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What is Legionnaires' Disease and How Can FM's Combat It?

Legionnaires’ disease has been making headlines recently as outbreaks have been increasing worldwide. In the most recent case, Disneyland guests became infected. What is this disease, and why is it an important subject for all facility managers?

This type of disease is the result of a specific type of bacteria that is extremely common. In one CDC study, the bacteria was present in 84 percent of 200 tested cooling towers. Facility managers need to be aware of this potentially devastating disease and how to prevent an outbreak.

Legionnaires’ Disease

Legionnaires’ disease is a severe, pneumonia-like respiratory disease that is caused by exposure to Legionella bacteria. This type of bacterium is naturally present in freshwater, but it can become a problem when it spreads in man-made freshwater areas. Common areas where legionella buildup occurs include showers, faucets, decorative fountains, hot tubs, large plumbing systems and cooling towers. People become infected when they inhale minuscule water droplets containing legionella. Once infected, a person cannot typically spread the disease to others.

Symptoms of infection usually become apparent within the first two weeks of being exposed to the bacteria. Legionnaires’ disease closely resembles pneumonia. Victims of this disease commonly experience fever-like symptoms, cough, muscle aches, shortness of breath and headaches. Less commonly, those infected will suffer from nausea, confusion and diarrhea. Doctors will need to perform a urine test or phlegm sample test to determine if legionella is causing the lung infection, and antibiotics are necessary for successful recovery. While this condition is rare, experts estimate that a large number of legionnaires cases are misdiagnosed by medical professionals. 

Recent Concerns

The Legionella bacteria strain was discovered after a devastating outbreak in 1976. The incident killed 34 people who had all attended an American Legion convention. When researchers discovered the bacteria that was causing the infection, they positively linked the bacteria to the previously mysterious Pontiac fever. Legionella outbreaks are still fairly rare, but there has been an uptick in recent cases. Just last month, an outbreak of the disease in a Lisbon hospital killed four and infected at least 40. Six individuals required intensive care, and most of the victims were either elderly or had chronic conditions. Experts are still working to determine the source of the bacteria.

Around the same time, Disneyland in Anaheim was forced to shut down after several cases of Legionnaires’ disease became apparent after visiting the theme park. After nine different guests reported the condition, Disneyland conducted an investigation. Around a month before the outbreak, an elevated level of legionella bacteria was found in two cooling towers located in a backstage area. Both towers had been treated, disinfected and re-opened, but Disneyland took the towers out of service again when the health agency ordered them to shut down.

The health agency also alerted healthcare providers to be aware of the outbreak in any patients that visited Anaheim or Disneyland. Orange County has recorded over 55 cases of Legionnaires’ disease this year alone.

How Facility Managers Can Prevent an Outbreak

The key to preventing a legionnaires’ disease outbreak is being proactive in testing water systems for the bacteria. Legionella flourishes best in warmer water. Disinfectants that are necessary to kill Legionella are harder to maintain in warmer temperatures, so hot tubs are one of the biggest breeding grounds.

Facility managers need to be aware that their facility’s cooling towers are extremely vulnerable to a buildup of legionella. Cooling towers hold warm water that eventually evaporates into the air, and these conditions are exactly how many outbreaks begin. The buildup of bacteria in cooling towers were most likely responsible for the severe legionnaires’ outbreaks in Portugal (2014), New York (2015), and Disneyland (2017). In addition to heat, stagnation, sediment and micro-organisms in a water supply all support the growth of this bacteria.

OSHA suggests choosing a high-efficiency eliminator design for cooling towers to control growth. OSHA additionally suggests that periodic maintenance and inspection, the use of biocide, frequent cleanings and record keeping are all crucial steps in preventing a legionnaires’ disease outbreak.

While outbreaks of legionnaires’ disease have been rare, incidents have been increasing world-wide in recent years. Much of this increase can be attributed to an increased awareness of the condition and better testing methods. An individual’s likelihood of becoming infected with the legionella bacteria has a lot to do with both the level of exposure and the individual’s susceptibility to disease. The bacteria is very common in hot-water sources, and it needs to be controlled. According to OSHA surveys, around 60 percent of the 1,000 cooling towers tested contained non-detectable levels of the bacteria.

