Category Archives: Global

Johns Manville

Industrial insulation systems, typically meant to last 20 years or longer, can be very difficult to maintain while simultaneously ensuring quality service. Part of the maintenance process regarding insulation systems is focused on the prevention and treatment of corrosion under insulation (CUI). CUI is any corrosion that occurs due to moisture buildup on insulated pipes and equipment beneath the insulation or the protective metal jacket over the insulation. Prevention is the best method to combat CUI because once it occurs, it is costly and time consuming to fix. Preventative methods for CUI can include the use of products ingrained with corrosion-inhibiting chemistry and/or providing a pathway for water that may enter an insulation system to rapidly escape.

While some environments, such as areas with high humidity or rainfall, may be more prone to the occurrence of CUI, there are actually four specific factors that must be present for CUI to start. These factors are water, oxygen, a corrosive chemistry (low pH), and a suitable temperature. All four of these factors must be present for CUI to occur in any industrial insulation system. Accordingly, specifiers of industrial insulation systems should utilize materials that can help eliminate the presence of one or more of the four required factors necessary for CUI to occur.

Certain factors within the CUI “formula” are easier to prevent within an industrial insulation system than others. For example, eliminating the presence of oxygen is simply impossible, as it is present in the atmosphere. Similarly, temperatures cannot typically be adjusted because they are defined by process requirements. Corrosive chemicals in an indoor system (such as a commercial building) can be easier to account for than in an externally located system, but many naturally occurring weather events—such as acid rain—are, again, impossible to prevent. This leaves us with the last remaining factor in the CUI formula: water.

Many industrial insulation products have features to prevent water from migrating through the insulation to the metal substrate beneath. It should be noted that while the presence of water might be the easiest factor we can control in the prevention of CUI, the odds of fully preventing water ingress into an industrial insulation system are still zero. Since most experts agree that water will eventually enter any insulation system, it makes sense to focus on how to remove the water as quickly and thoroughly as possible. If the amount of time that water is present in the insulated system can be reduced, the chances of CUI occurring are dramatically reduced.

Once moisture does enter an insulation system, it will travel from the exterior jacketing through the insulation underneath to the metal pipe or equipment, where CUI will then occur. If the pipe system in question is hot enough, the heat will evaporate the moisture and drive the resulting steam away from the pipe, back through the insulation to the inside of the exterior jacketing. Because the temperature of the outer portion of the insulation and jacket will be well below the dew point, the steam will recondense on the surface of the insulation/jacket. This process is then repeated until the insulation in the system is rendered waterlogged and inefficient.

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While many insulation system designers and specifiers recognize the importance of water egress from an industrial insulated pipe system, insulation products themselves often do not create pathways for water to escape. Once moisture does enter an insulation system, it will travel from the exterior jacketing through the insulation underneath to the metal pipe or equipment, where CUI will then occur. If the pipe system in question is hot enough, the heat will evaporate the moisture and drive the resulting steam away from the pipe, back through the insulation to the inside of the exterior jacketing. Because the temperature of the outer portion of the insulation and jacket will be well below the dew point, the steam will recondense on the surface of the insulation/jacket. This process is then repeated until the insulation in the system is rendered waterlogged and inefficient.

To help combat this issue, Johns Manville (JM) recently introduced a new metal jacketing product, Cross-Flo™, designed specifically to help mitigate the occurrence of CUI in industrial insulation systems. When used in conjunction with weep holes positioned at the low points of the system, Cross-Flo’s patent-pending embossed design creates a pathway for water to quickly flow between the jacketing and insulation to exit through the weep holes. As compared to typical stucco embossed and smooth metal jacketing like that offered by JM, Cross-Flo’s pattern allows water to exit the system quickly and completely, and the Cross-Flo pattern allows water to effectively drain in any orientation (horizontal, vertical, etc.). This is not the case for cross-crimped jacketing, another metal jacketing option offered by JM, which is only effective at aiding in water egress when installed vertically. When installed horizontally, water will instead pool in the cross-crimped jacketing patterning, trapping more water between the jacketing and insulation beneath it.

The best CUI prevention strategy should take advantage of all the tools available to help reduce the risk for it to occur. In addition to using Cross-Flo metal jacketing in industrial insulated pipe systems, further steps can be taken to address the possibility of CUI. Many pipe insulations are now produced with corrosion-inhibiting chemistry, which acts as a secondary mitigation method if water does penetrate past metal jacketing in a system. When exposed to the water that entered the system, this chemistry works by neutralizing the corrosive (acidic) level of water and forming a protective silica passivation layer on the surface of the metal, thereby slowing down the rate at which the metal in the system corrodes. When specifying insulation with corrosion-inhibiting chemistry in combination with metal jacketing such as Cross-Flo, designers and specifiers can provide multiple levels of protection against CUI. This, in turn, should significantly reduce the high costs of repairing/replacing corroded pipes and equipment, and prevent unplanned downtime. Together, these practices can help extend the integrity and lifespan of an industrial pipe insulation system.

Aspen Aerogels

Pyrogel® and Cryogel® flexible blanket insulation solutions have transformed the way refining, petrochemical, and liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities think about insulation. These insulation solutions deliver exceptional thermal performance to both optimize process yields and protect critical process assets. The patented hydrophobic design drastically minimizes water uptake to maximize defense against the costly and damaging effects of corrosion under insulation (CUI).

