Topics Archives

Immigration Agents Posing as OSHA Inspectors?

Immigration Agents Posing as OSHA Inspectors? Posted on:

The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) voiced concern to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Michael Chertoff over reports that the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) intends to continue the practice of having its agents pose as Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) personnel to round up illegal immigrants. The letter from ASSE President Jack H. Dobson, Jr., CSP, was also sent to Jonathan Snare, acting assistant secretary of labor for OSHA, and John P. Clark, the acting assistant secretary of DHS for ICE. “If the reports are true, ASSE insists that you intervene and make sure the impersonation of OSHA personnel ends,” Dobson wrote. “ASSE fully supports the responsible enforcement of this nation’s immigration laws. Doing it in ways that add to the risk of death, injury, and illness among this nation’s workforce is not a responsible way to do so.” It was our understanding that ICE had indicated this egregious usurpation of another federal agency’s good name and positive contributions to occupational safety and health would be discontinued,” Dobson continued. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, fatal work injuries among Hispanic workers were up 11% in 2004. “Finding ways to reach out to immigrant workers with safety and health information and training that can help them avoid death, injury, and illness on the job has been an increasingly important concern of the safety and health community,” Dobson said. “Ironically, President Bush’s just-released FY 2007 budget calls for an increase of $2.6 million in OSHA’s compliance assistance budget to expand Hispanic worker outreach. ICE’s tactics will make this needed investment largely pointless due to the already high levels of distrust in government authority that many immigrants bring to this country.” Last July, federal agents arrested 48 workers at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina on charges of being illegal immigrants after the agents tricked the workers into attending what was billed as a mandatory safety training session sponsored by the federal OSHA. Afterward, the federal Department of Labor, North Carolina and immigrant officials and ASSE criticized the deception, stating that it compromised workplace safety and health.

Hazardous noise levels: sound management vs. sound blockage

Hazardous noise levels: sound management vs. sound blockage Posted on:

According to industrial audiologist Brad Witt (pictured), the days of striving to develop hearing protection devices (HPDs) that could simply block the most sound are over. “Today,” said Witt, who is audiology and regulatory affairs manager for the Bacou-Dalloz Hearing Safety Group, “the focus is definitely more on sound management: on attenuating the hazardous noise to a level that still allows communication and warning signal detection. “In noise-hazardous environments, we are not trying to eliminate all sound,” he adds. “There are still sounds we want to hear, such as co-worker voices, warning signals, mobile radios, and even some machinery noise that may alert us to malfunction or maintenance needs. Wearing high-attenuation protectors without regard to communication creates a feeling of hazardous isolation, being cut off from the verbal and audible cues that keep us safe and connected with our work.” In response, Witt said, HPD manufacturers are increasingly working to develop more innovative products that protect without compromising these basic communication needs. One way this has been accomplished, according to Witt, is by designing HPDs with “flatter” attenuation characteristics. “First-generation ear plugs and ear muffs were not so effective against low-frequency noise, but attenuated high-frequency noise quite easily. These ski-slope attenuation curves created a distorted sound while wearing HPDs, making speech difficult to understand.” In contrast, newer generations of hearing protectors have raised low-frequency attenuation significantly, nearly matching the high-frequency attenuation. “This flatter attenuation curve creates a sound while wearing HPDs which is more natural,” said Witt. “It still blocks the noise, but with less distortion of speech and warning signals. The effect is most noticeable for workers who have some existing hearing loss, even a mild loss.” Another innovative approach to managing the sound in loud environments is through sound amplification ear muffs. “How many times have we seen workers remove their ear plugs to hear a radio call, or lift up their ear muff to talk to a co-worker?” Witt asked. “Sound amplification ear muffs have microphones, placed directionally on the ear cups, which amplify normal sounds to a safe level while still protecting from the hazardous workplace noise. The result is that workers have more control over hearing what they need to hear, without compromising protection.” Witt predicts this trend will guide new product development for several years to come. “We are just now beginning to take full advantage of recent advances in material and manufacturing technology which make these new approaches to hearing protection possible and economically viable,” he said. “This, in turn, has sparked new… …Read More…

Infrared detector resolution: how important is it for accurate thermal measurement?