As a facility manager, it’s crucial to understand that the best way to prevent an outbreak is to closely maintain and inspect water sources that are susceptible to the bacteria.

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Moisture Management

Facility managers are responsible for managing moisture in their facilities. Proper moisture management involves recognizing your facility’s moisture vulnerabilities, establishing a plan and employing routine maintenance and inspections. The best mold and moisture prevention plans are a combination of both proactive and reactive measures because no single action can completely eradicate the risk of mold spores.

Recognizing Moisture Vulnerabilities

Moisture leads to the growth of molds like Stachybotrys, Penicillium and Aspergillus. These seemingly minor issues can turn disastrous and impact the health of your employees, damage property and cost your business. Surprisingly, molds can cause people to get very sick. Short-term immediate health consequences include symptoms like headaches, allergy attacks and other flu-like symptoms. Left unchecked, continuous exposure to molds may cause neurological diseases, severe respiratory infections and even cancer.

The financial ramifications of failing to properly manage moisture may include lost productivity, damaged property, liability expenses and disruptive clean-up activities. Mold clean-up procedures are expensive because mold spores can spread and colonize unless it is completely contained and removed. You’ll need to hire an expert drying company. For all of these reasons, facility managers need to prioritize moisture management.

Establish a Plan

Facility managers need to develop and establish a working plan for moisture management. Moisture usually enters a facility through air movement, liquid leaks, absorption or diffusion through building materials. Moisture management starts with the building of your facility. Different resources like water vapor diffusion barriers and capillary breaks can be integrated into the building. Next, facility managers will need to establish clear expectations on who will inspect and maintain the resources dedicated to managing moisture. This may include housekeeping staff or third-party contractors.

Facility managers or their assigned staff will need to manage the interior relative humidity to ensure moisture doesn’t harm the facility conditions, perform up-keep on various resources and routinely inspect areas vulnerable to moisture build up. Your moisture management plan should include plans on how to respond if mold is discovered in your facility. The best moisture management plans should include both proactive measures and solutions for reacting if moisture buildup is found.

Maintenance and Inspection

While there is no single maintenance or inspection step that can completely prevent moisture problems, a consistent and steady application of a variety of maintenance and inspection steps can prevent your facility from suffering a disastrous mold or mildew problem. Routine inspections are necessary because mold can grow when moisture is present. Leaky pipes may go unnoticed and develop into an enormous dangerous problem. Water can also be introduced to areas when individuals accidentally leak or spill liquid and fail to properly clean it up.

Facility managers must rely on efficiently managing housekeeping duties to ensure that liquid spills are cleaned up correctly. The biggest reason that routine inspections are needed is because moisture gets into areas simply during normal occupancy. Water vapor can seep into buildings through building materials, condensation or on tracked in on the shoes of employees. Facility managers can’t completely moisture-proof buildings, so it’s crucial to implement a routine maintenance and inspection routine. 

Without a proper maintenance schedule, the resources you’ve dedicated to preventing moisture are likely to degrade and become inefficient. Air-conditioning units need their filters replaced on a regular basis, temperature control systems need to be tested each month and the condensate drainpipes need to be flushed routinely.

In the winter, thermostats must be set above 55 degrees even in unused facilities to prevent water pipes freezing and bursting. In the summer, thermostats should not be set higher than 80 degrees to prevent humidity buildup. Many facility managers find it more efficient to contract these moisture management maintenance schedules out to third-party specialists. 

Moisture management planning involves recognizing your facility’s moisture vulnerabilities, establishing a plan and employing routine maintenance and inspections. Proactively protecting your facility from moisture build up will not always be enough to prevent mold, so you need to have dedicated plans for reacting to mold or moisture problems.

While some facility managers may not prioritize moisture management, failing to do so can cause your entire facility and workforce to be out of commission. Don’t let your facility remain vulnerable to the natural occurrence of moisture buildup and mold. Instead, start working on your moisture management plans now to prevent your facility from getting taken over by mold.

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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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The Pros and Cons of an Open Workspace

Silicon Valley is well-known for its incredibly successful global tech companies. Companies like Apple, Google and Facebook have all revolutionized facility management styles with new solutions like the recent open-office trend. Facility managers around the globe take note of the management styles and trends coming out of Silicon Valley because of the apparent success of these businesses, and the open work space trend has quickly become the new normal.