Water is the enemy of industrial insulation. Unfortunately, rainfall, humidity, and exposure to ocean air are unavoidable for most refining, petrochemical, and LNG facilities. The risk of CUI increases with the amount of time an asset is in contact with moisture. By keeping assets drier longer, Pyrogel and Cryogel insulation reduce exposure to the harmful effects of CUI. Rather than sit above an asset, Pyrogel and Cryogel insulation conform to surfaces to ensure close contact with the asset they cover. This significantly reduces the space for water retention between the insulation and the asset itself.

Aspen Aerogels® distributes high-performance aerogels evenly throughout Pyrogel and Cryogel flexible insulation blankets. This patented design creates a uniquely hydrophobic composite to repel water and maximize protection against CUI.

Exceptional thermal performance of Pyrogel and Cryogel allows for a significant reduction in the material thickness of insulation required. The thinner profile results in less surface area exposed to the elements, further reducing the risk of moisture affecting the underlying surface.

Eliminating moisture against metal is the first line of defense in any CUI protection strategy. Corrosion inhibitors can be a useful backup. Pyrogel and Cryogel insulation blankets are infused with corrosion inhibitors to buffer any water entering the system to a pH > 7 to further protect against damaging CUI.

During maintenance and turnaround events, tool strikes and footfalls can damage thermal insulation and the protective weather jacketing that is the first line of defense against bulk water ingress. This can result in trapped water and damaging CUI. Pyrogel and Cryogel insulation is durable enough to withstand this common abuse and protect critical processes and assets.

Weather-Insensitive Installation. Pyrogel and Cryogel insulation help support a fast return to service. Projects have a lower risk of delay when teams can continue installation work in wet conditions. Facilities have even restarted operations before the outer jacketing was installed.

Passive Fire Protection. Pyrogel XTF insulation provides an exceptional combination of thermal performance, defense against CUI, and passive fire protection. Corrosion under fireproofing (CUF) often occurs between the assets and fireproofing coatings or cementitious materials. Coatings are not used with the Pyrogel XTF insulation, avoiding a potential avenue for damaging CUF.

Pyrogel and Cryogel flexible blanket insulation provide an excellent solution to both optimize process yields and maintain asset integrity. Facilities no longer have to choose between protection and performance.


CUI continues to be a major issue for process industries in oil, gas, chemical, and power-generation sectors. It is estimated that up to 10% of annual maintenance costs in these industries are caused by CUI1. Several cases of CUI may put safety of personnel, operation process, environment, and reputation at risk.

The design and proper installation of the insulation system is critical for effective mitigation of CUI. The potential influence of thermal and acoustic insulation materials is normally assessed through a series of individual laboratory tests on the insulation materials themselves, but very rarely on the applied system. Moreover, the tested physical values do not necessarily and readily reflect the potential influence that a given insulation material or system has on the risk of CUI.

To truly appreciate the influence that an insulation material has on CUI, a more sophisticated approach is needed—one that considers the full system construction and the likely failure modes that may occur during service. The influence that different insulation materials have on the water/water vapor ingress and retention processes should be considered. These are key mechanisms that influence the onset and spread of CUI and should be fully explored.

CUI Defense Mechanisms

We may consider that altogether there are five lines of defense at work to mitigate CUI:

1. Type and grade of steelwork (pipe/vessel),
2. Protective coating,
3. Insulation layers,
4. Vapor barrier, and
5. Cladding/Jacketing/Covering

For more than a decade, Armacell has worked with the world’s leading corrosion testing laboratories and institutes to conduct system-based CUI tests on its range of elastomeric and aerogel-based insulation materials under challenging operating conditions and simulated damage conditions. These institutes include the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) – United States, InnCoa GmbH – Germany, and TNO/Endures – Netherlands. Designed by some of the world’s leading authorities on CUI, the test standards are designed to put the insulation systems through rigorous evaluation under the most aggressive conditions.

Notable aspects of these tests include:

  • Long-term assessment under continuous or cycling conditions (3 to 6 months’ duration);
  • High-temperature and sweating conditions, with climate control to simulate elevated ambient temperature and high-humidity environments;
  • Failure modes designed to assess water/water vapor ingress and retention in worst-case scenarios (e.g., full thickness damage and increased exposure to high-saline solutions);
  • Use of bare carbon steel pipes (no coating) to scrutinize the true behavior of the insulation without additional protection;
  • Applying various recognized electrochemical and ultrasonic methods to measure and evaluate corrosion rates; and
  • Peer-reviewed procedures that are recognized by subject matter experts from major oil and gas producers (e.g., in accordance with NACE TG516, now AMPP TM21442).

Armacell offers two kinds of industrial insulation materials that are applied directly to the pipe or equipment surface:

ArmaFlex Industrial and ArmaGel systems have both been tested with respect to their CUI mitigation properties under the test regimes described above. Armacell’s test results were in the highest possible category for insulation applied to a bare carbon steel pipe, with corrosion rates significantly below 50µm/year.

Recently, the oil and gas industry has recognized the importance of hybrid insulation systems to improve CUI protection. Initiatives such as the Joint Industry Programme 33 (JIP 33), led by the International Association of Oil and Gas Producers, demonstrate this awareness. In their supplementary standard, aerogel insulation (such as ArmaGel) is recommended to be applied as a first layer before secondary layers of other insulation material to reduce the risk of corrosion.