Infrared detector resolution: how important is it for accurate thermal measurement? Posted on:

“Until recently, most buyers of infrared imaging cameras had to make a budgeting choice between a low-resolution 160×120-pixel camera or no camera at all, but they soon learned they missed a lot at low-resolution,” asserts Jon Chynoweth, vice president of Mikron Infrared. “Starting at about $25,000 and going up from there, professional high-resolution 320×240-pixel cameras were too costly for anyone who was not a full-time thermographer or not working for a company that could afford to buy expensive tools that might be underutilized,” he adds. “That changed in 2005 with our introduction of cameras costing less than $15,000 that use a high-performance 320×240 microbolometer detector. Still, many users want to know: why is higher resolution important in thermal imaging? Why have the professional thermographers always been willing to pay the premium for the 320×240-pixel detectors used in uncooled, focal-plane-array cameras?” Pixels are the data acquisition points for thermal measurement, and this data is used to create a visual image from the thermal profile, Chynoweth explains. “More data points mean more information is provided for accurate thermal interpretation. More pixels also mean greater visual resolution in the thermal image, so for a given field of view smaller details can be identified in the thermal image and accurately measured for temperature.” Chynoweth says that to make IR cameras affordable to wider range of users, detectors with pixel counts of 160×120, with or without interpolation, were introduced as a low-cost alternative. “But this is one-fourth the resolution of the 320×240 detector: 76,800 pixels vs. 19,200,” he stresses. “The larger detector produces an image twice as wide and twice as high, with four times the data for a given field of view.” For the working thermographer, high-resolution allows a camera to work at a much greater distance from a target without loss of temperature measurement accuracy, Chynoweth explains. “A target must cover at least 9 pixels on the FPA to be accurately resolved, or else the resulting temperature measurement will be compromised when the camera averages in extraneous background,” he says. The lower resolution detector interpolates a greater area between pixels and averages in temperature readings unrelated to the target. In practice, a target that’s 0.25 sq. in. can be accurately measured for temperature at a distance of 60 ft. with the 320×240 detector, while the 160×120 detector has to be at 30 ft. to ensure the same accuracy. (Distances based on a 25° x 19° lens). “Resolution is even more important in infrared imaging than it is in digital photography, and everyone knows… …Read More…

New engineering book looks at failure as an important part of the design process

New engineering book looks at failure as an important part of the design process Posted on:

Bookshelf news… This New York Times review of Henry Petroski’s book, Success Through Failure: The Paradox of Design makes some interesting points about the whole engineering/design process. Here is a snippet of the review: Failure 101. That is the nickname of an engineering course Henry Petroski describes in his new book, “Success Through Failure: The Paradox of Design” (Princeton University Press). And if it sounds as if the course (like the book) must be full of self-help advice for engineers, that is partly true. Failure, Mr. Petroski shows, works. Or rather, engineers only learn from things that fail: bridges that collapse, software that crashes, spacecraft that explode. Everything that is designed fails, and everything that fails leads to better design. Next time at least that mistake won’t be made: Aleve won’t be packed in child-proof bottles so difficult to open that they stymie the arthritic patients seeking the pills inside; narrow suspension bridges won’t be built without “stay cables” like the ill-fated Tacoma Narrows Bridge, which was twisted to its destruction by strong winds in 1940. To read the full review, click this link. [Registration required for NY Times.] To order the book on Amazon and see other reader reviews, click this link.

Top U.S. Companies Earn Millions in Rebates by Maximizing Energy Efficiency

Top U.S. Companies Earn Millions in Rebates by Maximizing Energy Efficiency Posted on:

Consumers aren’t the only ones fretting about sky-high energy bills. Multiply their concerns by half a billion square feet of property and hundreds of millions of dollars in higher energy costs. That’s the challenge facing large national retailers and other corporations this year. RealWinWin, an energy demand reduction specialist, helps the Fortune 1000 address that challenge throughout the U.S., one well-deserved energy rebate at a time. RealWinWin helps a wide variety of businesses maximize their energy efficiency, lowering annual operating costs and optimizing eligibility for energy efficiency-related rebates from utilities, governments, and other agencies. Last year, the company managed more than 10,000 projects, helping 27 national corporations–-including such household names as ING Clarion, Pier 1 Imports, JCPenney, Gander Mountain, AEW Capital Management, L.P., and Starwood Hotels & Resorts–save literally millions of dollars by optimizing energy consumption across a combined portfolio of over half a billion square feet of retail, office, hospitality, and industrial space. “RealWinWin’s risk-free business model, coupled with national retailers’ year-round need to perform building renovations among their hundreds of locations, makes selecting more efficient building systems a true win-win proposition,” says Mark Jewell, founder and president of RealWinWin, Inc. “This is especially the case now that energy prices are so high–with no relief in sight.” Here’s how RealWinWin works: The company’s expert energy engineers, financial analysts, and lease specialists analyze the various aspects of a client’s energy usage in each of its facilities—-heating, air conditioning, lighting, and more—-to determine that client’s eligibility to earn thousands of cash rebates from hundreds of electric and gas utilities and other funding sources across the nation. Then RealWinWin finds, negotiates, and applies for these rebates–usually between $0.25 and $0.50 per square foot of improved building space–on behalf of its client. Large, geographically dispersed organizations can receive rebates in dozens of states, and the total “free money” collected by a single large company could amount to hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of dollars in a given year. RealWinWin also offers recommendations for increasing energy efficiency, which can improve its clients’ eligibility for rebates, while at the same time lowering operating expenses for the life of that equipment. There are over two dozen categories of rebates available to help pay for lighting, HVAC, motors and drives, building envelope (cool roofs and insulated windows), energy management systems, and even consulting services, including engineering/design assistance for new projects, and commissioning to make sure that a building’s energy-consuming equipment is operating as designed. For example, when a nationally recognized retailer wanted to upgrade the HVAC… …Read More…