The International Facility Management Association reported that by 2014 around 70 percent of American offices had low or no partitions to facilitate a more open work space. An open office creates both advantages and disadvantages in the work space. Facility managers should weigh their company’s goals and look at the evidence presented to decide if an open work space environment is a potential solution for their business. 


Benefits of an Open Work Space

The number one reason facility managers consider moving to an open work space is because it is much more cost-effective than private offices or cubicles. Shared workstations mean less overall financial investment into private desks, individual rooms, materials and other building costs. Additionally, facility managers consider strategic motives like improving social support, cooperation and communication between team members when considering an open work space.

Silicon Valley titans like Yahoo!, Facebook and eBay argue that an open office design facilitates fairness, transparency, productivity, communication and innovation. Communication between employees improves, and different team members will be more engaged with one another with an open work space design.

Research indicates a phenomenon called “culture collision” occurs when a chance encounter between workers boosts each employee’s creativity and sense of community. These culture collisions are proven to boost overall office productivity rates.

Without assigned offices and cubicles, an open work area is more flexible than traditional designs. More employees can operate in an open space, and the layout can be rearranged as needed. This allows for maximum space utilization. Another positive aspect of an open work space design is the eco-friendly energy implications.

Open offices are the green choice because the design reduces the strain on heating and cooling systems, gives more opportunities for broad daylight windows and involves less construction waste. Another important reason facility managers are opting for an open work space design because it is both aesthetically pleasing and trendy with the newer millennial generation. Business owners report that an open work space design leaves a positive impression on clients, whereas the traditional cubicle-style design is often seen as old-fashioned. 

Consequences of an Open Office

One of the most glaring disadvantages to having an open office design is the increase in noise level and distraction for employees. It has been repeatedly cited in many studies that simple noise impairs concentration and cognitive performance.

Matthew Davis, an organizational psychologist, reviewed over one hundred studies relating to office design to research the psychological effects on employees from an open office design. His published findings show that an open work space means an increase in uncontrolled disruptions, higher levels of stress, lowered concentration levels, lowered productivity and a decrease in worker satisfaction. 

Facility managers recognize that a sense of privacy boosts productivity, but an open office removes this aspect. An often-cited study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology found that around half of all open office workers were unhappy with the lack of sound privacy, and 40 percent complained about a lack of visual privacy.

Additionally, more open space leaves employees more vulnerable to contagious germs. One study comparing different office designs found that employees who worked in open offices took more time off due to illness . Another study published in the 2014 Journal of Ergonomics confirmed these results. 

Silicon Valley seems to have reinvigorated the open office movement, yet it may come as a surprise that open office designs were the norm back in the 1950s and 1960s. An open floor plan may be a good fit for some businesses, but it’s not a good option for every company.

Facility managers need to consider that every employee works differently, and the potential advantages and disadvantages to an open work space are highly dependent on various job functions and the company’s overall goals. While large tech companies like Google that rely on innovative ideas and collaboration greatly benefit from this open office design, facility managers should carefully consider their options before jumping on-board with the trend.

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Outsourcing Janitorial Services

outsourced janitorial services

It’s not unusual for companies to outsource certain facility management processes like janitorial services. According to U.S. Industry Reports, the janitorial services industry “derives the majority of its revenue from the commercial market” because corporate offices and retail shops are the most frequent consumers of outsourced cleaning services.

A greater number of companies are utilizing this outsourcing tactic to save money and improve operational efficiency, while others choose not to outsource because of the loss of control and other disadvantages the solution presents. There are many options for outsourcing a portion or all of your company’s janitorial services. 

Advantages of Outsourcing

One of the key reasons facility managers decide to outsource janitorial services is because utilizing independent cleaning contractors is cost-effective. Contractors have already invested their own resources, training and tools into building a janitorial strategy, so you won’t need to take on these costs. In an extensive paper published by the ISS Group, analysts discovered one company that had saved 18.1 percent, or $5.8 million, by outsourcing tasks.

Another reason to outsource such tasks is that janitorial contractors offer specialized expertise. Outsourced janitorial services are often more efficient, and they improve on the overall quality of building maintenance. With a specialized focus on cleaning and maintenance, contractors will be stocked with high-quality cleaning supplies, experienced in janitorial work, fully-trained and prepared with the knowledge necessary to keep your facility clean.

