Monthly Archives: June 2016

Veteran Worker Dies in Construction Site Accident

Room AdditionAn estimated 14% of on-site deaths are caused by machine accidents every year, and 2016 has been no exception. A construction worker died in a tragic accident on Tuesday after being struck by a payloader and then somehow ended up in a truck carrying hot asphalt, according to the New Haven Register.

The man, who police said was 55 years old, was a long-time employee of West Haven-based Pereira and Sons Construction.

Crews were working on a sewer project on the West Haven-New Haven line when the man was struck by a backhoe. He then ended up being buried by asphalt at the site.

The worker was transported to an area hospital where he succumbed to his injuries.

Accidents like this one have sparked activism across the country. So much so that Universities like Keene State have started taking steps to offer preventative courses.

Sixty-four safety professionals interested in learning new skills and updating their knowledge of critical OSHA regulations, as well as 20 college students majoring in safety and occupational health applied sciences, recently attended seven consecutive, all day construction safety programs at Keene State.

The month-long program was offered in coordination with Keene State’s Region 1 OSHA Training Institute Education Center. Professionals from 16 New England businesses, including Children’s Hospital of Boston and MassBay Electric, were in attendance.

Falls, electrocutions, impact from objects, and being caught in or between objects are four of the main causes of deaths on construction sites. Eliminating these four main causes of death through critical training and education could save upwards of 508 workers every year.

Program attendees learned how to interpret and apply OSHA regulations to assure the safe operations of cranes, scaffolds, confined spaces, and other crucial skills. Instructors used Keene State’s Technology, Design, and Safety Center’s “Safety Tower” to provide participants with hands-on fall protection.

Training programs like the one offered at Keene State could save the lives of countless construction workers like the one injured and killed in West Haven.

“It’s everyone’s worst nightmare,” West Haven Mayor Ed O’Brien said at the scene.

The city’s officials will be conducting an independent investigation, according to the Register.

Police have yet to release the victim’s name, pending notification of his family.

Study Shows Over 50% of Teen Crashes are Caused by Distracted Driving

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety released a new study documenting statistics surrounding teen driving accidents. Researchers found that from 2007 to 2015, more than 50% of all teen crashes involved some form of distracted driving.

According to LiveScience, the researchers gathered teen driver participants and placed special cameras in their vehicles. The camera would record — video and audio — for 12 seconds each time a participant was involved in an accident, slammed on their breaks, or rapidly accelerated. The camera would be able to access and record data from the accelerometer up to eight seconds before the incident and four seconds after.

The researchers reviewed more than 2,220 accidents by looking at the driver’s behavior during the six seconds before each incident.

Wholly 59% of all accidents involved the driver being distracted moments before the accident. The government’s official statistics on distracted driving — based on police reports — is about four times less than these metrics for teen drivers.

“Many teens are texting or using social media behind the wheel more often than in past, which is making an unsafe situation even worse,” said Jennifer Ryan, the AAA director of state relations.

Cell phones are the reason for a distracted driving accident in about 12% of the incidents, which is the second highest according to the study.

The number one distraction for teen drivers is having another passenger in the car.

CBS News reports that 15% of teen driver accidents are caused by a distraction stemming from another passenger in the vehicle.

“What we know about teens is that when they add a passenger, they’re more likely to be distracted,” Ryan added. “They’re more likely to engage in risky behavior.”

Other risk factors can increase the likelihood of a crash. For instance, the younger the driver, the more likely they are to get into an accident, and at nighttime, the fatal crash rate for 16-year-old drivers is nearly twice as high as it is for daytime driving.

“The best way that I can honor my sisters,” said Toron Woolridge, whose two sisters died in March from a distracted driving crash, “the best way I know possible is to talk to youth and talk to parents and help them to understand what could happen.”

Housing Market Documents Record Growth Across the Country

The housing market just recorded its fastest monthly growth rate on record, according to real estate brokerage firm Redfin. As of May, homes around the country are selling at speeds a full week faster than last year, spending only a median 42 days on the market.

The acceleration is the greatest Redfin has ever seen since they began recording their statistics in 2009. Homes in hot West coast markets like California, Washington, and Colorado frequently see closings in ten days or fewer, but a large majority of the growth stems from Midwest and Southern states, where prices are more affordable than ever.

Detroit and Grand Rapids in particular saw extreme growth levels, with a more than 50% increase since this time last year. “Locals are watching prices rise, and many realize if they don’t buy soon, they’ll miss out while homes are still affordable,” said local Redfin agent Kent Selders. “The result is incredible demand and rapid sales. Nothing like this has ever happened in Grand Rapids.”