For more information on the range of CUI tests performed on Armacell insulation systems, and to understand what makes ArmaGel and ArmaFlex excellent choices for CUI mitigation, please refer to

1. NACE Impact Study, 2016, Annex D, page D-10.

ABOUT ARMACELL. A leading provider of engineered foams, Armacell develops innovative and safe thermal, acoustic, and mechanical solutions that create sustainable value for its customers. Armacell’s products significantly contribute to global energy efficiency, making a difference around the world every day. With 3,100 employees and 24 production plants in 16 countries, the company operates two main businesses: Advanced Insulation and Engineered Foams. Armacell focuses on insulation materials for technical equipment, high-performance foams for high-tech and lightweight applications, and next-generation aerogel blanket technology.

Aeroflex USA


One of the most common and costly threats to industrial piping systems is a phenomenon known as CUI. Corrosion is essentially the deterioration of metals (e.g., cast-iron pipe) due to a reaction with their environment. According to the Association for Materials Protection and Performance (AMPP), corrosion is one of the costliest issues to the global construction economy.

Corrosion under pipe insulation occurs when water vapor (moisture) penetrates the insulation system and makes its way to the metallic pipe surface. If the pipe has not been properly cleaned to remove corrosion accelerators such as dust, dirt, grease, or oil, these substances can accelerate the corrosion process on the pipe surface when they encounter moisture. Once moisture is present beneath pipe insulation, it effectively gets trapped and is a constant source of deterioration.

Although corrosion is a natural process, it can be controlled. Untreated steel pipes for below-ambient operating temperatures, such as refrigeration and chilled water, are often treated with a rust inhibitor or primer. Prior to the application of mechanical insulation, the pipe surface should be cleaned to remove any existing debris. Depending on the substance, common cleaning agents include water and denatured alcohol for oily residues.

A fundamental factor to understand is that water vapor in the environment is naturally attracted to colder surfaces (pipes). This is known as vapor drive. The keys to protecting an insulated pipe are to (1) choose the correct insulation thickness, and (2) completely seal the pipe insulation system to prevent water vapor from penetrating through gaps or openings such as longitudinal seams, butt joints, and termination points.

Accurate pipe insulation thicknesses by project can be determined with industry calculators, such as 3E Plus® ( and the Mechanical Insulation Design Guide ( design guide), which factor in insulation type, pipe type, pipe size, operating temperature, average ambient temperature, average relative humidity, jacket type, and wind speed.

It is important to note that national energy codes, such as ASHRAE 90.1 and the International Energy Conservation Code® (IECC), specify minimum insulation thicknesses. Demanding operating environments typically require thicker insulation. Under-insulated pipes are unable to control condensation and vapor drive, leading to CUI and eventual failure.

The other critical component to controlling CUI is the proper installation of the pipe insulation system. Vapor stops should be installed a minimum of every 18 linear feet; and all longitudinal seams, butt joints, and termination points must be glued with the insulation manufacturer’s recommended adhesive both for adhesion and to create a vapor seal.

Pipe bends, intersections, and fittings—such as valves, flanges, couplings, and pipe hangers—also must be insulated and vapor sealed. Applying tape alone over unglued seams, or using zip ties, is never recommended. These approaches are common causes of failure.

Aeroflex USA’s AEROFLEX® brand of EPDM closed-cell, flexible elastomeric foam pipe insulation is nonpolar (repels moisture at the molecular level) and offers a low thermal conductivity, a closed-cell structure, and built-in vapor retarder that efficiently controls condensation and vapor drive for most applications. In severe operating environments, a supplemental vapor retarder (jacket or coating) may be necessary.

In addition to AEROFLEX EPDM™ insulation tubes (standard and self-seal), sheets, rolls, and AeroFit™ fitting covers, turn-key system accessories include Aerofix® zero-perm insulated pipe supports, Aeroflex adhesives (standard and low-VOC formulas), Protape® zero-perm EPDM tape, and Aerocoat™ (premium and low-VOC formulas) UV protective coatings, all of which offer single-source responsibility.

A total system approach—from updated specifications and proper design to professional installation of materials to maintenance of the insulation system—is essential in the fight against corrosion under insulation (CUI). Using the right insulation products for your system’s requirements is one essential tool in your tool kit. NIA member companies represent the full mechanical insulation supply chain, and they are skilled in matching your requirements with the right products and confirming those products are professionally installed. Proper installation, inspection, and maintenance contribute to the long-term benefits that insulation provides, including preventing damage to your systems, controlling process temperatures, reducing CO2 emissions, and ultimately paying for itself in energy savings.

NIA invited all our Manufacturer and Distributor member companies to share their best practices, latest products, and new approaches to mitigating CUI. This special section presents responses received from (in alphabetical order): Aeroflex USA, Armacell, Aspen Aerogels, Johns Manville, ROCKWOOL Technical Insulation, and Specialty Products and Insulation.

If your company would like to participate in a future member column or share its CUI solutions in a future issue, email


Foremen and Field Leaders are arguably the most critical roles in a trade contractor’s organization. They plan, coordinate, and lead your teams to build and install work correctly the first time.

