Advocacy Update

Forrest Wall March 2021Written by Forrest Wall, CAE, Incoming CEO

EV Parking Requirements Proposed
As efforts by automakers to ramp up EV production and promotion intensify, so does the conversation amongst Lansing lawmakers on EV incentives and mandates. One such mandate proposal is embodied in House Bill 5391, which was introduced by Rep. Yousef Rabhi (D-53rd District). The legislation calls for all new nonresidential buildings or buildings with combined residential and nonresidential use, with 25 or more parking spaces, to include EV charging stations. The requirement uses a formula of 1 charging station per 25 spaces, and once you go over 100 spaces it is 3% of the total number of spaces. The legislation also calls for existing nonresidential and residential/nonresidential combined buildings to add charging stations using the same formula when there is a parking lot resurfacing or alteration. Property owners would be allowed to charge for the use of the stations, and exemptions from the requirement may be applied for based on specific criteria. The legislation, which AAM opposes, is before the Committee on Energy for consideration.

Legislation Protecting Natural Gas Introduced
Sen. Dale Zorn (R-17th District) has introduced legislation in the Michigan Senate to support the continued availability of natural gas for new construction and existing buildings. Senate Bill 820 would prohibit local governments from adopting or enforcing an ordinance, resolution, or policy which prohibits the use of natural gas or the installation of natural gas infrastructure. This is the second legislative initiative to address potential bans on natural gas. House Bill 4575, introduced last year by Rep. Michelle Hoitenga (R-102nd District), would prevent any local unit of government from adopting, maintaining, or enforcing an ordinance prohibiting the use of gas appliances in new or existing residential buildings. These bills have come in response to local discussions, like those in Ann Arbor’s A2Zero Plan, which seek a mandate for new buildings to be constructed without gas lines as a part of programs seeking carbon neutrality.

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

Cold Stress

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

Working outside in winter means combating several new hazards that are not seen during any other time of the year. While it is nice to sit back and watch the snow fall from the comforts of a cozy house or building, doing any degree of work outside in the winter is harsh and can lead to serious injury or illness if you fall complacent with these hazards. Freezing is defined as temperatures below 32 degrees Fahrenheit and at which water becomes ice. Cold, however, is not defined as a set temperature, but rather a range at which some people may be more susceptible to exposure. This is why employers should be receptive to employee concerns or complaints about working in colder temps. Colder temps may be considered as high as 59 degrees (F), but bigger risks start to occur near 35 degrees.

Cold stress is any effect that is derived from reduced body and/or skin temperatures. Cold stress may result in relatively minor concerns, but can also be life-threatening if ignored or if employees are unable to warm up to safe temperatures in a short period of time. Common cold-related illnesses and injuries may include hypothermia, frostbite, trench foot and others. Signs and symptoms of cold-related illnesses and injuries may be fingertips or toes becoming numb, shallow breathing, confusion, slurring of speech or even loss of consciousness. When any of these symptoms occur, the individual experiencing these symptoms must seek a dry and warm environment as soon as possible, or risk serious injury or even death. A study conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics found that cold related deaths occur twice as often as heat related deaths. So, ignoring or brushing off these symptoms is definitely not advised!

To prevent cold related illness or injury, the best strategy is avoidance. If possible, arrange all outside maintenance in late spring or early fall, when temperatures are best suited for outside work. Plan ahead: always check the weather several days in advance for work that must be performed outside and be prepared to deal with it. Set an absolute minimum temperature that you, your employees, or company, can safely work in. That may be 0 degrees Fahrenheit, -10, or whatever you feel is appropriate. For jobs that will almost always take place outside or in the elements, ensure that workers and employees have the appropriate gear to stay warm and dry. It is always best to dress in layers, whereas body temperatures rise, with moving around and performing manual labor, individuals can take off a layer to stay at a comfortable temperature, yet still be protected from the elements. Overheating and beginning to sweat while working in sub-freezing temperatures may be just as catastrophic as not being able to get warm in the first place.