Buyers are taking full advantage of falling mortgage rates, which are currently at a three-year low. Long-term mortgages were as little as 3.3% at the end of 2012, but current rates continue to decrease.

“After almost a decade of undersupplied housing stock, competition is fierce,” Redfin chief economist Nela Richardson said. “We’re seeing the intensity of fast sales and bidding wars even in affordable markets like Grand Rapids and Omaha, where the typical home sold within two weeks last month.”

Nearly one-third of markets across the country saw double-digit increases over the previous year, including Little Rock, Arkansas, where Redfin agent William Porterfield says the 33% growth is the result of more people being able to upgrade from their previous homes.

“Move-up buyers have specifically noted they are buying now to take advantage of still-low mortgage rates,” he said. “They’re focused on buying as much house as possible while interest rates are so low.”

Americans Are Taking Less Vacation Time from Work, and Technology Is to Blame

Motorhomes at Norwegian campsiteIn 2013, only 25% of Americans used all of their paid days off for the year, and a new report finds more Americans than ever are leaving their vacation days unused.

The Project:Time Off State of American Vacation 2016 report found that Americans took slightly more vacation days than in 2015, reporting an average of 16.2 days compared to 16.0 the year before.

This small increase comes as workers were given more time off than before–21.9 days on average– but they still used fewer vacation days than they did in 2014.

Project:Time Off’s report surveyed 5,641 U.S. employees on their vacation habits alongside an economic analysis conducted by Oxford Economics.

Overall, they found that America’s time off habits follow up-and-coming technology innovation and adoption trends. This finding suggests that this relationship has worked to intensify America’s attachment to work, reducing their ability to detach from the office while on vacation.

The finding goes against the assumption that economic trends nationwide are fueling the decline. Rather, Project:Time Off’s senior director and report author Katie Denis tells Forbes that technology may be the reason Americans always feel so connected at work:

“Technological advancements have irreversibly changed the way we work — in many ways for the better — but the omnipresent office requires being intentional about our time. Americans need to decide whether vacation will become a casualty of the new working world or if we will change to win back America’s Lost Week.”

In total, more than half — 55% — of workers left vacation time unused in 2015, amounting to 658 million unused vacation days. The unused days cost the U.S. economy $223 billion in global economic impact, along with 1.6 million jobs.

This is the highest figure Project:Time Off has ever reported.

But what is the reason for not taking vacation? According to Project:Time Off, 37% of workers report dreading coming back to a mountain of work, 35% say they don’t believe anyone else is qualified to do the work, and 33% cannot afford a vacation.

Additionally, workers say their managers place an unsurmounted amount of pressure on them when it comes to taking vacation days. Six of 10 workers report a lack of support from their bosses, and 53% felt the same from their coworkers.

More surprisingly, nearly two-thirds report a lack of response, mixed messages, or discouraging answers when they ask for time off.

According to the report, planning a vacation is crucial to actually going through with the trip, as 51% of all planners used their earned vacation time compared to only 39% of non-planners. For example, if campers are looking to go to one of our nations RV parks, which bring in about $5 billion per year then they must plan about a month in advance for their trip. In fact 43% of campers planned their trips at least one month in advance; staying in a hotel or booking a flight often requires even earlier reservations. These planners reported greater happiness in their vacation, including especially strong relationships with spouses and children.

And for those who go on vacation, they report using smartphones, laptops, and tablets to check up on the status of projects while away.

This marks a change, a crossroads for Americans when it comes to valuing their time away from the office.

Explained by Project:Time Off’s managing director Gary Oster to Forbes, “There are glimmers of hope, but to make real progress, we need to make the conscious choice that time off is as important as time on.”

Lumber Liquidators Donates New Hardwood Floor to Indianapolis Opera

Empty Theater ChairsThe largest specialty retailer of hardwood flooring in North America, Lumber Liquidators, donated more than 1,600 square feet of hardwood to the Indianapolis Opera to renovate their Recital Hall stage in the Basile Opera Center.

The Indianapolis Opera is the only professional opera company in Indiana. Since 1975, it has played an important role in community collaborations across the state, including participation in free concerts, programs for seniors, and events that allow local children to explore art and music. The program reaches 30,000 children and adults in Indiana each year and puts on additional performances in Michigan, Kentucky, and Illinois, as well.

