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Outdoor Workers and Heat Safety

Outdoor Workers and Heat Safety

As a facilities manager, you bear the all-important responsibility of keeping your staff safe in all kinds of weather. During the hottest months of summer, this burden can take on a unique challenge, however. You can ensure your workers' health by knowing what heat safety precautions to utilize during this time of the year.

Learn about the Dangers of Hot Weather

As the summer months get underway, the hot weather poses a serious hazard to people working outdoors. Statistics show that dozens of outdoor workers die each year because of heat stroke. Thousands more are sickened and hospitalized as the result of heat exhaustion.

Further, every industry can be affected by heat dangers but especially those like construction. In fact, 40 percent of outdoor workers who die from heat stroke work in this industry.

Regardless, heat stroke can affect anyone of any age even those who are young and seemingly in good physical condition. As a facilities manager, it is critical that you appreciate the dangers that come with working in hot weather. You should never assume that your employees are safe from heat stroke or heat exhaustion simply because they are healthy, young, and in good physical shape.

Plan Ahead

Once you realize the dangers of working in hot weather, you must then devise a plan ahead of time in case one of your workers does suffer from heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Your plan should include calling 911 and using cold compresses on the affected individual until help arrives. You should practice this plan often with your employees so everyone knows what to do if or when this type of emergency occurs.

Your plan should also include an element of prevention, however. You should educate your workers on how to work safely in hot weather and help them understand the symptoms of heat stroke and heat exhaustion. By educating your staff, you can prevent this type of emergency and ensure everyone's safety while the weather is hot and humid.

Offer Plenty of Water

One of the most important things you can do as a facilities manager is making available cool, fresh, and pure water to your outdoor workers. You should place the container of water in a shaded or cool location so that it stays refreshing and cold for your staff. It should also be made available at no charge to them.

Likewise, you should encourage your staff to drink at least one quart of water on an hourly basis while they are outside. This precaution will keep them hydrated and could prevent them from suffering from heat stroke or heat exhaustion.

Offer Shaded Resting Areas

You should also make sure there is at least one shaded place where your workers can go to rest while they work outdoors. Even if you have to set up a tent, you need to make sure your staff has a shaded area where they can go to cool off and recuperate from working outside in extreme heat.

You should make sure that they rest for at least five minutes on a regular basis anytime the temperature reaches higher than 80 degrees Fahrenheit. It is important that you encourage them to rest before they start to feel sick or exhausted from the heat.

Use a Heat Safety Mobile App

Finally, you can keep your workers safe by downloading and using a NIOSH or OSHA heat safety mobile app. The app is available on both Android and Apple devices. It is designed specifically for outdoor workers who are exposed to heat while on-the-job.

The app also offers live-saving information for facilities managers, supervisors, and others in charge of outdoor workers. It alerts you to the precautions you should take to make sure everyone stays safe on the job site. The app is free to download and can be a valuable resource when you want to protect your employees from the dangers of working outdoors in the heat.

Working in heat and humidity can pose a serious risk to your employees' health. It is up to you as their facilities manager to keep them safe from heat exhaustion and heat stroke. You can prevent serious illness and deaths related to working in the heat by utilizing common sense heat safety precautions.

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How to Prepare for a Natural Disaster

The Federal Emergency Management Agency reports that an overwhelming 40 percent of small businesses will never recover and reopen after experiencing a major disaster. Facility managers are responsible for preparing for the worst and safeguarding the business from potential natural disasters. Facility managers play a pivotal role in formulating, communicating and updating preparedness plans.

Recently, a wave of natural disasters has adversely impacted businesses through the nation, and facility managers have been working together to formulate better strategies for emergency preparation. 


Emergency Preparations

One of the most immediate concerns for facility managers in natural disaster preparations should be equipping the office and staff with the resources and knowledge necessary for immediate survival. This means that evacuation routes, basic safety measures and company procedures need to be outlined explicitly and posted or distributed to all employees.

Managers should also compile a list of contact information for all staff members that is stored online and accessible in the event of a crisis. Facility managers should strongly consider installing emergency lights throughout the building. These lights need to illuminate exits and should be operational for at least 90 minutes during an emergency situation.

Facility managers are responsible for installing and maintaining smoke and fire alarms within the facility. Emergency kits should be assembled that include first aid items, emergency flashlights, chemical masks and any other essential items. Legal codes can provide a foundation for facility managers to begin creating a preparedness plan, but real-world practice runs are essential to help you identify weaknesses in your plans. 



Utilize Smartphone Apps

According to researchers, most modern-day individuals will pull out their phones when they don’t know what to do. Panic can cause people to completely forget procedures and plans even when they’ve been through practice runs. Facility managers should consider utilizing smart-phone technology to their advantage by creating an emergency app with instructions, evacuation routes and simple tips.

Apps can also be used for communication and real-time updates during crisis situations. Social media has been a major factor during recent disasters because people can communicate through their smartphones, request assistance and keep everyone updated on the situation in various locations. 