Additionally, offloading some of the managerial duties and labor-intensive tasks to a janitorial contractor will free up your time. As a facility manager, it’s not uncommon to have a towering work load, a tight budget and several projects to oversee simultaneously. If janitorial duties are taking away valuable time and focus from other areas that need your attention, then outsourcing is a good solution.

Disadvantages of Outsourcing

Facility managers frequently mention that the biggest disadvantage of outsourcing janitorial services is the loss of managerial control. Facility managers that decide not to outsource such duties will maintain direct supervision and control over the staff, rendered services, quality of services, chemicals used and potential compliance issues. When managers choose to outsource, they willingly enter into a contractual agreement that turns over management and control to the contractor. The contractor will ultimately determine how their services are delivered and control their own personnel, equipment and quality of service.

While the contractors main goal is to make a profit by delivering the services you need, it can be frustrating to rely on an outside company to address unsatisfactory issues. This commonly noted downside of outsourcing can be negated when the contractor and facility manager establish clear expectations, goals, rules and a solid foundation of communication.

One significant issue of outsourcing is the potential to create greater inefficiencies within your business. If you lack clear communication with your independent contractor, then issues can arise such as duplicated work efforts, poor management, lost data and an overall more complicated process. Luckily, the risks of this disadvantage can be reduced by ensuring you contract a reliable and top-quality janitorial service provider. Facility managers can also reduce risk by creating contracts that clearly establish ground for termination for outsourced groups.

Outsourcing will also increase the amount of time it takes to implement policy changes that include action from your contractor. Another potential issue that arises from outsourcing is the threat to the confidentiality and security of your business. If your business manages confidential company data or proprietary knowledge, then you will need to take preventative measures to ensure your information is protected when janitorial staff are present.

Options for Outsourcing

There are many independent janitorial contractors that exclusively manage services for facilities. You can decide what level of janitorial services you want to outsource and the type of contract you want to enter. Most companies will enlist in legal counsel to ensure their contracts protect the interests of your business. Research the various types of cleaning services available in your area and devote time to finding a quality contractor. In the beginning of your relationship with your contractor, it’s necessary to build communication, utilize key performance indicators and verify the service’s efficiency.

There are many benefits and disadvantages to outsourcing janitorial services. Generally, when safety and security are top priorities, outsourcing presents too many threats to be beneficial. If cost and efficiency are your company’s main concerns, then outsourcing is the best option. Facility managers should weigh their company’s specific needs and goals to determine whether outsourcing all or a portion of your janitorial services would benefit your company.

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Fall and Winter Preparedness for Facility Managers

Facility and building managers must prepare for the winter months as the seasons change and the weather becomes increasingly colder. Failing to prepare will inevitably disrupt normal business operations and can potentially damage the company’s finances, reputation, property and employees. The most important steps managers need to take include conducting an initial risk assessment, preparing for winter maintenance, aiming for energy efficiency, protecting your data and technology and considering a telecommuting plan. 


Risk Assessment

The first step every facility manager needs to take in preparation for the winter months is to conduct an extensive risk assessment on your facility. Start this process by evaluating existing programs and processes, noting your company’s current level of preparedness and identifying any necessary improvements. The top three reasons to perform risk assessments are to assist in identifying vulnerabilities, evaluate threats and discover recommendations for improvement. 

Winter Maintenance

One of the largest concerns for businesses in the winter are icy walkways that can cause dangerous slips and falls. One common and necessary winter maintenance solution involves melting ice around outside walkways, parking lots and roadways. Rock salt is the most frequent and cost-effective type of ice melt product, but this solution can damage vegetation. Ensure your business has a plan for snow and ice removal.

Facility managers should also consider installing indoor absorbent carpeting to collect tracked-in snow. Facility managers also need to ensure the indoor cleaning team is removing any tracked-in salt and salt. Another important winter maintenance step is preparing and winterizing your pipes for potential freezes. Always perform a roof inspection to repair any trouble spots before the first snowfall, and be sure to clean out any roof drains and gutters. Interior winter maintenance may involve a heating system inspection, routine window checks and a full duct cleaning. 

