Winter Hazards

Written by Daniel Aday, CompOne Administrators Safety & Loss Prevention Specialist

Hazards, as defined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), are anything that can cause immediate accidents and injuries. However, hazards are sometimes hidden or not always easily recognizable until an accident occurs. One thing that can contribute to hidden hazards is the weather, and winter is the biggest culprit. Winter brings cold weather, snow, ice and sometimes even a tendency for people to cut corners in order to save time and energy. All of these contribute to unsafe workplaces and, of course, hazards! Taking the time now to identify and address these winter hazards now, may save you from an accident and injuries later, starting with property hazards, PPE and gear hazards and administrative controls.

Preparing your property, jobsite, location, building, or wherever people may be, for winter is fairly simple in theory, but takes a continuous effort to ensure that there is minimal chance for accidents to occur. Ensure all company vehicles are in well maintained shape; have your company vehicles be inspected by a mechanic and any repairs are made, ensuring that employees won’t be stranded on the side of the road during winter.

Additionally, carbon monoxide detectors should be inspected. Carbon monoxide injuries and deaths greatly increase during the winter months. Set up a maintenance schedule to inspect and replace CO monitors per the manufacturer’s recommendations. Also, ensure salt or other traction or de-icing surface substances are distributed and people have access to them if ice is noticed. This is also a great time to ensure that egress doors are being shoveled and cleared after each snow event, as to not trap anyone side in the event of a fire and the evacuee cannot open an egress door due to snow being pushed on the back side.

With colder temps, it is easy to forget that gloves, hats, and proper footwear are all considered winter PPE (personal protective equipment). Ensure that you supply appropriate protective gear to those who need it. Not all winter gloves are made equally, and some might be better suited for some tasks but bad for other task. Water resistant gloves are a must when handling anything that may come in contact with ice, snow, or water, as water-logged gloves may make your hands colder while working. Warmer gloves typically mean less dexterity and may be taken off more often to do more precise task. Finding a good happy-medium is best for gloves, that balance dexterity, warmth, and of course, protection. Additionally, having a good set of footwear could mean the difference between going a full winter without any slips, to having several slip-related injuries. A good set of winter shoes or boots will have deep tread, a good heel and be waterproof. If you find that you are slipping or losing traction a lot while walking outside, or notice that there is ice, it is always a good idea to have a set of ice cleats (sometimes called snow grips, yak tracks, traction cleats, etc.) that you can throw on. Ice cleats turn icy conditions into pure grip! Just make sure you take them off before walking on tile or hard surfaces, as that may cause an incident itself!

Administrative controls could be considered one of the most important in ensuring continual safety throughout the winter. When snow is expected to fall or temperatures are expected to drop and ice may occur, ensure employees are putting out salt in front of doors, and shovels are accessible. Periodically check on employee’s PPE to ensure everything is still in good condition. Employee PPE is a critical part in protecting employees from weather-related hazards, and unfortunately, sometimes need to be closely monitored to ensure PPE is worn correctly and appropriately when hazards present themselves. Additionally, understand the work stressors that your employees endure during the winter time. The cold air mixed with the extra layers of clothing can quickly burn energy which makes any outdoor task immediately harder. Additionally, if not wearing breathable material, employees may begin to sweat which may lead to cold-related injuries such as hypothermia. If possible, layer up if working in the cold. Allow employees, who spend time working outdoors, more time to take breaks.

Posted in 2022, January 2022 | Comments Off on Winter Hazards

Advocacy Update

Forrest Wall March 2021Written by Forrest Wall, CAE, Director of Regulatory & Legal Affairs, Home Builders Association of Michigan

Additional Renter Assistance Approved
Just prior to adjourning for its end-of-year break, the state legislature approved an additional $140 million in renter assistance funding. Shortly after legislative passage, Governor Whitmer signed the legislation. This appropriation of federal dollars will help to replenish funding for the COVID Emergency Rental Assistance (CERA) program administered by the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA). The program allows payments for rent and utilities via guidance from the U.S. Treasury Department.

Summary Proceedings Amendment Introduced
Legislation recently introduced in the Michigan House of Representatives would add a provision under the judgement section of summary proceedings to recover possession of premises in the Revised Judicature Act. Currently, the law requires a judge or jury, when determining the amount due under a tenancy, to deduct any portion of rent found to be excused by the plaintiff’s breach of lease or other statutory covenants. The legislation proposes to also direct the judge or jury to add any fee for late payment of rent specified in the lease, but not more than a monthly fee of the greater of $50 or 10% of the rental amount, unless the lessor demonstrates that a higher late fee specified in the lease is reasonable. The proposed legislation also seeks to add this language to a subsequent section of this law specifying allowable damages that may be sought by a plaintiff.