Of the 28.7 million small businesses in the United States, 40% are generating and managing under $100,000 annually. A single Foreman or Superintendent leading a crew of six craftworkers is likely managing $500,000 to more than $1 million in labor every year. Given the shortage of skilled craftworkers and the risks to your projects, the need for world-class Field Leaders is undeniable.

Yet, investing in training and supporting Field Leaders is often overlooked or pushed aside. FMI frequently hears that Foremen and Superintendents are so important on jobsites that companies cannot pull them out of the field, take time to train and develop them, or engage them in project planning.

As a result, training for Field Leaders is often focused on getting the most out of minimal technical training offered by vendors, or hoping leaders learn through painful project experiences, as opposed to proactively developing critical skills and behaviors like planning, communicating, and leading productive field crews.

Top Challenges for Field Leaders

FMI’s recent talent research included feedback from more than 100 Field Leaders, Superintendents, and Project Managers, most of whom attended an FMI training program. These leaders reported their three greatest challenges (Exhibit 1):

  1. Juggling unrealistic project schedules,
  2. Difficulty staffing projects due to lack of skills and labor, and
  3. Balancing leading teams and executing work.

The first challenge is related to project schedules and the associated time to do the work. Project schedules in construction have become more and more compressed. FMI estimates that over the past 2 decades, from start of design to construc­tion completion, the average schedule duration for a warehouse has been compressed by as much as 12 months.

The other two reported challenges are directly related to the availability of field talent and the time needed to develop skilled crew members. Labor shortages were the second-most cited cause for project delays in the 2022 Associated General Contractors of America/FMI Risk Survey, and according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the construction industry had only slightly more trade workers in July 2022 (7.7 million) than it had in January 2007 (7.6 million).

Furthermore, two-thirds of CEOs surveyed for FMI’s second quarter 2022 Construction Industry Round Table (CIRT) reported difficulties finding Field Managers. The shortfall predates the current environment and will continue to impact crews in the years to come.

It will take everyone in a company to address these difficulties, but it is almost certainly time to place a much higher priority on Field Leader train­ing and development.

Companies need to help Field Leaders develop skills in four critical areas. These are:

  1. Leading and coordinating field crews,
  2. Planning weekly resource needs,
  3. Managing productivity, and
  4. Communicating effectively.

The difficult part is determining how to help your Field Leaders obtain the necessary skills to excel in these four tasks. Here are a few investments in your teams that will pay large dividends.

Make Time for Training and Development in the Field

Many current leaders are in their third or fourth decade in the construction industry, and their experience is what generates success on their projects and in your company. These experienced Field Leaders are able to plan and execute jobs on compressed time frames, while also leaving time for newer workers to ask questions, challenge approaches, take ownership of results, and correct their errors. Qualified mentors are vital, in short supply, and operating under massive time con­straints (see Exhibit 2).

“Everybody eventually is going to come across something that they’ve never had to do before,” says Seth Beckman, a Project Manager at Carlton Electric, Inc. “And the only thing you can do is get a hold of a person who has done it before and find out what was successful and anything that you really need to avoid in that situation.”

That depth of experience is not built overnight, and it requires a combination of skills. Do it incorrectly, and you risk Field Manager burnout. FMI’s Project Manager Academy research has found that overwork and a lack of skills training and career support are primary culprits.

“We have to look and find people who have the knowledge and the ability to lead and understand the work that we’re doing at the same time,” says Stanley Lee, Regional Manager at Gregori Construction, Inc.

Give your Field Leaders time to train and develop their teams. It is unrealistic to expect that a skilled trade workforce will be built without dedicating time for training and tapping your most experienced Field Leaders to conduct training and share their knowledge and experiences. Build it into project time lines and into your organization’s overall talent strategy, including roles, responsibilities, and expectations.

Focus on Planning and Resource-Related Delays

Think of a day on your jobsite when you had a field crew that was waiting, standing around, or working on less productive tasks for more than an hour. What was the cause for this situation?

The primary way to improve field productivity and reclaim time on your jobsites is by minimizing resource-related delays caused by not having the right materials, tools, equipment, or information in the hands of your Field Leaders at the time needed on the jobsite.

Field Leaders and organizations can minimize resource-related delays through planning. A strong pre-job planning process and weekly look-ahead procedures will identify those items that are needed by Field Leaders to help them be productive and provide time for teaching, training, and men­toring others, instead of responding to daily and weekly fire drills.

Weekly look-ahead plans should be developed by your Foremen or Superintendents, who identify crit­ical tasks and activities planned for the next 2 or 3 weeks, including the manpower, material, tools, equipment, and information required to do the job. It is then the organization’s responsibility to ensure that the Field Leaders get what they need to install work correctly the first time.

It is imperative that you collaborate and engage with Foremen and Superintendents in planning the work both before the job starts and every week thereafter. They will build their planning muscles and, over time, will become better and better at recognizing what they need to be successful leading productive field crews. And providing your experienced Field Leaders with time to engage in training and development for themselves and oth­ers will be critical in this process.

Train Field Leaders in Communication Skills

Often, Field Leaders are technical experts who know how to build quality projects, but many lack soft skills, such as best practices around communica­tion and how to motivate employees.

