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

Intro To OSHA

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

During the mid-1900s, there was public outcry about the amount of deaths and serious injuries that occurred at work. People were tired of hearing about worker fatalities happening so frequently and losing their loved ones at work. Great pressure was put on the current administrations to do something about it. On December 29, 1970, President Nixon signed the Occupational Safety and Health Act, which later created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which started the OSHA we know today back in April 1971. Employers are now required to report fatalities to OSHA within eight hours, report select serious injuries within 24 hours, maintain injury and illness logs, inform workers about how to report injuries to the employer, make safety records available to workers, allow OSHA access to records and post annual summaries of injuries and illnesses, as well as many other items. While OSHA governs at the federal level, many states have their own programs, including Michigan with MIOSHA. Employers have to comply with both the federal and state regulations.

OSHA logs are an important aspect of compliance for an employer. OSHA has three logs that have to be maintained by employers with more than 10 employees throughout the previous calendar year. The first log is the most well-known: the OSHA 300 log, which is the Log of Work-Related recordable Injuries and Illnesses. When an incident occurs where an employee is injured, and it is considered a recordable incident, it must be recorded on this log with basic information describing what happened and how it happened. A recordable incident is any injury that resulted in death, loss of consciousness, days away from work, restricted work activity or job transfer or medical treatment beyond first aid. If an employer has multiple sites, there should be a log for each site. The other two logs are the OSHA 301 and the 300A. The OSHA 301 log is essentially your company’s incident and injury report that should be filled out for each individual injury/illness, and kept for at least five years. This form can be replaced by a company specific report, if desired. The 300A log is the year’s summary of all recordable injuries and illnesses for the previous year. This log must be posted in an obvious location every year for all employees to be able to see.

OSHA’s “General Duty Clause” is one of the most cited regulations in all of OSHA’s requirements. It is the requirement of the employer to furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards and to comply with all other OSH standards within the OSH Act. Essentially, if an employer recognizes that there is a serious hazard that has any potential for serious injury or death, they are legally required to mitigate or eliminate that hazard. Additionally, the General Duty Clause also provides rules to employees that they must follow OSHA standards, regulations and orders, so compliance is not just simply put on the employer to follow. Alongside this clause, there are several specific standards that, if applicable to the scope of work, all employees must follow. These specific standards range from personal protective equipment, to powered industrial truck usage.

OSHA can be very strict with consequences for non-compliance on some topics, but be a bit more relaxed on others. While the most important reason to be in compliant with OSHA is to ensure the safest working condition for all employees, and even guests, visitors, and residents to the areas you are working in, there are fines and penalties issued to employers who do not follow applicable standards. The current maximum penalty for an “other-than-serious posting requirement” is $13,653 per violation, “failure to abate” violations are $13,653 per day beyond the abatement date and “willful or repeated” violations are $136,532 per violation. These costs tend to be a fraction of indirect costs that can come from an injury, however.

If you, or your company is looking for assistance with OSHA compliance, procedure writing or training, please reach out to us at safety@compone.net.

Posted in 2021, November 2021 | Comments Off on Intro To OSHA

Active Attacker: How To Respond

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

Although extremely rare, Active Attacker situations have become something that is, unfortunately, more and more common. The annually recorded events have steadily increased ever since the mid 70s when data was first collected. While the way people and companies are preparing for these tragic events is improving every single year, the information on how to respond to the situations has generally stayed the same. When faced with an active attacker, shooter or malicious assailant, there are three courses of action that you can take that may save your life: Run, Hide or Fight.

Run
While being able to recognize an active attacker situation may sound easy, more often than not, people have a hard time believing it is occurring and do not respond quickly. This first step in responding to such an event is to recognize that it’s happening and remove yourself from the situation. Do not have a pre-planned exit route or designated meeting spot that is dedicated for such an event. If the attacker becomes aware of such a route or meeting location, they may set up at that location. Evacuate and run in the complete opposite direction of the attacker and do not stop until you feel safe. Then go a bit further. Everything is up for grabs during an evacuation. Use windows, fire exits or “staff only” areas as means of egress, if needed. If someone that you are with does not want to evacuate, attempt to encourage them to leave. If they do not want to go, leave without them.

Hide
If running or escaping seems to increase your chances of being seen by the attacker, or if the exits are blocked, your next best means of action is to hide or seek shelter. Hiding is sometimes your best option, but if you do hide … then make sure you are truly hidden. If you are in a room, turn off the lights. If you are near a TV, computer or radio, turn it off to give the appearance that no one was there. Silence your phone! Nothing quite says, “Hey, I am right here” like a phone ringer going off or a text or email alert. Ensure that you do not make noise and always have it in the back of your head to run if the opportunity presents itself or if the attacker has moved out of sight. While hiding behind things that are bullet proof is preferred, sometimes concealment is just as good as protective cover. Use door locks, chairs, desks or anything else available to barricade doors and slow the attacker down.

Fight
It would be hard to train for a physical altercation between yourself and an attacker, and generally hard for companies to tell their employees that they need to put up a fight or to attack an intruder, but in a life or death situation you need to do just that. Only as a last means of effort, you want to exert as much energy as possible in dealing damage to the attacker. It is never a good idea to go looking for the attacker and try to “take them down” unless you are a trained law enforcement officer. Only attack if there is no means of safe exit or there is nowhere else to hide. Use anything you have nearby to increase damage to the attacker. Take a moment now to think about all the items you work with or near that could be used as a weapon in such a situation.
Other considerations to think about are interactions with law enforcement officers. Police are going to be in a heightened state of alertness. Ensure that any time you see an officer, your hands are empty and are up so they can immediately tell if you are the attacker or not. If you are a Concealed Pistol License (CPL) holder and are actively carrying, it may be wise to not bring out your concealed weapon unless you are faced with the “fight situation,” as police may mistake you for the attacker.

If you’re interested in more in-depth training on this topic, you may reach out to us at safety@compone.net.

Posted in 2021, October 2021 | Comments Off on Active Attacker: How To Respond