Vietnam vet is first recipient of housing accessibility program

Vietnam vet is first recipient of housing accessibility program Posted on:

Gen. Wesley Clark (ret.), Chairman of Project H.E.R.O. (Homes Eliminated of Restrictions and Obstacles) launched a new program to improve the quality of life for veterans with disabilities. The Ohio home of Vietnam veteran Shelby Bowling is the pilot site for a new International Code Council Foundation (ICCF) program. The goal of Project H.E.R.O. is to bring together building officials, architects, engineers, businesses, and other volunteers to help make the homes of veterans with disabilities accessible. ICCF is organizing state coordinators to mirror the pilot program across the country. “Many injured veterans own homes that are not accessible to someone with a disability,” said Clark. “For a disabled veteran, the key to attaining independence may be an extensive, often expensive, home remodeling project. Unfortunately, some of our nation’s veterans cannot afford to make these necessary modifications. That’s where Project H.E.R.O. and its volunteers can help.” Bowling, an Air Force veteran, has diabetes and must use a motorized scooter to maneuver through his home. His house does not have an accessible entrance, and his bedroom and bathroom are on the second floor–limiting his ability to access 50% of his home. The Project H.E.R.O. plans for Bowling’s home include an addition with an accessible entrance, a bedroom, and bathroom. “I’m very thankful for what they are doing for me,” said Bowling. “It has kept me from having to make an immediate decision about how to continue to fight my stairway. I still think it’s kind of unbelievable they have selected me for this. I’m just very, very grateful.” ICCF is dedicated to changing the devastating effects of natural disasters and other building tragedies by promoting ideas, methods and technologies that encourage the construction of durable, sustainable buildings and homes. It is a subsidiary of the International Code Council, an organization that develops the most widely adopted building codes in the nation.

California Seismic Safety Standards for Hospitals–Good News for Patients, Bad News for FMs?

California Seismic Safety Standards for Hospitals–Good News for Patients, Bad News for FMs? Posted on:

To prepare for impending earthquakes, California has made serious measures to improve seismic codes for all buildings, but hospitals are the only facilities that must meet these standards–or risk closure. The costs for the upgrades are primarily the responsibility of the hospitals, which is causing problems for facility managers in this sector. This NPR report by Cy Musiker of KQED examines the “Catch-22” situation in California’s hospitals. Here is a summary of Musiker’s story. A 1971 earthquake in Southern California (the Somar Quake) killed 46 patients and staff members in the Veterans Hospital and prompted lawmakers to set a deadline, 2008, for seismic standard requirements in the state’s hospitals. Extensions have been granted until 2013 for nearly half of the facilities, but an even tougher standard will roll into action in 2030. The 2030 standards will require all hospitals to be fully operational after a major quake. Right now, nearly one third of California’s hospitals are “seismically unsafe.” But administrators say they can’t afford expensive upgrades without going broke or cutting services. Boards won’t finance improvements in older facilities (their argument being, “why pour resources into a ‘money pit?’), but building new facilities are also cost prohibitive. Most hospitals can not afford the upgrades without some financial assistance from the state, which is only being given to children’s hospitals in the state. In 2001, cost estimates by the Rand corporation put the price tag at approximately $41 billion for the rest of the non-compliant health care facilities in California. The health care industry in California is lobbying hard to extend deadlines once again, but the state’s nursing union is arguing against the extensions, claiming that the hospitals are big money makers and should be able to afford the upgrades. Either way, an extension will only translate into higher costs for retrofits in most cases, and a delay could cost many lives, should another major earthquake hit the state. While larger, for profit hospitals may be able to foot the bill of seismic upgrades, smaller non profit or rural hospitals will struggle and many may be forced to close. Oftentimes, when money does become available in these facilities, it is spent on new equipment instead of infrastructure. Generally, administrators are too busy dealing with day to day operations to worry about seismic standards, a prioritization problem that could come back to haunt them–especially if hospitals are forced to close because of their failure to meet the standards. The full piece can be found here.

