Advocacy Update

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

Governor Whitmer Signs Additional Renter Assistance Legislation
On June 23rd, Governor Whitmer signed legislation appropriating over $2.2 billion in federal stimulus funding. Of that total, $378.3 million is directed for additional renter assistance via the COVID Emergency Rental Assistance (CERA) Program. You may recall the CERA program was originally started in March with a $282 million appropriation of federal funds. That initial funding was exhausted in June, so the additional funding will allow the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) to continue rent and utility assistance under CERA. The program assists rental households at or below 80% of area median income (AMI) who can show a COVID related financial hardship.

Legislation Would Restore Proper Code Promulgation In Michigan
An important piece of legislation for multifamily builders is receiving bipartisan support in the legislature. The legislation, introduced in the Michigan House of Representatives as House Bill 4648 and in the Michigan Senate as Senate Bill 363, would restore a long-standing practice of using advisory committees to develop Michigan’s construction codes. For more than four decades codes were thoughtfully reviewed by these broad-based committees which consisted of experts in each respective code. In 2018, however, the Department of Licensing and Regulation abandoned the use of committees in favor of a two-person review which operates with little transparency and limited public participation. HB 4648 is currently before the House Committee on Regulatory Reform, while SB 363 will be considered by the Senate Committee on Economic and Small Business Development.

Supreme Court Delays Personal ID Rule
On June 30th, one day before the effective date, the Michigan Supreme Court issued orders delaying a new rule which would negatively impact tenant background screening services. The rule, originally drafted in May 2019, calls for the redacting of birth dates from court records in Michigan. Although the intent of the rule is to protect personal identification information, background screening companies have complained it will significantly delay or even stop background checks in Michigan by restricting date of birth information. The Supreme Court action delays the effective date of the rule until January 1, 2022 to allow more time to craft a solution to the problem.

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

General Workplace Safety

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

When it comes down to it, every accident that happens has a common theme: not understanding the hazard, or the potential hazard. This might be due to a lack of training, understanding, care, awareness, PPE or another factor that is lacking. When we are constantly aware of our surroundings, know where the hazards are, know the consequences of the hazards and know how to handle each hazard, then we can take one step closer to being an accident-free workplace. There is a saying, “The safest workplace is one that has their doors closed.” This means that as long as there is work being performed, there are hazards for someone to get hurt. General workplace safety consists of three main aspects: be aware of your surroundings, do not become complacent, and continually improve on the safety of tasks.

Time and time again, I see on incident reports: “Be more aware of your surroundings.” While it may seem insignificant to most, I would argue that there is quite a bit of truth to it. With the number of distractions we face at work – including cell phones, co-workers, noise, customers/residents/general public, time crunches, pressure from managers, thinking about things not work-related, etc., – it is easy to become distracted. However, it is hard to say “just ignore those thing and focus on the task at hand.” Instead, you can reduce the distractions as well as possible to make them more manageable. Too noisy? Get ear plugs! Always tempted to check your phone? Turn off data or put your phone on silent. Non-work stressors keep popping in your head? Keep a small notepad with you and write items down, so you do not have to constantly remind yourself of them. Then, check back on them after work.

Complacency starts out as a small drop of confidence, but slowly grows with each corner that is cut. When we build up too much confidence in taking short-cuts, not wearing PPE or not following policy, we tend to get bitten by complacency. This may be a cut on the hand from a broken hand tool, or having to go see a chiropractor from slouching in our chair for the past 10 years. There are two notable groups of seniority that make up the majority of accidents: those who just started (have not learned the hazards of the task) and those who have worked the longest. For the second group, there are many factors contributing to why they are involved in accidents, but complacency is a key reason. If you find yourself saying, “really quick” after saying you need to do something, stop and ask yourself: Are you are saving time by not following safety rules?

Last, but not least, there is always room for improvement. Whether you are a small business with less than 10 people, or a fairly large operation, always seek out how you can improve safety. Improvements should not only be made by upper management, owners and supervisors, but by all levels of employees. Create a suggestion box and actually evaluate and implement suggestions. Allow for a workplace that promotes and encourages safety ideas. You can create incentives for those who create and implement safety improvements as part of their daily duties. OSHA and MIOSHA continue to modify and change regulations. At the very least, you should check in on these updated regulations and see if you need to make any changes to your own company policy.