Your Field Leaders communicate with a broad range of project stakeholders, all of whom have different preferences and expectations for effective commu­nication. Field Leaders direct work for your field crews, send and receive direction from Project Managers and owners, and coordinate with other Field Leaders and other trade contractors. These diverse groups often have different communica­tion preferences, ranging from face to face to email, written job status reports, and text messages. They also have varying expectations for the level of detail they are given and when they are engaged in the process.

Teach your Field Leaders to listen to those with whom they interact and understand how to determine the best method for reaching them. Time management was cited as one of the top three challenges by Field Leaders surveyed, and communication failures underpin much of this stress. Understanding the best method for communicating and making decisions that will drive a project forward can help Field Leaders become more effective communica­tors and time managers.

Leverage Field Mentorship

Experienced Field Leaders make quick decisions to maximize productivity and efficiency, but getting those with fewer years on the job the same level of expertise takes time and attention. One way to quickly help newer Field Leaders is by formally pairing them with a mentor.

Having someone who can quickly answer ques­tions and offer advice helps Field Leaders develop the necessary experience and confidence in their decisions. Formal mentoring arrangements enable knowledge transfer and—as they gain proficiency and experience ultimately allow more staff mem­bers to take ownership of projects. Mentoring also can serve as a crucial part of succession planning at different levels.

However, the lack of formal training programs in the past means that senior leaders may not be skilled at teaching inexperienced workers. This can be addressed with leadership training for those with valuable job knowledge, and ongoing skills training as people progress in the field.

How to Help Your Field Staff Succeed

A Field Leader’s job is complicated and challenging. Prioritize time for Field Leader training by minimiz­ing resource-related delays on the jobsite. Focus on soft skills and communication, and leverage mentors to grow new, world-class Field Leaders.
Companies that invest in Field Leaders can lower business risk by building a deep pipeline of strong talent, enhance their ability to execute on projects, increase employee engagement and organizational loyalty, and improve Field Leaders’ ability to take on greater responsibility. Now is the time to act and build your leaders of the future.

FMI is a leading consulting and investment banking firm dedicated to serving companies working within the built environment. Its professionals are industry insiders who understand a company’s operating environment, challenges, and opportunities. FMI’s sector expertise and broad range of solutions help its clients discover value drivers, build resilient teams, streamline operations, grow with confidence, and sell with optimal results. Reprinted with permission from FMI. For more information, visit

A growing number of states have banned noncompete agreements, leaving employers to grapple with a patchwork of different state-level requirements and federal actions.

“We are seeing a very clear trend of increasing hostility to the use of noncompete agreements,” said Daniel Kadish, an attorney with Morgan Lewis in New York. “It has been a significantly growing trend over the last 4 or 5 years. We have seen this pick up speed.”

Noncompetes prohibit employees from working for corporate competitors or opening their own competing business within a geographic area for a certain period of time after they leave a company. Traditionally, employers have used noncompete agreements to stop employees from taking trade secrets and proprietary information to a competitor. Noncompete agreements may boost an employer’s retention rate if they prevent workers from seeking similar jobs at competitors.

The trend of banning noncompetes is likely to spread to more states in the near future, said Dan Prokott, an attorney with Faegre Drinker in Minneapolis.

States tend to follow each other, and “it becomes a bit of a bandwagon effect,” said Julie Werner, an attorney with Lowenstein Sandler in New York.

State-Level Restrictions

Four states—California, Minnesota, North Dakota, and Oklahoma1—have banned noncompete agreements entirely, and many other states have enacted restrictions, such as setting a compensation threshold or requiring advance notice.

The New York Legislature recently passed a bill2 that would ban noncompete agreements, but Governor Kathy Hochul has not signed it yet. The legislation’s “scope is very broad, and its details are very little,” said Larry Del Rossi, an attorney with Faegre Drinker in Florham Park, New Jersey. If enacted, it might make companies think twice about having their chief executives based in New York, Werner said.

The state laws primarily targeted noncompete agreements that apply to low-wage workers. “It is an effort to solve for those situations,” Werner said.

Some state laws allow noncompete agreements for employees whose salary is above a certain threshold, and others do not. Some state laws permit noncompete agreements in connection with the sale of a business, and others do not.

Some states also stipulate that you cannot have a noncompete in certain professions, like medicine or law, Del Rossi said.

The state laws do not clearly define what a business competitor is, which can make things confusing for employers that use noncompetes, Prokott said.

The variation in state laws “creates difficulties for organizations that have to comply with different rules in different places,” Kadish said.

“The trend is that every state is handling these things differently. The idea of just using a standard template form does not work anymore,” Werner said.

Federal Action

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released a proposal on January 5, 2023, to prohibit
noncompetes. The FTC said noncompetes constitute an unfair method of competition and
therefore violate Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act. It concluded that noncompetes suppress wages, stifle innovation, and make it harder for entrepreneurs to start new businesses. The agency has not released a final rule yet.

“We still suspect there will be some final rule by roughly April or May 2024 from the FTC,” Kadish said.

Corporations are likely to challenge any state or federal bans in the next year or two. “Inevitably, there is going to be legal challenges in the courts,” said Mark Goldstein, an attorney with Reed Smith in New York. “Employers need to brace for some uncertainty on this front.”

