Importance Of A Safety Role


Whether you are a top-tier local contractor, a small landscaping company or a property manager, the importance of a safety role cannot be understated. While not every company is able to justify a full-time safety specialist, ensuring that at least one person has the responsibilities for your company’s safety is essential. Having an individual on staff who ensures your company is within compliance and minimizes injuries and accidents is one of the best return-on-investments you can make when looking at support staff.

Who is actively reviewing your bloodborne pathogen exposure program, electrical safety-related work practices, emergency action plans, hearing conservation programs or any of the other safety programs that your company has? What are the chances of even having any of these programs implemented in the first place? Going beyond “just complying with OSHA and MIOSHA” and having these programs both implemented and effective is critical to minimizing your workers’ compensation costs, improving morale, ensuring employee retention and minimizing down-time. If at any given time within the past calendar year you had more than 10 employees, you are required to fill out an OSHA log. Your OSHA 300 and 301 logs are essentially a living document and need to be updated within 7 calendar days of a recordable event. When no one oversees safety, these documents and logs can very easily become ignored or forgotten about, putting your company at risk for citations.

When an accident occurs, are you aware of the responsibility to investigate the accident? Are you aware of the requirements to fill out a 301 log or a similar report and to keep it for 5 years after the incident? Are you aware of the reporting requirements of when you need to submit an incident to OSHA? All of these are job duties that can very easily be managed by someone with a safety role. Many companies turn a blind eye to safety duties, even when they are requirements enforced through government agencies and could lead to citations, arrests, and litigation. OSHA and MIOSHA do not accept ignorance as an excuse when it comes to responsibilities and safety.

What are your company’s risks? What is the most significant hazard? What is the most likely cause of injury for your staff? The average cost for workers’ compensation claims, per injury, is about $41,000 according to the National Safety Council. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, those who work in residential construction have a safety incident rate of 2.9. Which means for every 200,000 hours worked, on average 2.9 people will have a recordable injury. This translates to about 1 in every 35 people in construction will have a serious injury every year. When your staff meets or exceeds 35 people, your chance of having an injury that costs at least $40,000 or more on an injury every year is extremely likely, especially without a safety professional in your company. The average profit margin in construction is around 6%, which means that your company needs to make nearly $700,000 in sales to offset this cost if you are self-insured. Managing risk, hazards, and safety is the best way to avoid these unnecessary costs that could bankrupt any company.

A safety role in your company should be a qualified and competent person. At the very minimum, the individual who oversees your company’s safety should have an OSHA 30-hour card or similar training, a complete understanding of who OSHA and MIOSHA are and where they can find applicable standards, the ability to recognize risks, know how to mitigate hazards, the authority to make safety decisions and to stop work if a safety concern arises. While the decision may be hard to determine the need and expense to have a dedicated safety role, or to split someone’s role and add safety to their duties, the opportunity to mitigate risk and ensure employee safety makes it easy to decide. Take time today to ensure your company has a safety role.

Posted in 2023, NOVEMBER 2023 | Comments Off on Importance Of A Safety Role

Advocacy Update


Restrictions on Criminal Background Screening Proposed
Legislation which would drastically change the resident screening process and restrict the use of criminal background screening in that process was proposed before a subcommittee in the Michigan House of Representatives. House Bill 4878, which is sponsored by Rep. Abraham Aiyash (D-Hamtramck) would essentially ban the denial of a prospective resident based on criminal record except in a few specific situations. The bill proposes the following process for all rental property owners to follow:

  • Accept an application and perform normal screening with the exception of criminal background screening.
  • If the prospective resident meets the criteria for residency, the property owner issues a conditional offer of tenancy.
  • Once the conditional offer is issued, the property owner may run a criminal background check, but may only consider denial if the applicant has been convicted of criminal sexual conduct (and is registered as a sex offender), arson, human trafficking, or any felony adjudicated in the last 365 days.
  • If the property owner withdraws the conditional offer based on the above, the owner must notify the prospective resident in writing and undertake an individualized assessment to allow the prospective resident to submit evidence of rehabilitation, references, etc.
  • If, after the assessment, the property owner confirms withdrawal of the offer, any application fee or deposit must be refunded within 24 hours along with a written notice of adverse action with instructions on how the applicant can file a complaint with the Attorney General.
  • The applicant then has 14 days to request copies of all documents the property owner relied upon to make the decision.