Lead Package Includes Presale Inspection Bill
A 10-bill package addressing lead blood levels in children and lead-based paint was introduced in the Michigan House of Representatives and received a hearing in the Health Policy Committee. One of the bills, HB 5419, would impact the rental property industry as it calls for a lead-based paint inspection prior to the sale of any residential property constructed before 1978. It would require a written inspection report be provided to the purchaser within certain timeframes based on the type of transaction.

Posted in 2022, January 2022 | Comments Off on Advocacy Update

Fire Safety – Plan Now So You Don’t Get Burned!

Written by Daniel Aday, CompOne Administrators Safety & Loss Prevention Specialist

While fires in homes and businesses may occur at any part of the year, they typically occur more often in the fall and winter months, peaking around December and January. People tend to spend more time indoors, lighting candles, having warm food and drinks, and electrical heating devices, which all contribute to the increase in residential and commercial fires. Regardless of how fires typically start, prevention should be made in all aspects where fire has any potential of starting. Using this Five Step Self Checklist, you can ensure that your business is one step closer to a safer working environment.

1. Check all electrical cords, outlets, plugs, extension cords, GFCI’s, and lights. Electrical cords should be unbent, non-frayed, and not be stepped on. Replace all damaged cords. Extension cords should not be used for more than 90 continuous days (they can be used for as long as they are in good shape, but not be plugged in for 3 continuous months). Outlet testers are available and reasonably priced to ensure that your outlets function as they should. Some even include a GFCI that can ensure your GFCI outlets function as they should. Lastly, check all your light bulbs in lamps and fixtures are 7 feet and under and ensure they are screwed in tightly, as they may get bumped into and loosen up over time. Bonus – check all electrical panels and ensure they are cleared up to 3 feet. In the event of an emergency, electrical panels must be kept clear so they can easily be turned off.

2. Check all fire extinguishers, smoke detectors, and CO monitors. Fire extinguishers should typically be checked every month, but make special note to check them at least 1x a year with a complete inspection. Check to make sure the extinguisher is cleaned (no spider webs around!), can easily be removed from the hanger, and is being inspected as it should be on a monthly basis. If your business conducts work off site or in remote locations, it is always a good idea to have a fire extinguisher in your company vehicles. Additionally, check fire smoke detectors and CO monitors. They should all have a test function built into them. If you do not keep track of when you replace the batteries, it might be a good idea to preventatively replace them.

3. The most common area where fires start, regardless of commercial or residential fires, is going to be from the kitchen or kitchen area. If you find that people forget to unplug appliances that heat up when in use (toasters, toaster ovens, coffee makers, etc.), put those items on timed outlets or put up signs that indicate they must be unplugged after each use. Use this time now to inspect each appliance that heats up and check to see if it is unplugged if not in use. Ensure that there are proper cookware items and everything has plenty of room. There should always be a fire extinguisher in any room that has fire, or items that heat up!

4. Clear clutter and ensure electronics have enough room for ventilation. Clutter can be in the form of storage in the wrong areas (such as fire exits) or in areas that need to have ventilation (such as computers). Take a moment and think about everything that can heat up – whether it is a gas powered leaf blower or a laptop. Ensure that these devices are not put away when hot, or if they are, there is sufficient ventilation that will allow them to cool down… not just thrown in with a bunch of other clutter!

5. Ensure everyone is trained on your company’s procedures and they know what to do in the event of a fire. It may be beneficial to do an annual fire extinguisher training, along with your evacuation drills. Ensure employees know who to call and what needs to be done following an emergency. Taking the time now to prepare for a fire emergency ensures that your employees know what to do, and gives peace of mind that everyone will come out safe in the event of a fire.

Posted in 2021, DECEMBER 2021 | Comments Off on Fire Safety – Plan Now So You Don’t Get Burned!

Advocacy Update

Forrest Wall March 2021Written by Forrest Wall, CAE, Director of Regulatory & Legal Affairs, Home Builders Association of Michigan

Rent Control Legislation Introduced in Lansing
A group of Democratic Senators has introduced multiple bills which would dismantle the current Michigan law protecting against rent control.
The first effort, Senate Bill 716, would completely repeal the existing law which prohibits local governments in Michigan from enacting rent control ordinances. This bill was introduced in the Michigan Senate on November 3 and has been referred to the Committee on Local Government. Senator Jeff Irwin (D-18th District) is the sponsor of the bill.