In a memo3 released on May 30, 2023, National Labor Relations Board General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo announced that some noncompete agreements violate the National Labor Relations Act 5. The announcement, which applies to nonunionized and unionized employers, may result in unfair labor practice charges for employers that use noncompetes.

The Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) urged4 the FTC to allow employers to continue using noncompete agreements with certain employees.

In comments to the FTC, Emily M. Dickens, Chief of Staff and head of government affairs at SHRM, said the FTC’s proposal would “impede SHRM members’ ability to balance the needs of workers and employers and will reduce the contractual capabilities of reasonable and consenting parties. The sweeping proposal significantly complicates HR professionals’ responsibility to protect their workforces’ intellectual property.”

Tips for Employers

Human resources professionals should stay up-to-date on state laws around noncompete agreements and have accurate records of where their employees work, Del Rossi said.

“It makes sense for organizations to review their current noncompete agreement and see if the way they are using those agreements are still aligned with their business goals,” Kadish said. For example, companies could consider tailoring the noncompete agreement to the job, adjusting the duration of the agreement, or tightening the scope of new hires who are required to sign a noncompete.

Noncompete agreements often name the state where the contract applies, based on where the business is incorporated, where the employee lives, or where the work takes place. Employers should “be thoughtful” about this choice, Werner said, and “use the right agreements for the right people,” which can include not giving noncompetes to junior employees.

In the meantime, businesses should “start planning for alternatives to noncompetes,” such as nondisclosure and nonsolicitation agreements, which can protect trade secrets, said John Siegal, an attorney with BakerHostetler in New York. “Be more flexible and creatively use less restrictive employee agreements, including customer nonsolicitation agreements and notice or garden leave provisions,” where employees are instructed to stay away from work during the notice period while still remaining on the payroll.

In a tight labor market, state prohibitions on noncompetes might make it easier for some businesses when they need to attract certain types of workers who were previously under noncompetes, said Rob Whitman, an attorney at Seyfarth in New York.

Eighteen percent of U.S. workers are subject to noncompete agreements now, and 38% of workers have been subject to noncompete agreements at some time in their careers, according to a new report5 from the U.S. Government Accountability Office. About 55% of employers said they used noncompete agreements.

“Few workers who sign noncompete agreements negotiate the terms because they are unaware of what noncompete agreements are, they want the job regardless, or the noncompete agreement is introduced after a job is accepted,” the report stated. Noncompete agreements have particularly high use in the health-care, financial services, and IT industries, according to Prokott.


Department of Labor Announces National Emphasis Program Aimed at Reducing and Preventing Workplace Hazards in Warehouses and Distribution Centers

By Victoria Godinez

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) launched a National Emphasis Program to prevent workplace hazards in warehouses, processing facilities distribution centers, and high-risk retail establishments on July 13, 2023.

In the past 10 years, warehousing and distribution centers have experienced tremendous growth, with more than 1.9 million people employed in the industry. The Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows injury and illness rates for these establishments are higher than in private industry overall and, in some sectors, more than twice the rate of private industry.

“Our enforcement efforts are designed to do one thing: lead to permanent change in workplace safety,” said Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Doug Parker. “This emphasis program allows OSHA to direct resources to establishments where evidence shows employers must be more intentional in addressing the root causes of worker injuries and align their business practices with the goal to ensure worker health and safety.”

Under this 3-year emphasis program, OSHA will conduct comprehensive safety inspections focused on hazards related to powered industrial vehicle operations, material handling and storage, walking and working surfaces, means of egress, and fire protection. The program will also include inspections of retail establishments with high injury rates with a focus on storage and loading areas; however, OSHA may expand an inspection’s scope when evidence shows that violations may exist in other areas of the establishment.

In addition, OSHA will assess heat and ergonomic hazards under the emphasis program, and health inspections may be conducted if OSHA determines these hazards are present.

Inspected establishments will be chosen from two lists. One includes establishments with industry codes covered under this emphasis program. The second consists of a limited number of retail establishments with the highest rates of injuries and illnesses resulting in days away, restricted duty, or job transfer.

State plans are required to adopt this emphasis program or establish a different program at least as effective as the federal model.

To learn more about solutions to common industry hazards, visit For more information on OSHA overall, visit

Victoria Godinez is an employee at the Department of Labor Office of Public Affairs.

Proposed Rule to Clarify Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Standard

Action seeks to align construction, general industry, and maritime standards

On July 19, 2023, the U.S. Department of Labor announced a notice of proposed rulemaking to clarify the PPE standard ( for the construction industry.

The current standard does not state clearly that PPE must fit each affected employee properly, which OSHA’s general industry and maritime standards do. The proposed change would clarify that PPE must fit each employee properly to protect them from occupational hazards.

PPE must fit properly to provide adequate protection to employees. Improperly fitting PPE may fail to provide any protection to an employee, present additional hazards, or discourage employees from using such equipment in the workplace.

The failure of standard-sized PPE to protect physically smaller construction workers properly, as well as problems with access to properly fitting PPE, have long been safety and health concerns in the construction industry, especially for some women. The proposed rule clarifies the existing requirement (, and OSHA does not expect the change will increase employers’ costs or compliance burdens. The proposed revision would align the language in OSHA’s PPE standard for construction with standards for general industry and maritime.