The legislation outlines enforcement of the act under the Michigan Consumer Protection Act via the Attorney General. The Attorney General would also create a summary of applicant rights under the act and a list of applicant legal resources. Those documents would be required to be attached to the rental application and lease agreement, as well as posted in a property common area.

Representative Aiyash testified in favor of the legislation before the House Economic Development and Small Business Housing Subcommittee on October 5. The Apartment Association of Michigan and other housing organizations have stated opposition to the bill.

Posted in 2023, NOVEMBER 2023 | Comments Off on Advocacy Update

Advocacy Update


Forrest Wall March 2021Rent Control Legislation Introduced in Michigan House of Representatives
Legislation has been introduced which would completely repeal the current law prohibiting local governments in Michigan from enacting rent control ordinances. HB 4947 was introduced in the Michigan House of Representatives on September 7th by Rep. Carrie Rheingans (D-Ann Arbor). This bill comes on the heels of a proposal by Rep. Emily Dievendorf (D-Lansing) which outlines numerous anti-rental housing initiatives, including rent control. Rent control has received increased attention in many parts of the country, and has been discussed on a national level by the Biden Administration. Here in Michigan, a number of bills have been proposed in recent years in an attempt to chip away at the current law. Examples include a bill allowing exceptions for rent control in specific situations and a bill providing for inclusionary zoning. The preemption of local rent control is one of the most significant legislative accomplishments in AAM’s history. The existing law is good for Michigan’s economy and, for decades, has fostered an environment of stability for housing developers to build a variety of rental housing options to best serve the public.

Bill Mandating Application Fee Refunds Introduced
Legislation has been proposed in the Michigan House of Representatives which would require rental property owners to refund application fees to prospective residents who apply but are denied tenancy. House Bill 4891 was introduced by Representative Joey Andrews (D-38th District) on July 18. It allows the property owner to retain the background screening fee portion of the application fee if the property owner provides a copy of the screening report to the prospective resident. The bill also provides that violation of the law would allow the prospective resident to bring a civil action against the property owner for actual damages or $1,000, whichever is greater, as well as attorney fees and costs. The bill has been referred to the Committee on Economic Development and Small Business for consideration.

National Coalition Warns FHFA Against Rent Control
A coalition of national associations representing housing, lenders and residents sent a letter to Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) Director Sandra Thompson warning against rent control and stabilization policies. The letter stated that those policies will increase rents, reduce the capital needed to boost the supply of housing, and ultimately hurt current and future renters. FHFA is currently considering changes for Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac-backed multifamily properties. The letter was signed by 18 organizations, including the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), the National Apartment Association (NAA) and the National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC).

Posted in 2023, OCTOBER 2023 | Comments Off on Advocacy Update

Mental Wellness And Safety


Mental health is quickly becoming a topic for concern throughout the modern-day working environment. Michigan’s Labor and Economic Opportunity (LEO) is addressing some of these concerns and challenges that very well may be occurring in your own workplace. According to LEO, 65 percent of employees surveyed identified their job as the number one stress in their lives, along with 76 percent total who are having at least one symptom of mental health conditions and 81 percent who reported that they look for workplaces that support mental health. Mental well-being is critical to not only one’s health but also to workplace productivity, reduced turnover rates, overall satisfaction and, of course, workplace safety.

There are four main principles that make up a healthy workplace, according to the World Health Organization; the physical workplace, personal health resources and psychosocial characteristics. What you or your company could be doing to improve your working environment may not even involve making any actual change in the type of work employees do, but rather the influence of everything else. Employees who quit or leave a company or position rarely cite the physical duties of the job. Rather they list poor workplace conditions, lack of communication, poor work-life balance, lack of respect from upper management, pressures of the job and job security.