Lumber Liquidators installed Hunter Red Oak Engineered flooring for the new stage, selected for its incredible durability and aesthetic, which is a gorgeous blend of strong oak graining in a classic honey hue.

“We very much appreciate the corporate leadership shown by Lumber Liquidators in the Indianapolis community,” stated the general director of the Indianapolis Opera, Kevin Patterson. “The donated wood flooring represents not only a welcome addition to our performance hall, their participation sends a strong and lasting signal that the arts are valued in our community.”

The company’s support of the Opera was conducted by its philanthropic program, Lay It Forward. The program aids organizations that work to benefit future generations. Since 2007, Lumber Liquidators has donated more than 300,000 square feet of flooring to organizations, schools, community groups, and arts facilities.

Besides being the ideal material for a stage or performance space, hardwood is also the top choice for flooring among homeowners. In fact, over half of future home buyers are willing to pay more for a home that features hardwood floors.

Lumber Liquidators provides the highest quality hardwood, featuring more than 400 varieties, including solid and engineered hardwood, bamboo, cork, vinyl, and laminate.

Employers Must Follow New OSHA Requirements Regarding Workplace Injury Reporting

New U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirements have been put in place to increase the amount of workplace injury reporting.

The new regulations came from one of OSHA’s top attorneys and the former Assistant Secretary of Labor. The requirements will significantly increase the amount of injury and illness data that employers are required to collect.

According to EHS Today, the new law makes it mandatory for employers to electronically submit any and all workplace injury and illness information to the government. OSHA plans to post all this data on its public website, OSHA.gov.

OSHA reports that even though employers were faced with fines up to $7,000 for failure to report injuries, 50% of severe injuries in the U.S. are going unreported.

“Every time we do an outreach, whether giving speeches to various trade groups of employee associations, we bring up the fact that severe illnesses and injuries have to be reported within 24 hours,” said Eugene Stewart, director for OSHA in Mississippi. “There is information on our website about the new reporting requirements. There are consultants out there relaying that information. There are quite a few avenues out there for employers to get this information.”

The Mississippi Business Journal reports that before the new rule, employers were not forced to report any serious hospitalizations or amputations for employees.

“Now because that information is required to be reported,” Stewart said, “we can respond and almost immediately make sure employers are taking steps to prevent those injuries and illnesses to employees.”

Workplace injuries are a serious problem in America: 35% of on-the-job injuries are caused by machine accidents every year. And in 2014, 4,821 workers died on-the-job — 14% due to machinery accidents.

The three elements of the new regulations are:

  1. Employers must inform all employees of their right to report any work-related injuries and illness free from retaliation. To meet this requirement, OSHA advises that employers post the “Job Safety and Health — It’s the Law” poster.
  2. Employers’ processes for reporting any injuries and illnesses must be within reason and must not deter or discourage any employee from reporting their injuries or illnesses.
  3. Employers may not retaliate or punish any employee who reported a work-related injury or illness.

Student Debt Payments are Delaying Would-Be Homebuyers, Survey Finds

A new survey from the National Association of Realtors and the SALT Program of American Student Assistance finds that a large majority of young people with student debt feel prohibited from buying a house because of the burden of loan repayments.

The two groups polled 3,000 people making on-time payments for student loans about their current attitudes toward the housing market. Some 69% said they didn’t feel financially secure enough to buy a home, and 80% found it difficult to save for a down payment because of monthly loan payments.

“A majority of non-homeowners in the survey earning over $50,000 a year — which is above the median U.S. qualifying income needed to buy a single-family home — reported that student debt is hurting their ability to save for a down payment,” NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun told CNBC. “Along with rent, a car payment and other large monthly expenses that can squeeze a household’s budget, paying a few hundred dollars every month on a student loan equates to thousands of dollars over several years that could otherwise go towards saving for a home purchase.”

Debt payments can affect credit scores, too. According to the Home Loan Learning Center, most mortgage lenders require a minimum credit score of 680 to qualify for a non-FHA loan. Only 34% of people under age 35 are homeowners today, a significant decrease from the 44% at the height of the housing market boom.

“Americans are concerned about this widening [wealth] inequality,” Yun said. “One of the contributors is that the homeownership rate is at a 50-year low. For most middle-class families, they have always perceived housing equity as their main source of wealth building. But fewer people are participating in home ownership, particularly among the younger generation, and that is tied to student debt, at least according to our survey.”

Of the participants polled, 38% owed $50,000 or more in student debt. Regardless of changes to the housing market itself, more than half of survey respondents said they anticipated their aversion to home-buying to continue for at least another five years.

