The DRDO Dare to Dream Innovation Contest intends to scout and promote individuals and startups for innovations in Defence & Aerospace. With such initiatives, the Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) provides a unique opportunity for startups and innovators to solve some key challenges in emerging technologies that can help boost India’s defence & aerospace capabilities.

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AFFF Exposure Leads to Chronic Ailments: How to Alleviate Health Risks?

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AFFF exposure

The job of a firefighter is not just stressful but also dangerous. The risks associated with their health and lives are real. This danger is not over once a firefighter walks out of a site that had previously caught fire. The flames might have been extinguished for good, but the firefighter foam, or AFFF, results in major harm.

Firefighters get exposed to AFFF daily as a part of their occupation and training. This toxic foam leads to several life-threatening ailments that hurt a person’s quality of life and even decrease their lifespan. 

In December 2023, dotnews.com reported that most of the Legislature in Worcester had signed a letter to Andrea Campbell, an attorney general. The letter was a plea urging the state to join the firefighters detected with cancer in the lawsuits they have filed against manufacturers of firefighting gear. It’s because these gears have harmful ‘PFAS’ (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) or ‘forever chemicals’ that are detrimental to health.

This news emphasizes that AFFF exposure is fatal for firefighters, and they need to be secured from it. In this article, we will discuss the dangers of AFFF to human health and how firefighters can mitigate the health risks.

Understanding AFFF and its Health Hazards

AFFF (Aqueous Film Forming Foam) is a firefighter foam that has fluorine and is used in training Class B materials like jet fuel, oil, and gasoline, for the shore or shipboard facility fire suppression systems. The foam develops a barrier that diminishes the fire by taking off the oxygen supply and allowing the fuel to cool down. 

TorHoerman Law states that AFFF is very effective against some critical fires. 

However, many states are planning to ban the use of AFFF because of its toxic chemicals, which affect both humans and the environment. The U.S. military, in October 2024, intends to stop all the uses of AFFF. The Federal Aviation Administration will follow this initiative soon after. 

The latest studies highlight that PFAS persists in nature. It can also enter the human body through water, air, and soil contamination. Leading organizations such as the IARC (International Agency for Research and Cancer) and the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) consider PFAS to be carcinogenic. Therefore, other than restricted use, there is also a need for secure practices for handling and disposal. 

The researchers with the EPA and Department of Defense state that AFFF exposure can result in: 

  • Asthma
  • Fertility problems
  • Immune system changes
  • Issues in fetal and child development
  • Problems related to cholesterol
  • Liver damage
  • Higher chances of kidney, testicular, and various other cancers
  • Thyroid disease
  • Preeclampsia induced by pregnancy
  • Ulcerative colitis
     

Firefighters who have witnessed such health hazards should file a firefighter foam lawsuit to seek legal compensation. The money that they get can be used to cover all the economic and non-economic damages that they have endured because of this toxic foam exposure.

Safe Handling Is Crucial for Alleviating Health Risks

Once you are affected by AFFF exposure, you have the choice of making a legal claim under the guidance of a lawyer. However, it is also necessary for firefighters and other safety professionals to practice security measures to reduce the health hazards linked to this foam as much as possible.

The following guidelines are useful:

Using PPE (personal protective equipment)

The workers who have to deal with AFFF should wear the correct PPE, which comprises face shields, goggles, and gloves, to avert splash hazards. They also need P2 respirators to ensure that any harmful particles are filtered out. Also, if the safety gear has PFAS, companies must look for safer alternatives.

Implementing Correct Awareness and Training

Executing in-depth, regular training sessions that focus on the risks of AFFF and secure ways to manage the same is necessary. It will help firefighters learn about emergency response measures that will help to bring down the harm caused by the foam. Training should also focus on spill response, correct use of PPE, and correct disposal methods to make sure the staff is safe.

Following Correct Disposal Methods

It is necessary to dispose of AFFF correctly, or else it can cause much harm to nature. Companies should adhere to environmental regulations to avert any hazards. It is necessary to get in touch with a toxic waste disposal service provider because they have the necessary know-how and tools to dispose of AFFF without causing additional harm.

Storing AFFF the Right Away

It is also necessary to store AFFF correctly. The Department of Ecology has shared a few regulations that can help. 

1. Refrain from giving away or selling AFFF to any other fire departments.

2. Secure the AFFF tanks and containers from the elements.

3. Store the containers strictly inside a shed or building.

4. Make use of secondary containment to avert AFFF release to the environment when there is an accident or a spill in the storage area.

5. Make sure to label the tanks and containers with the manufacture date, contents, and any hazards that the contents might pose.

6. Keep the tanks and containers clean to check whether there are any signs of leakage or any other issues when you check them.

In conclusion, firefighter foam, though effective in extinguishing dangerous flames, poses much harm to human health. Once affected, firefighters and others have the option to file a lawsuit and seek the fair compensation they deserve by following the guidance of a lawyer. However, it is also essential to adhere to a few safety practices that will go a long way in alleviating health risks at work.

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