As much as it hurts to say “accidents happen,” there is truth in it. Accidents may happen, but the same accident should never happen twice! Find good corrective actions once an accident occurs, inform all affected by the incident of the changes to come, retrain as needed and ensure your policy is enforced. Continue to improve, and if you are not sure where to start, check to see where you are with an internal or external audit.

If you or your company are looking for any assistance with general safety, safety training on any topic, incident investigation or external auditing, feel free to reach out to me, Daniel Aday, at daday@compone.net or at 734-309-3456.

Posted in 2021, August 2021 | Comments Off on General Workplace Safety

Safety Data Sheets – What Are They? Why Do You Need Them?

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

Safety Data Sheets, also known as “SDS” or “MSDS” (material safety data sheets, formerly), are an encompassing document on a single product, formula, chemical or material that describe the product’s properties to a user. This includes the environmental, health and physical effects it may impact if exposed, along with proper handling, storage and maintenance of that product. Essentially, an SDS is the job application of the product and you’re the recruiter seeing if you would hire it. Although often overlooked, SDSs are incredibly important to understand in terms of your employees’ safety and ensuring you are in compliance with local and federal rules and regulations.

So, what do SDSs actually contain? All SDSs are required to contain 16 sections that break down almost every aspect of the product. The sections are: Identification, Hazards, Composition (ingredients), First Aid Measures, Firefighting Measures, Accidental Release Measures, Handling and Storage, Exposure Control (PPE), Physical and Chemical Properties, Stability and Reactivity, Toxicological Information, Ecological Information, Disposal Considerations, Transport Information, Regulatory Information and Other Information. These sections were determined by the Globally Harmonized Systems of Classifications and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) and are to be used all over the world for a universal means of identifying hazards. If you have any questions on a chemical or product, you can reference these sheets, which is why it is so important to have them available before you need them!

For example, if you have an employee who may be having an allergic reaction to something, you may easily reference the SDS and see the list of ingredients, to determine if any of them are of concern. Another reason is to give you information on how to properly store cleaners, such as storing vinegar and bleach in separate cabinets.
In addition to these reasons for having SDSs available, it is an OSHA (and MIOSHA) requirement! Whether you are in Construction or General Industry, OSHA’s Hazard Communication regulations require you to have SDSs for hazardous chemicals in your workplace AND have them in an organized, systematic and consistent manner AND you must train your employees on how to find the SDSs. If failure to do any of these laws is found by a MIOSHA or OSHA inspector, they may issue fines that will set you back thousands of dollars, per violation. Depending on your location, you may also need to have SDSs available for your local fire department. In the event of a fire at your location, the fire department needs to know if you have anything that may prolong a fire or create an additional hazard.

So, where should you start? While it may be tempting to just go grab an SDS binder and throw in every single SDS of each and every chemical you have on site, that plan may be destined for failure. You already should have SDSs made available within five days of receipt of a new chemical and post them for 10 days. Technically you do not need an SDS for household chemicals, if used within the same manner that a consumer would use them (i.e. same duration and frequency). However, if they are used on a more frequent basis, then you are required to have them. It is best to minimize the chemicals you have onsite, create a hazardous communication procedure and determine what chemicals are both efficient and safe to use. Once this list is established, using an online or shared folder that all employees have access to is a great means of storing all your SDSs. This way, you always have access to the chemicals anywhere, at any time. Lastly, continually ensure that your SDSs are updated every three years. Doing all of this is a great way to ensure you’re within compliance and your employees are safe!

If you are interested in finding out more information on SDSs and safety, please contact me at 734-309-3456 or email me at daday@compone.net.

Posted in 2021, JULY 2021 | Comments Off on Safety Data Sheets – What Are They? Why Do You Need Them?

Rule Change Creates Opportunities For Multifamily Developers

Written by David Wilkins, Managing Director, Real Estate Finance, Walker & Dunlop

Say what you want about HUD, they have been a stalwart of multifamily financing for more than a half century. Many local family offices employ HUD right alongside of agency and life company lending. For the right property and owner, HUD insured loans are a perfect fit.

Traditionally new developments, not currently HUD insured, were prevented from seeking out HUD insured loans due to what was commonly known as The Three-Year Rule. This long standing rule created many negative unintended consequences and was eliminated in 2020.