It is important that you address your working environment separately from anyone else’s. Two companies that offer similar services or are in the same category of business in a similar area may have entirely different employee levels of mental wellbeing. Determining what your employees and coworkers are experiencing is the first step in creating a positive working environment. Starting with anonymous surveys, employee suggestion boxes, exit interviews and simply listening to complaints may be a step in the right direction, if followed up with changes. Are you prepared to tackle the challenge of negative reviews, complaints and suggestions? If not, surveying may only solidify poor mental wellness.
How you can improve your workplace is based upon what resources you have available. Easy to tackle improvements are things as simple as building trust with employees by listening and showing you care, by showing empathy, positive confirmations and inclusion. Slightly harder improvements, but beneficial, will be a good employee assistance program that is made available to all employees, increasing employee benefits such as a couple of extra vacation days or PTO, promoting company culture, increasing wellness training and improving the physical workplace. Pizza parties are the thing of the past. A good pizza will only last for so long, but improving the culture will be long-lasting and investing in your employees will likely result in increased morale. A working environment does not need to be a “family” but it should have great communication, involvement and trust.

The benefit of positive mental wellness is one of the most important factors in dealing with a good safety culture. When people are less stressed, they are less likely to be distracted, more likely to be aware of their surroundings. and more likely to do things safely. These are all critical aspects to reducing common injuries. Having employee involvement with safety is also critical. Things like safety audits on site, accident investigations, company safety meetings and safety steering committees are a must for a physical work location. These show the importance of your employees. When your employees come first with mental wellness, safety and overall happiness, things like productivity, efficiency, employee retention, reduced workers’ compensation rates and even increased profits, will likely fall into place. There is never a bad time to start improving your workplace mental health and safety, so start today.

Posted in 2023, OCTOBER 2023 | Comments Off on Mental Wellness And Safety

Ensure Employee Safety With Michigan’s New Driving Laws


Does your business require you or your employees to be on the road at any given point during work hours? Chances are that you or co-workers have been behind the wheel and have taken a call or even made a call that is work-related. It is important that you address the new laws to all your employees and set the standard for safety and compliance with Michigan’s new driving laws.

As of June 30, 2023, it is now illegal to manually use cell phones while driving. This means that you are no longer allowed to hold, support or grab a phone with your hand, shoulder, or arm for calling, texting, browsing social media, or even entering in GPS coordinates while in motion or when sitting at a light or stop sign. Violations of this law could bring costly penalties and up to 48 hours of community service (for a second offense that involves an accident). There are very few exceptions to this law but it includes calling 9-1-1 for emergencies or the use of a phone by a first responder or law enforcement officer for a relevant issue. Voice commands or hands-free applications are still legal to use, assuming that the electronic device is not being supported or held by the driver. For the entire law, reference House Bill No. 4251.

How to approach this new law from an employer perspective?
Speak with all employees and ensure they are aware of this new law. Support needs to be shown from the uppermost level that it’s expected to and encouraged to ignore a call due to being behind the wheel. In today’s work environment, there is significant pressure on individuals to always be available immediately if your direct-report or a customer is reaching out. Advocate for your staff to ignore a phone call to allow themselves enough time to pull over to a safe location to call back. If needed, you can record your voicemail to indicate that you are currently on the road and will call back when it is safe to do so. A simple recording example: I am unavailable to take your call due to currently driving or other circumstances, I will return your call as soon as possible. A voicemail recording like this shows co-workers, clients and customers your commitment to employee safety.
Any safety professional or even someone who is aware of safety best practices is aware of the hierarchy of controls. Within the hierarchy of controls, when met with a hazard, the best way is to eliminate it – or in this instance to not answer a call while driving. However, if you have long drives, or time restrictions on drives, you could very easily implement substitution or engineering controls through Bluetooth devices, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, or other USB connection devices found in most newer vehicles. Other means of controls would be to ensure phone mount holders are in every company vehicle, or in all employee vehicles used for work-related jobs. This would have to correspond with a company-specific policy that ensures phones are placed in the mounts before driving and that employees are only able to use a single finger swipe or tap to answer or preferably decline a call while on the road.

Phone use while behind the wheel has been common for the better part of 20 years. It is habitual for people to use, hold or reach for a phone while behind the wheel. Most adults currently in the labor force have had access to a cell phone for their entire or most of their adult lives and have never experienced a time when they did not have the ability to not make a call while driving. These changes will take time to become concrete for you and your employees. Remember that laws are set at a minimum for compliance. You can always go above and beyond requirements. Set your company’s expectations for cell phone use and ensure employee safety above anything else.

Posted in 2023, SEPTEMBER 2023 | Comments Off on Ensure Employee Safety With Michigan’s New Driving Laws