If employees do spend a substantial amount of time in the cold, whether that is shoveling snow, construction, maintenance, or anything else that involves working outdoors, your company may want to develop a cold-stress procedure or policy. Depending on the scope of work, the policy should outline safety issues, cold stress symptoms, what equipment is available, who should be trained and when, provide information on weather advisories (such as distinguishing a winter storm warning vs. an advisory), and anything else that may be relevant to ensuring your employees’ safety. Training is one of the best elements in ensuring that employees are safe and warm during cold months. Training can be held at an awareness level or at an in-depth level that reviews signs and symptoms of cold stress and how to handle in the event of an illness, injury or emergency.

If you are looking for assistance with cold stress help, safety policy, procedure creation or training for cold stress awareness or any other safety topic, feel free to reach out to us at 734-309-3456 or at daday@compone.net

Posted in 2022, March 2022 | Comments Off on Cold Stress

Building Winter Safety

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

With every season there are anticipated hazards. Specifically with winter drawing in colder temps, people tend to spend more times indoors, which may bring higher risks for spreading colds and viruses, but also may increase the chance for other hazards, like fires or carbon monoxide. It is important to address all safety concerns, but also have a place that is comfortable to work in. Ensure that you do checks before winter, to prepare buildings for the cold, but also conduct periodic inspections throughout winter to stay on top of any potential hazards that may occur.

Anything that burns with a flame or generates heat as a by-product of consumption of propane, gasoline, diesel, or any other fuel, will consume oxygen. If there is not a source of fresh oxygen supplying that space, the oxygen will be consumed beyond a safe level that is substantial to sustain life, and someone may pass out, and eventually die. You can address this concern by always ensuring that there is sufficient air flow from a clean source. This can be done by either cracking a window, opening a garage door, having fans draw in air from another part of the building, or similar actions. According to the CDC, over 50,000 people visit the emergency room every year, in the United States, due to carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning, and over 400 people die from it, annually.

In order to ensure that your home, office, or any other building is ready for winter, you should prepare your HVAC system for the cold. It isn’t too late to do this, if you haven’t already! To prepare your furnace, turn on your furnace to heat the building, and check to make sure all fans turn on properly and all vents in the house blow out air. There may be a clog or other issue with the fan if you find that only some vents are blowing out air. Additionally, check your air filters. Air filters may need to be changed between every few months to at most every year, which will help keep a cleaner, safer breathing air.
Additionally, you should always check your HVAC chimney or exhaust to ensure everything is hooked up properly and there is not any backflow that could cause CO issues. It is always a good idea to test smoke alarms and CO alarms every month.

In recent years, window winter coverings (or films) have become more popular with helping hold in heat in the house, and keeping drafts outside the house. However, these window winter coverings may be very dangerous to animals or young children. Do not let children play with the film if it does come undone. Doing so, may lead to a choking hazard. Additionally, if you do put window films over your window, ensure that they are not near a source of heat, such as a heater, candle, furnace, stove, or oven, and they are constantly checked on and re-taped as needed. The window films are often made up of plastics, that may melt and cause a fire, if not permanent damage to carpet and flooring.

Icicles are another source of injury in winter months. While they are a relatively rare cause of death, icicles are a common cause of minor injuries. Suggestions are installing either roof insulation, better ventilation in your attic (if you have one) or putting on ice guard melts on your roof to prevent ice from forming to begin with. If all of these are not possible, or already done, and ice does form off of your roof, then it is always a good idea to install some means of a portico, or covering over a door or exterior walk way, which would block ice from falling directly onto someone. Porticos do not have to be extravagant or excessively large, as long as they protect people who enter or leave a building.

Additionally, it is always nice having an extended tool that you can use to knock down larger forming icicles, from a distance. Ice not only is a hazard to people, but it can cause damage to gutters, shingles, siding, and anything below.

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

Posted in 2022, February 2022 | Comments Off on Building Winter Safety

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