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Focus - Work zone safety

image Kevin Omachel, Branch Manager, Buyers Barricades, Spring, TX

DALLAS/FT WORTH - A graduate of TCU, Omachel joined the Buyers team in October 2012. He began his career as a salesman in the Buyers Barricades Dallas/Fort Worth office and became branch manager of the Houston office just two short years later.





How would you describe the state of the construction industry in general terms?
    Just from what I can see from a smaller subcontractor perspective, the construction industry is not slowing down whatsoever. With the growing economy and more people moving into metropolitan areas, we have to keep up with the infrastructure to support this, which in turn helps the industry as a whole.
Have you experienced an increase/slowdown in business and what is driving this?
    We at Buyers Barricades are blessed to say that in the five years we have been in Houston, we have shown substantial growth.
    The factors that have increased our business vary. However, I believe it starts with a good core team to support your business and we have just that here at Buyers. We pride ourselves on top quality work and it shows in our customer retention.
    That said, there are many hurdles to overcome within the Houston market. The biggest one we see is the lack of regulation. Often, we experience contractors that should be using traffic control to make their work zone safe, but they fail to do so – likely, because there will be no consequences from city and county officials. This has been tough coming from the DFW market, where regulation is of top priority. We have made it a point at Buyers to try to increase traffic control regulation in Houston and surrounding areas to facilitate an overall safer work zone for our customers and the traveling public. 

How has this increase/slowdown affected your company and how you conduct business?

    We are constantly changing the way we conduct business to ensure we stay at the top. We do this by maintaining a high brand standard and always making sure our name and reputation are seen and heard, with the help of our strong marketing team.

What are the “hot button” issues in your industry?

    As mentioned before, a “hot button” issue in our industry is regulation. Here in Houston, we often have contractors tell us they do not need traffic control because they know they can get away without it.
    This is a far cry from where we started in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. In North Texas you will not see job sites without the material required to manage a safe work zone. If a contractor decides not to utilize traffic control, they are fined and their work zone is shut down until the required traffic control is set up.
    It is our job to help educate contractors on the importance of job site safety as well as the traveling public’s safety.
What are the major changes in the industry in recent years relating to the type of work you do?

    I would say the major changes would be more on the heavy highway side of our industry. TXDOT has become more and more strict on how traffic control is handled on our highways. They are always looking for better ways to improve the safety of work zones, such as implementing Smart Work Zone systems. These are systems that inform drivers about upcoming traffic conditions within a work zone. They do this by using sensors to detect traffic flow conditions, which in turn allow digital message boards to alert drivers of congestion or slower speeds within the upcoming work zone.

Do you see an increase in the number of outside contractors coming to the area?

    Every week I have a meeting with my outside sales team to get the “scoop” on how things are looking on the road. New jobs and contractors are constantly emerging. In my opinion, there are definitely more new contractors in Houston now, than this time last year.
What are the cost increases relating to your industry?
    Like many other industries, we are dealing with cost increase on steel products and freight costs to get the products we need in a timely manner.

What is on the horizon for your industry? (Changes in technology; equipment; other)
    I think the rise in technology will play a large role moving forward with how our industry sets its standards. 

What are the rewards of the industry?

    Knowing we are keeping not only the contractors safe, but also the traveling public safe, is the biggest reward.

What are keys to being successful?

    I believe this varies greatly when it comes to personal goals and business goals. That said, I have learned over the years customer satisfaction is of utmost importance for a business’s success.  Customer retention and referrals is key to determining profitability and growth.

Founded in 1984, Buyers Barricades provides temporary traffic control and safety services and products in Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio. -cmw

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Carol Wiatrek meditor@constructionnews.net