Aim for Energy Efficiency

The Environmental Protection Agency notes that energy is often a commercial property’s largest operating expense. Aiming for energy efficiency is cost-effective, minimizes waste and maximizes your business’ environmental performance. Incredibly, an overlooked and seemingly trivial issue like cracks or an improperly sealed window can cost your company hundreds of dollars in the winter months. Reduce wasted energy by correcting any potential issues identified in your overall risk assessment. 

Protect Your Data and Technology

Winter storms frequently cause power outages. The most common and cost-effective solutions for facility managers to consider for power outages include surge protectors and offline back-up storage systems. Surge protectors absorb any extra electrical energy when power is restored to your building. This small step protects your electrical devices from damage and important data from being lost.

Data-focused centers may also want to consider an uninterruptible power supply unit that can prevent power loss and business disruption during the winter months. Most modern-day companies depend on the flow of information to and from various computers.

It is extremely important for facility managers to consider frequently backing up their data through an off-site cloud service. Failing to do so could result in a catastrophic loss of data or an inability to function until power is restored to incoming and outgoing servers. Cloud services allow for a speedier recovery, improved business continuity and prevents revenue loss during power outages. 


Consider a Telecommuting Plan

The winter months often bring extended periods of dangerous road conditions. If your employees frequently face severe weather conditions or dangerous roads to get to work safely, then you may want to consider implementing a telecommuting plan that allows some work to be done remotely.

The widespread availability of the internet has allowed many companies to offer telecommuting positions. Global Workplace Analytics found that over 50 percent of the United States workforce holds a position that would be at least partially compatible with telework. 

The most important steps facility and building managers need to take in preparation for the winter months include conducting an initial risk assessment, preparing for winter maintenance, aiming for energy efficiency, protecting your data and considering a telecommuting plan.

Failing to adequately prepare for the colder season can result in financial loss, property damage and even employee injury. Don’t leave your business open to these common winter disasters, and instead begin implementing a winter plan now.

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Effective Security Technology Solutions for Facility Managers

 Effective Security Technology Solutions for Facility Managers

One of the most crucial responsibilities of facility managers is to provide and maintain a safe work environment for all employees. Daniel O’Neill, the president of Applied Risk Management, emphasizes that “facility executives should seek a balance of sustainability and security from the beginning of the design process.” The most effective security technology solutions for facility managers involve the company’s building design, alarm systems, video surveillance systems, security personnel team and smart technology integration.

Building Design

The best facility managers know that a building’s design and office layout play a big role in employee productivity and satisfaction, but they may be surprised to learn that these traits are potential solutions to building security issues. The WBDG Secure/Safe Committee believes that “protective measures are generally achieved through principles of structural dynamics, nonlinear material response, and ductile detailing.” Bollards, protective glazing, setbacks and structural hardening are all measures that can be taken to improve upon a building’s structural integrity. Recent new articles around the globe indicate a rising trend of weaponizing automobiles, and a simple solution like bollards can effectively protect employees and property from any vehicle damage.

Alarm Systems

One of the most commonly sought out solutions to security issues is the installation of an access control alarm monitoring system. Ronald Ronacher, an associate principal at ARUP, agrees that alarms are “something most companies will start with because it helps address the basic security principles of deter, detect, delay and deny.” Alarm systems manage entry into entire buildings or certain rooms to ensure that only those with proper authorization can access areas. Basic alarm systems will alert individuals when unauthorized intrusions occur. Alarm systems are versatile and can be integrated with various other technologies such as video surveillance, audio control and other smart technology. IML Security, a diverse security solutions company, specializes in commercial, corporate, industrial and institutional access control systems, master key solutions and other such services.

Video Surveillance

Facility managers should take note that efficient night-time lighting and video surveillance will deter theft and reduce trespassing. In addition, video surveillance ensures OSHA compliance, reduces liability issues and monitors all incoming and outgoing visitors. Video surveillance systems are a huge deterrent, so many suggest placing some cameras within plain view. It isn’t necessary to resort to expensive systems. Current technology allows for cost-effective solutions depending on the needs of your facility. High quality images may not be necessary for all situations, and analog cameras are much less expensive alternative.