“If personal protective equipment does not fit properly, an employee may be unprotected or dangerously exposed to hazards and face tragic consequences,” explained Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Doug Parker. “We look forward to hearing from stakeholders on this important issue as we work together to ensure that construction workers of all genders and sizes are fitted properly with safety gear.”

Comments and hearing requests must be submitted by September 18, 2023, using the Federal eRulemaking Portal and referencing Docket No. OSHA-2019-0003.

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Department of Labor Expands Submission Requirements for Injury, Illness Data

Final rule takes effect January 1, 2024, for certain employers

On July 17, 2023, the U.S. Department of Labor announced a final rule that will require certain employers in designated high-hazard industries to electronically submit injury and illness information to OSHA that they are already required to keep.

The final rule takes effect on January 1, 2024, ( and now includes the following submission requirements:

  • Establishments with 100 or more employees in certain high-hazard industries must
    electronically submit information from their Form 300 – Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses, and Form 301 –Injury and Illness Incident Report to OSHA once a year. These submissions are in addition to submission of Form 300A – Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses.
  • To improve data quality, establishments are required to include their legal company name when making electronic submissions to OSHA from their injury and illness records.

OSHA will publish some of the data collected on its website to allow employers, employees, potential employees, employee representatives, current and potential customers, researchers, and the general public to use information about a company’s workplace safety and health record to make informed decisions. OSHA believes that providing public access to the data will ultimately reduce occupational injuries and illnesses.

“Congress intended for the Occupational Safety and Health Act to include reporting procedures that would provide the agency and the public with an understanding of the safety and health problems workers face, and this rule is a big step in finally realizing that objective,” explained Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Doug Parker. “OSHA will use these data to intervene through strategic outreach and enforcement to reduce worker injuries and illnesses in high-hazard industries. The safety and health community will benefit from the insights this information will provide at the industry level, while workers and employers will be able to make more informed decisions about their workplace’s safety and health.”

The final rule retains the current requirements for electronic submission of information from Form 300A from establishments with 20–249 employees in certain high-hazard industries and from establishments with 250 or more employees in industries that must routinely keep OSHA injury and illness records.

The announcement follows proposed amendments announced in March 2022 to regulations for requiring specific establishments in certain high-hazard industries to electronically submit information from their Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses, and Injury and Illness Incident Report.

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OSHA Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health Convenes in August

Committee and work group meetings will be held in person and online

OSHA will hold a meeting of the Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health (ACCSH) on August 9–10, 2023, in Washington, DC. The Contract Work Hours and Safety Standards Act, also known as the Construction Safety Act (CSA), established the committee to advise the Secretary of Labor and Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health on policy matters arising under the CSA, and the setting of construction standards.

The meeting will include remarks and updates from Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Jim Frederick, updates on the construction industry from OSHA’s Directorate of Construction, and an opportunity for the public to address the committee. ACCSH work groups will also meet.

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Every day, countless service providers make choices that unnecessarily complicate service interactions. At best, those decisions make the customer experience less enjoyable. At worst, unneeded complexity opens the door to complaints, bad reviews, and competitors.

Simple and Streamlined = Good

Organizations that know the value of simplicity strive to streamline processes and eliminate rocks on the service-experience road. Furthermore, those who understand the importance of effortless service know that achieving it is an ongoing group effort. From the boardroom to the service window, everyone from top to bottom diligently works to eradicate needless steps, complexities, or jargon that may confuse customers and obstruct them from reaching their goals.

Examples of the Payoffs

Streamlined Processes: Simplifying processes, procedures, and workflows eliminates unnecessary complexities, making customer interactions more efficient and effortless.

Clear Communication: Using straightforward language ensures that product information, instructions, and policies are easily understandable, creating a faster customer experience.

Intuitive Navigation: Creating intuitive website interfaces helps customers quickly find what they need without clicking on the wrong link, going to an incorrect location, or calling the wrong number.

Reduced Cognitive Load: Organizing information and choices in a clear and logical manner helps customers make confident decisions, reducing the likelihood of buyer’s remorse, returns, or calls to the help desk.

Efficient Problem Resolution: Providing simple and accessible channels for customer support enables quicker problem resolution.

User Engagement: Presenting information or products in a simplified way makes customers want to use a service provider.

“But We Are Different”

“My business is complicated! We’re not running a hamburger stand or a retail store. Our product is highly technical.”

While not every interaction is basic, all service providers can make interactions easier. No matter who you are, there are opportunities to streamline design, usability, communication, accessibility, and problem resolution.

Obvious Opportunities

If you open your eyes, many problems are obvious. Here are a few of the usual suspects:

  • Complex checkout process
  • Complicated return policy
  • Inefficient customer relationship management (CRM) system
  • Excessive use of industry jargon
  • Multiple contact attempts

Other Places to Explore

In addition to the easy-to-find improvement opportunities, most teams can find more if they start asking questions:

  1. Is our product or service easy to understand?
  2. Is our website or physical location easy to navigate?
  3. Can customers easily find the information they need?
  4. Are our pricing and billing practices transparent and easy to understand?
  5. Can customers quickly contact us when they need to?
  6. Is our customer service process straightforward and efficient?
  7. Are we using plain language in our communications, or relying too much on jargon?
  8. Are our processes designed with the customer’s convenience in mind?
  9. Are we offering simple, efficient solutions to customer problems?
  10. Can customers easily purchase our products or services?
  11. Do customers have to go through unnecessary steps or complexities to achieve their objectives?
  12. What feedback are we getting from customers about the ease of their experience?