Researchers Find Radar Technology Shows Promise in Detecting Hidden Mold Behind Walls; Could Replace Current Expensive, Damaging Methods

Researchers Find Radar Technology Shows Promise in Detecting Hidden Mold Behind Walls; Could Replace Current Expensive, Damaging Methods Posted on:

Cutting-edge radar technology may soon make obsolete the slow, destructive and expensive methods now available to detect hidden moisture and mold behind wallboards, according to a report released by the Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Technology Institute (ARTI). Existing technology to detect mold behind walls requires stripping wall coverings to inspect hidden surfaces visually or boring holes into numerous wall sections to extract and culture samples. The disassembly and drilling must be done very slowly and carefully to avoid spreading mold spores and fragments through the building, which increases the cost of remediation, according to the report. “The economic problems created by hidden moisture are enormous,” said ARTI’s Director of Research Steve Szymurski. “Real estate property damage from mold growth has cost millions of dollars and the price tag for this problem is growing because of costly mold litigation. Therefore, developing better detection instruments that can locate hidden problems quickly, inexpensively, and nondestructively is an important research priority.” In their feasibility study, Atlanta-based Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) investigators soaked gypsum wallboard, used in most homes today, with water infused with mold spores to encourage mold growth, and allowed the spores to germinate in a humid environment. Using a radar system, researchers scanned the wall and found the technology to be effective in accurately pinpointing areas of hidden moisture behind the wallboard. While their research indicates that the technology can feasibly provide an image detecting mold growth on the back of wallboard, additional research is still needed to develop the technology so that it can unequivocally distinguish mold growth from moisture alone. In their report, GTRI researchers said the future challenge is to develop a system small enough to be taken into the field by a mold remediation practitioner. “The researchers considered testing several other technologies including gamma-ray imaging, X-ray imaging, T-ray imaging, and neutron beam analysis; however, all but radar had cost, safety, and portability limitations,” said Szymurski. This research was conducted with funding from ARTI, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and Munters Moisture Control Services. ARTI funding for this project was provided in part by the U.S. Department of Energy through Cooperative Agreement No. DE-FC05-99OR22674. The executive summary of the report can be downloaded from this link. The full report can be found here.

BOMA Applauds Capital Gains and Dividends Tax Cut Extension

BOMA Applauds Capital Gains and Dividends Tax Cut Extension Posted on:

The Building Owners and Managers (BOMA) International applauds Congress with its passage of the “Tax Relief Extension Reconciliation Act of 2005” (H.R. 4297) by a margin of 244-185 in the House and 54-44 in the Senate. The measure should receive the President’s signature immediately. The bill extends for two years, until 2010, the BOMA International-supported tax cut on capital gains and dividends that are set to expire in 2008. “The extension of the tax cuts on capital gains and dividends will continue to help supplement and bolster our already strong economy,” said BOMA International Chairman David W. Hewett, RPA, CPM, CCIM, FMA, CFM, principal for Trammell Crow Company, Auburn Hills, MI. “Such policy will contribute to the ability of companies to acquire and develop additional commercial properties, increase the financing or refinancing investment in those properties, and increase employment of skilled workers involved in construction, renovation and remodeling work.” BOMA advocated for Congress to extend this two-year extension on capital gains and dividends as well as the extension of the 15-year depreciation schedule on leasehold improvements. Unfortunately, the leasehold improvement language, along with other important extensions such as brownfields expensing, were removed from the final conference report. BOMA will continue to advocate for these policies to be included in a second tax bill that could receive consideration before the Memorial Day recess.

Happy Belated Birthday, FacilityBlog!

Happy Belated Birthday, FacilityBlog! Posted on:

Believe it or not, Saturday, May 13 marked the one year birthday of FacilityBlog. Let’s turn back the calendar 365 days to see what was being discussed one year ago: Friday, May 13, 2005 Welcome to FacilityBlog Friday the 13th seems like as good a day as any to start a Blog, especially with the news of major base closures looming around the country. The announcement, which was officially released today, was actually leaked to our offices yesterday by someone who knows someone who works in the facilities department of our local military neighbor, Fort Monmouth. Naturally, this was all taken with a grain of salt, but sure enough, the local rumor mill was actually right for once. In the year that has passed, FacilityBlog has hosted more than 7,700 visitors who have viewed more than 13,000 pages. The editors have posted 463 stories in that year–and we have every intention to keep on posting!