Security Personnel

Your employee’s safety is more than a legal obligation. It should be seen by facility managers as a major priority and solution. While hiring security guards is a long-term expense, it can be cost-effective for facilities at risk for criminal attackers, emergencies or handling of high-priority, expensive property. Each facility manager should create a checklist of potential risks when analyzing the benefits that security personnel could offer their company. Robert Sollars of Silvertrac explains that security officers are “the backbone of the security industry…[who] maintain control, provide customer service, and remain constantly observant.”

Smart Technology

Smart technology integrates current security technology with the Internet of Things. Devices such as key systems, video surveillance, audio recording, light switches, drones, A/C Units and much more can all be connected and compartmentalized into a single control center. Adding robots to your security team can be very beneficial. Autonomous data machines can provide benefits like constant coverage, immediate alerts, improved information sharing and much faster response times. An additional benefit to moving your company’s security needs to the cloud is that it is much more cost-effective to have wireless protocols protecting your building than physical ones like security officers, key-locks or proximity cards. This ‘new world’ of security technology provides more effective protection systems, more efficient streamlining, better information sharing and an overall easier ability to manage security issues.

The most effective security technology solutions for facility managers involve the company’s building design, alarm systems, video surveillance systems, security personnel team and smart technology integration. While most systems of the past relied on implementing physical security measures, this new internet-based smart technology is slowly creating a new security paradigm that facility managers need to stay up-to-date on. Integrating the older and newer security models can be cost-effective no matter your company’s size.

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Are Cool Pavements Worth the Investment?

Are Cool Pavements Worth the Investment?

The increasing threat of global warming has pushed both the government sector and private industry into a hunt for smarter, alternative ways of living. One such technology, “cool” or smart pavement, hopes to reduce the concrete jungle effect of big cities by replacing traditional asphalt with reflective material. The upcoming tech has successfully passed initial tests and will be implemented on a larger scale in Los Angeles.

What is Smart Pavement?

Traditional black asphalt absorbs anywhere from 80 to 95 percent of sunlight. In contrast, cooler alternatives are a range of upcoming technologies that seek to reduce the heat entrapment common with public roads. Many contain a GuardTop sealcoating that reflects the heat, enhances water evaporation and remains cooler. The cooler alternative has been successfully tested in select parking lots in Los Angles, and the city hopes to begin testing on public roads. Officials plan to study the public’s reaction, the longevity of the GuardTop coating and the overall effects of the lowered air temperature.

Environmental Benefits

The most beneficial aspects of the cooler alternative to black asphalt are the overall lowered temperature and reduced reliance on A/C units. The impact on the environment of cooling the air temperature down is more relevant than ever as the globe faces unprecedented heating in the modern era. California has allocated $150,000 to a cooler roads project that aims to reduce temperatures by up to fifteen degrees. Alan Barreca, an environmental science professor at the University of California, believes that the temperature difference will be so apparent that it will significantly reduce the use of air conditioning. If his predictions are accurate, then greenhouse gases could be drastically reduced in areas with heavy traffic.

Global warming advocates are in agreement with the scientific community about the dire consequences to both the environment and humanity of not reducing global greenhouse gas emissions. They argue that failing to do so will lead to extreme climate change including rising temperatures around the globe. Greenhouse gases are not the only way that traditional black asphalt contributes to rising temperatures. The dark black asphalt absorbs massive amounts of solar energy and later radiates it back into the atmosphere. The current goal is to target areas that suffer from extreme heat that would benefit most from such solutions and gauge the impact of such projects.

Drawbacks

The Department of Energy’s Berkeley Lab extensively studied the entire life cycle of various street materials including conventional asphalt, concrete and reflective coatings. They found that the energy and emissions used in creating alternatives often outweighed the expected benefits. Partnering with UC Pavement Research Center, thinkstep Inc. and the University of Southern California, Berkeley looked at the different methods over a span of 50 years. The groups looked at the entire life cycle of materials including the manufacturing, installation, usage and disposal. They found that producing and maintaining reflective coating requires more than six times the energy needed for traditional rock and asphalt coating. Another study, conducted by Melvin Pomerantz in Berkeley, found that California’s cities could save 60 cents a year at most and avoid only about one cent per year of carbon dioxide emissions.