Data Protection

Although your company’s staff and property should be main priorities during disasters, it’s important for facility managers to protect company data as well. Protecting your data should involve making your physical facilities resistant to power outages, decentralizing data operations and having a solution in the event that the data center fails.

Physical preparations should include things like surge protectors and reinforced buildings. In the event that your centralized data center is inaccessible, it’s important to have a backup of important information stored online. While physical hard-drives can be damaged, data in the cloud is secure. Cloud services are a great solution that facility managers should consider. MIT experts argue that without a cloud service, “your original data could be lost forever”. 



Build a Telecommunication Strategy

Having a telecommunications strategy before an accident happens can be extremely helpful in the aftermath of a disaster because your business can continue operating remotely. Even if your office isn’t directly impacted by the natural disaster, it’s likely that some of your employees will be unable to make it to the office right away.

Throughout Hurricane Harvey, the International Facility Management Association had all of its employees work from home. Ideally, facility managers should consider how their employees could work remotely, formulate a plan and test the telecommunication strategy before it needs to be implemented. 

Strengthening your company’s emergency preparations, data protection policies, emergency apps and telecommunication strategies are all crucial in protecting your company’s employees, property and data. In the past few decades, emergency situations have been increasing.

Facility managers need to be aware of the increase in extreme weather, international terrorism and domestic violence to properly prepare for these unpredictable events. Facility managers act as coordinators during emergencies, and they are responsible for leading their team to safety. Is your business prepared to handle an extreme event?

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OSHA Announces Delay of Electronic Filing Deadline

Long Island Workplace Safety

Obama-era safety regulations, like OSHA’s “Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses”, have been coming under strict scrutiny in the new Trump administration. The final rule’s electronic filing components, which went into effect at the beginning of this year, have been highly criticized, challenged in court and now delayed. Under such conditions, facility managers are questioning the best course of action in pursuing compliance.

Filing Date Extended

In May of 2016, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a new rule labeled “Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses”. The new regulations require employers with 250 or more employees to electronically file all recordable injury and illness information. The rules took effect in January 2017 and mandated that establishments file their submissions for 2016 by July 1, 2017. Additionally, employers with 20-249 employees that are considered “high hazard industries” by OSHA are required to file. The purpose of such electronic filing is to create a publicly available database that discloses each employer’s compliance with safety rules.

The Controversy

Recently, OSHA issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and suggested extending the deadline for electronic reporting by five months. This would push the deadline until December 1st. The statement provided the reasoning for the extension would be to “allow affected entities sufficient time to familiarize themselves with the electronic reporting system which will not be available until August 1.” OSHA’s statement, along with pressure from the National Federation of Independent Business, suggests that the group intends to rework certain aspects of the rule. The National Federation of Independent Business has strongly urged OSHA to push the compliance date into mid-2018. The postponement would give OSHA time to reconsider and revise the final rule.

This all comes following a lawsuit that was filed against OSHA’s rule by the National Association of Manufacturers and other businesses. The lawsuit alleges that OSHA lacks the statutory authority to enforce the rule and that the real-world impacts and costs are too high to implement. Most importantly, the agency runs the risk of sacrificing employee and employer privacy. Linda Kelly, the National Association of Manufacturers Senior Vice President, explains “manufacturers take pride in creating safe workplaces and are supportive of regulations that increase transparency, but this regulation does neither, and we look forward to fighting this in the courts.”

Their requests for a preliminary injunction were denied by the courts, but the issues brought up by the plaintiffs can still be brought back to court. A similar lawsuit against the new regulations has been brought to the Oklahoma federal court arguing that they would violate employer’s First and Fifth Amendment rights.

OSHA’s new regulations are being heavily criticized by a large portion of the business community. Additionally, OSHA has failed to develop and launch a platform or website designed for uploading reports. The postponement of the filing date coupled with the fact that OSHA is not yet accepting any electronic submissions points to a possible revocation or major reconsideration of the rule itself.

What Facility Managers Can Expect

Around 466,000 employers will be affected by the electronic filing requirement under OSHA’s new rule, but facility managers remain unsure how to proceed with the swirling controversy. Union groups and workers safety organizations worry that the pending lawsuits combined with the unpredictable Trump administration may not adequately defend the rule. Attorney Joseph P. Paranac, Jr. explains “while some advocates may be worried about the grant program, it’s too early to mourn the initiative’s demise…companies should refrain from overreacting to reports…Instead, organizations may wish to continue to keep track of developments and consult with the legal or other advisors before committing financial or other resources to a course of action.”

It is too early to speculate about the future of the final rule, and the courts have also conceded that the complaints against the initiative may be changed with OSHA’s reworking of the final rules. For these reasons, the best course of action for facility managers is to consult with advisors and identify the steps and costs required to comply with the current rules. It is best to hold off on immediate implementation.

Edwin G. Foulke Jr., former head of OSHA, strongly believes Trump’s administration will re-examine the final rule. His feelings are validated by many in the business community, while others think it’s too soon to disregard the now in-place regulations. With such confusion, most experts agree that the best course of action for facility managers is to plan for the costs and developments of compliance but hold off on immediately implementing them until further details emerge.

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