Developers of recently completed projects or those planned, may now consider the very popular 223(f) loan for their permanent financing solution. The 223 (f) carries many positive attributes, including generally the lowest long-term interest rate in the industry. Owners also recognize the higher leverage one can obtain through a HUD insured loan. Owners can achieve 80 percent and 85 percent loan to value and not suffer a higher rate of interest due to the higher leverage.

To bring this home for our Apartment Association readers: a Grand Rapids developer recently completed a 50+ unit town home development. The sub 3 percent; 35-year HUD insured loan funded all of the construction debt and returned equity to the developer.
In another recent example a Mid-Michigan based developer completed a large multifamily development project. Upon stabilization they considered: life company loans, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and HUD insured loans. To compete with the HUD insured interest rate, they were compelled to shorten the loan term of the life company and other loan quotes. The shorter maturity and subsequent need to refinance would be occurring at a time when their brownfield tax incentives would be diminishing. In the end, the longer-term HUD loan better protected the ownership from an expected tax increase when the associated brownfield development benefits expired.

Owners are benefited by the many debt options available to them and the historic low interest rates we have recently experienced. As loan programs evolve and improve we will be pleased to share that news with you. n

David Wilkins is a Managing Director for Walker and Dunlop. He is an active member of the AAM. David can be reached at dwilkins@walkerdunlop.com

Posted in 2021, JULY 2021 | Comments Off on Rule Change Creates Opportunities For Multifamily Developers

Stress Management For Safety

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

Stress is a critical factor that tends to play a role in accidents and unsafe workplaces. While it might not be part of every single accident, it does tend to play a role in the serious ones. Stress may contribute to the incident or unsafe workplaces by either distracting the individual(s) involved, adding another layer of pressure to get a job done, or as an outside source that is causing one to not fully perform their job function.

Alternatively, stress may also be the sole reason an accident occurs. Not all accidents occur from a physical hazard. Some occur from a mental one. Breaking down how stress influences accidents, we further understand what causes stress, how stress actually equates with accidents and what we can do to be preventative and avoid becoming stressed, ourselves.

What Causes Stress? The biggest factor that’s found when looking at the leading causes of stress in the workplace is overwhelmingly workload. When we are tasked with too much, our stress levels increase, making up approximately half of the cause of stress in the workplace. More than a quarter is due to “people issues” – working with someone you do not get along with or something similar. About 20 percent of all stress in the workplace is from individuals attempting to balance work life and personal life.

Lastly, a very small percentage of stress that is found is from a lack of job security. It could be safe to say that just about all of us experience stress in some form during our work day. Take the time right now to think about the time you were last stressed and determine what had caused it. Whether it was something mentioned above or not, such as lack of sleep, you should know what is causing you stress!

It is easy to see that some people are under some form of stress. They may be agitated, irritable, or may appear very upset. However, for others who are stressed, there may be absolutely no indication. Regardless of the signs, we know that if someone is focusing on their stressors, they are less apt to be focusing on the hazards of the task. If there is less time to do a task, or if someone now has more workload, the very first thing that is usually “forgotten” about is the safety needed to do a task without injury.

Alternately, stress can absolutely be “stored” in areas of your body that later hurt. Symptoms such as headaches and back pain without a recognized physical hazard very well could be stress-induced injuries. Having done countless incident investigations myself, almost every single interview with the injured party I have been told something along the lines of “There just isn’t enough time to do the task” or “They expect too high of output from us.” If we find ourselves asking, “Is this too much work for one person?” there is a good chance that it is! And while all stress may not always lead to a serious physical hazard, the mental strain may absolutely be something that causes burnout or even cause your employees to move on to another company.

The big question here is: What are we able to do to prevent our employees from getting stressed? Well, believe it or not, that is an easy one! Simply talk to them and ask! Plenty of people, including you, may already be aware of the stresses and know how to fix them. If not, starting with a great night’s sleep will work wonders!

Other great ways to encourage a stress-free workplace are through promoting a positive environment. Display personal and family photos, promote workplace wellness, cut down on the caffeine, allow more time for breaks (which actually makes people more productive) and listen to each other’s needs. When we are able to assist others, and help them determine what cause their stress, we can better the working environment that we all work in. Understanding where the issue comes from, ultimately, is the first step in getting the problem resolved!

Posted in 2021, JUNE 2021 | Comments Off on Stress Management For Safety