The Front Line Is a Gold Mine

Organizations that take simplicity seriously know the gold mine of information frontline service representatives can provide if they are encouraged to bring issues to management.

Routine Complaints: For every customer who voices dissatisfaction, three or four others will say nothing. Organizations that treat service seriously see complaints as canaries in the coal mine, and they encourage service representatives to track concerns and bring them forward.

Multiple Contact Attempts: If customers need to contact the organization multiple times for the same issue, or related issues, there is a problem and an opportunity to simplify the resolution process. Frontline representatives are almost always the first to recognize such boomerang interactions.

Poorly Defined Policies: Confused and confounded customers are the result of poorly defined policies. Representatives who must manage them know when guidelines or rules are ill-defined.

Lack of Training and Tools: Frontline providers are also acutely aware when they do not know the answer, cannot get a system to cooperate, or must implement a workaround.

Achieving Simplicity Does Not Always Feel Simple

Once you start looking, it is easy to become overwhelmed by the amount of work involved to make things easy. Take a breath, and then take another. Just as most processes do not become convoluted overnight, it takes time to go in the other direction.

Start with straightforward fixes to build momentum. Next, prioritize what is easier to implement and what will have the most impact on the customer experience. Then, get to work.

Kate Zabriskie is the President of Business Training Works, Inc., a Maryland-based talent development firm. She and her team provide onsite, virtual, and online soft-skills
training courses and workshops to clients in the United States and internationally. For more information, visit

In the mechanical systems industry, often characterized by work involving HVAC systems and industrial piping equipment in elevated spaces, operations frequently require the workforce to navigate heights. Such scenarios necessitate implementing paramount safety measures, amongst which fall arrest systems play a vital role. Safety training for employees, specifically concerning these systems, emerges as a non-negotiable priority; and fulfilling it stands as both a moral and legal responsibility.

The Role of Fall Arrest Systems

Working on mechanical systems often involves elevated structures, where the risk of falls1 poses a critical threat. From towering skyscrapers to tall industrial towers, these environments demand robust safety measures. Fall arrest systems are an indispensable solution to counter this significant hazard, offering much-needed protection for workers.
Fall arrest systems comprise a variety of equipment, each designed with the intent to prevent a worker from hitting the ground during a fall. The components—whether a full body harness, a lanyard, a rope-grab lifeline, or a self-retracting lifeline—are each unique in their operational usage. Understanding these nuances and proper equipment usage forms an essential part of safety training, ensuring optimal functionality and worker safety.

In-Depth Look at Fall Arrest Systems

Fall arrest systems can be broadly divided into two types: general (or non-rigid), and rigid. General fall arrest systems usually include full-body harnesses and lanyards, while rigid systems encompass rail systems and beam straps. The choice between the two largely depends on the specific tasks and environments your workers encounter.
When working on mechanical systems like HVAC units situated on rooftops or high platforms, harnesses with shock-absorbing lanyards can be an excellent choice. For work that requires traversing large distances at height, such as the maintenance of industrial piping systems, a rail system might offer greater flexibility and safety.
The significance of thoroughly training workers on fall arrest system usage cannot be overstated. Such training ensures the workforce comprehends how to operate and inspect their equipment and the system’s underlying mechanisms.
Moreover, adhering to the safety standards and guidelines issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)2 is vital.

Benefits of Fall Arrest System Training

The rewards of in-depth fall arrest system training are numerous, with implications for safety, productivity, and the financial strength of a business.
  1. Worker Safety. The most substantial benefit of intensive training undoubtedly lies in ensuring the safety of our most precious asset—our employees. By implementing correct procedures and precautions, workers can significantly minimize the risk of serious or fatal accidents.
  2. Compliance with Safety Regulations. OSHA prescribes rigorous regulations for fall protection3. Non-compliance can result in severe penalties. Comprehensive training fosters adherence to these regulations, thereby preventing legal issues.
  3. Increased Productivity. A safe working environment boosts worker morale and productivity substantially. Employees confident in their safety tend to perform their tasks more effectively and efficiently.
  4. Cost Savings. While up-front training costs might seem substantial, long-term savings are profound. Fewer accidents translate to lesser medical costs, decreased insurance premiums, and reduced downtime. Investing in safety training unequivocally translates to investing in a company’s financial health.
  5. Improved Business Reputation. Companies that prioritize safety are seen as responsible and attractive to both potential employees and clients. A strong safety record can significantly enhance a company’s reputation4, making it a preferred choice for new contracts and top talent.


The wide-ranging and clear benefits of training workers on fall arrest system usage and safety go beyond merely preventing fall-related accidents. A safer workplace equates to a more productive, legally compliant, and financially robust operation. All businesses are encouraged to consult with a safety expert and invest in a fall arrest system training. It is  an investment in our workers’ safety—the most  important asset we have.
Emma Pearson is a writer with a passion for construction. She combines her interests by producing engaging content on construction, real estate, and home improvement topics.
Choosing safety products is critical. can be an excellent resource.  The company offers innovative fall arrest systems, which can help ensure safety in mechanical system jobs. For more  information visit,