Facility Management

There are several benefits that cooler alternatives can offer for facility management. The EPA argues that such technologies reduce storm water runoff, lower tire noise, enhance safety, improve local comfort and increase nighttime visibility. As managers, these considerations are important for the overall productivity of your team. Noise pollution is one of the biggest problems in most offices. Permeable alternative roads, according to the EPA, can reduce tire noise by two to eight decibels. Additionally, the overall lowered air temperature around your office can make your staff more comfortable while simultaneously saving money on running the office A/C unit.

The implementation of such cooler roads in Los Angles will further reveal if such alternatives are worth the investment. While recent research suggests that the environmental harm may outweigh the benefits, the technology is proven to significantly decrease the overall air temperature in cities. This increasingly important aspect may make the technology more adoptable as global temperatures continue rising to extreme levels. If something isn’t done to reduce the concrete jungle effect, then big cities will likely be avoided as the heat becomes intolerable in the coming years. Researchers, scientists and politicians continue working together to come up with innovate and alternative solutions to the climate crisis.

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Facility Managers and Workplace Productivity

facility Manager Workplace Productivity

The role of facility managers has undergone a shift with the rise of technological advances, artificial intelligence and data analysis programs. There has been a greater need for managers to focus on their roles as leaders and role models for their organizations by enabling a worker to become the most productive, engaged and satisfied versions of themselves. Solutions to efficiency problems can be found in such worker-oriented thought processes.

Efficient Facilities Management

Facilities Management, as defined by the British Institute of Facilities Management, describes “the processes that maintain and develop an organization’s services to support and improve the effectiveness of its primary activities.” The role of facility manager is so critical that individuals in the position are often viewed as the company’s leaders and role models. Effectively managing various employee’s morale, productivity and engagement levels is far from an exact science and requires constant vigilance, data collection, measurement, trial and error. What may work for one company’s employees could be disastrous if implemented in another.

Boosting Morale

Team morale is extremely important for a cohesive functioning unit. Psychologist Jim Harter, PhD, points out that “our careers are such a foundational part of our identities and how we think about ourselves.” Facility managers need to be aware of the significance of this. Thankfully, technological advances have allowed managers to become more creative and flexible in boosting team morale. Many companies have begun offering positions that allow individuals to work remotely from the comfort of their home part-time or full-time. Harvard Business Review explains that at-home workers are much happier, more productive and less likely to leave their position. Ctrip’s remote work opportunity study revealed that at-home advisors outperformed their peers in an office setting by almost a full workday a week and took around 13 percent more calls than their office-staff peers. Increasing the availability of such opportunities, providing extra benefits and splurging on company barbeques are all ways that managers can boost the team’s morale.

Increasing Engagement

This type of approach focuses on the connection that workers have to their employer, company and overall job. Matthew Loughran of B2C argues that disengaged workers make up around 70 percent of the entire workforce. Increasing involvement levels starts with an efficient amount of communication between workers and managers. Regular face-to-face meetings, questionnaires, suggestion boxes and recognition programs can help keep managers aware of pressing employee issues. Consistent communication will increase a person’s emotional attachment to their workplace benefiting both the worker and the company overall. Allowing workers to have flexible working schedules and greater input leads to increased individual accountability.

Employee Productivity

Facility managers play a critical role in enabling their team’s production rates. Incredibly, Johnson Controls’ research on worker output discovered that employees only spend about half of their working day focused on work, and almost half of all focused work time is unproductive. Solutions to such efficiency issues range from as simple to adjusting the room temperature to as complicated as handling conflicting personality types in workers. Cornell University studied the effects of room temperature in an office setting and found that raising the temperature five degrees resulted in 44 percent less typing errors. Noise pollution is one of the biggest poisons to a productive office and can be corrected with solutions like a new office layout or printer sound shields. Researchers have also found solutions in creating break rooms, organizing the office, decorating with plants and investing in creating a physically comfortable environment.

The importance of facilities management should not be underestimated. The profession alone represents over 5 percent of global GDP. Incompetent management will lead to lowered cost-efficiency, lowered health and safety standards, decreased lifespan of assets and overall disorganization. Efficient facility managers can provide immeasurable benefits to key areas like worker morale, engagement and production rates by identifying problems and workable solutions.

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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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