A second proposal, which is a two-bill package, was introduced on the same date in the Senate. Senate Bills 718 & 719 propose to allow rent control in specific situations, with the potential for offsetting property tax breaks. These bills authorize local units of government the ability to limit rent for disabled individuals and senior citizens. An individual with a disability is defined in the bill as a person with either physical or mental disability that limits one or more major life activities of the individual. Senior citizen is defined in the bill as someone 62 or older, but the rent limitation would not apply to a person 70 or under unless the person has lived in their dwelling for the last 5 years. The legislation allows (but does not mandate) local units of government with rent control ordinances under this section to provide a property tax break to property subject to the rent control ordinance. The tax break takes the form of an exemption from ad valorem property taxes, with a specific tax taking its place. The specific tax is figured by taking the amount of tax that would have been collected on the parcel as though it was not exempt from ad valorem property tax, minus an amount determined by the local government but not exceeding the ad valorem tax. These bills have also been referred to the Committee on Local Government for consideration. Senator Betty Jean Alexander (D-5th District) and Senator Stephanie Chang (D-1st District) are the sponsors of these bills.

The preemption of local rent control is one of the most significant legislative accomplishments in AAM’s history. AAM will continue to oppose legislation attempting to repeal or change this law!

Posted in 2021, DECEMBER 2021 | Comments Off on Advocacy Update

Advocacy Update

How To Join The National Apartment Association Lawsuit

Apartment owners have an opportunity to attempt to recover business losses attributed to the unlawful CDC eviction moratorium. The National Apartment Association has filed a lawsuit against the federal government seeking compensation for the financial damages suffered under the CDC order. For more information about this story, read the NAA Sues Federal Government to Recover Industry’s Losses Under Nationwide Eviction Moratorium article.

The rental housing industry needs eligible property owners to join the NAA lawsuit and requests all industry stakeholders share the urgency and importance of this message with all property owners in your networks.

Please visit the link below for the opportunity to join the National Apartment Association’s lawsuit https://www.naahq.org/CDC-eviction-moratorium-lawsuit

NAHB Legal Win Means All PPP Loans to Members Can be Forgiven
According to the National Association of Home Builders, in a recent issue of NAHB Now, in a case brought by NAHB and Michigan builders, a federal court ruled that all NAHB members who received Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans can have their loans forgiven regardless of whether the loans were made in contravention of the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) eligibility rules. The court’s opinion also provides several important procedural wins that will benefit NAHB in a wide range of cases.

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan ruled on September 28, 2021 that the SBA wrongly applied eligibility criteria to the PPP, which prevented certain NAHB members from accessing these much-needed funds.

NAHB, along with the HBA of Michigan and HBA of Southeastern Michigan filed the lawsuit at the height of the pandemic-induced economic downturn so that all NAHB members could access PPP funds to help keep their businesses afloat.

While Congress was clear in its intent to offer PPP protection to a wide range of the U.S. economy, Treasury and SBA nonetheless applied pre-existing regulations that essentially shut out a broad swath of the residential construction industry. Specifically, SBA imposed a pre-existing regulation and guidance document that limited eligibility for certain businesses, including “passive businesses owned by developers and landlords that do not actively use or occupy the assets acquired or improved with the loan proceeds,” and “speculative businesses” that include “building homes for future sale.”

Legal Win Accomplishes Two Key Objectives
The victory in this case accomplishes two main goals. First, it ensures that NAHB members who received PPP loans will have their loans forgiven. The judge agreed with NAHB’s position that the plain language of the statute creating the PPP prevented SBA from applying eligibility regulations that sought to exclude NAHB members who build homes “on spec,” multifamily property owners, and land developers from receiving PPP loans and loan forgiveness during the height of the pandemic.

While PPP funding is no longer available, the forgiveness process is ongoing, and the court’s opinion will have a direct and tangible benefit for builders, developers, and property owners who are awaiting loan forgiveness.

Second, the court’s opinion provides important procedural wins. These include the court’s ruling that it will not defer to an agency’s interpretation of a statute unless the statute is truly ambiguous. This will limit the ability of federal agencies to offer new, expansive interpretations of existing statutes.

The judge also ruled against the government’s procedural claims that NAHB lacked “standing” – the individual interest necessary to have a complaint heard in federal court – and that the case was moot because the PPP is no longer an active program.

The decision is a victory on the substantive points NAHB raised against the imposition of SBA’s eligibility rules, providing NAHB members with certainty that their loans will be forgiven, as well as establishing favorable case law on procedural issues that the government and others often use to try and keep NAHB and its members out of court.

For more information, contact Amy Chai of NAHB at: achai@nahb.org.

Posted in 2021, November 2021 | Comments Off on Advocacy Update