Solar Canopies Will Allow Cities to Go Solar

photovoltaicNew solar panel technology called “solar canopies” shines light on the growing need for cities to convert to clean energy and provides a more effective way for them to do it, too.

In major cities, the 25% recycled content in a metal roof simply isn’t enough on its own to help the environment. Large rooftops often have no problem with the installation of solar panels because they’re broad and flat; residential homes, however, are a different story.

Urban rooftops are often covered in vent pipes, hatches, skylights, and more, and in New York City, fire codes require a six-foot-wide and nine-foot-high open path on every rooftop.

While these fire codes are for the safety of all, they don’t leave much room for solar panels in crowded neighborhoods.

Yet in a surprising and innovative twist, engineers at Brooklyn SolarWorks have found a way around the lack of space. By raising the solar panels above the rooftops with a solar canopy, designed by Brooklyn-based Situ Studio, the space issue is all but solved.

Aside from getting the canopies approved by cities, the only other problem that Brooklyn SolarWorks faces is the aesthetic value of their technology. While most people think the designs are interesting and modern, some believe that they mar the appearance of older buildings.

It seems that a new innovation is being brought about by solar power every week. In fact, recently a new record was set for converting unfocused sunlight into electricity.

Researchers at the University of New South Wales developed a solar cell that pushes the boundaries of what efficient and effective solar power is.

Current solar panels have a conversion efficiency of around 20% for unfocused, natural sunlight, but the UNSW team has broken that record by hitting 34.5% conversion efficiency.

A recent study of current solar photovoltaics, like the ones used in home solar panels, predicted that a 35% conversion rate wouldn’t happen until 2050. The UNSW team shattered both the record and the timeline.

If Brooklyn’s solar canopies are fitted with solar panels like the ones researchers at UNSW have developed, cities around the world could soon thrive on clean energy.

The solar canopies are currently only being installed in New York City, but the company hopes to start installation in other cities soon.

Conservative Watch-Dog Group Calls Out Florida Representative Over Alleged Credentials

patrick murphy congressU.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy is being called out by a conservative political group for what they say are blatant lies on his resume and experience credentials. According to the Tampa Bay Times, the Better Florida Alliance has said Murphy should “resign in disgrace immediately” after reports recently surfaced that he may have been less than truthful about some of his past experience.

The Tampa Bay Times and Miami Herald reported late last month that Murphy had only earned one bachelor’s degree with two majors from the University of Miami. For years, Murphy has touted his academic credentials as having included “dual degrees.”

Of course, this wouldn’t be the first time a recent college grad has stretched the truth on their resume. In fact, a recent survey revealed that approximately 70% of college students said they would lie to get a job. Moreover, it’s estimated that around half (53%) of resumes contain incorrect information.

Officials from Murphy’s campaign for the open Senate seat vacated by Marco Rubio have called this merely an “inadvertent error,” but the conservative firebrands aren’t buying it.

“Most of us earned our high school diplomas, our trade certifications, our college degrees. Some of us work hard and earn a living without any of those things, we don’€™t have to lie about it, we just work hard,”€ Brian Burgess, a Better Florida Alliance spokesman, said in a statement.

In addition to his proliferation of phony academic credentials, Murphy is also believed to have been dishonest about his efforts in the B.P. Gulf of Mexico oil spill. The Times reported that although Murphy has claimed to have been personally spearheading cleanup efforts in the region, it actually contradicts a timeline of his whereabouts that was put out by his very own Senate campaign.

Murphy is considered one of the frontrunners for the empty Senate seat, which will be voted on during the upcoming election. Galia Slayen, a spokeswoman for Murphy’s campaign, said the allegations and attacks are nothing more than a smear campaign to undermine his shot at getting into the Senate.

“These attacks are simply false,” Slayen said in a campaign statement. “Until this secretive attack-dog group comes clean with voters and discloses its donors, Florida voters know they can’t trust a word they hear.”

New FHA Guidelines Will Make it Easier For Millennials With School Loan Debt to Buy a Home

There’s never been a more costly time to be a student. Currently, the Millennial generation carries a staggering $1.2 trillion in debt. Naturally, this makes other processes quite difficult post-grad — particularly buying a home for the first time. This has caused a palpable delay for the Millennial generation when it comes to real estate purchases.
Because of this, more and more Millennials are opting out of buying homes and living with their parents for longer. According to an analysis of Census data by the Pew Research Center, living with parents is now the most common arrangement for people between the ages of 18 and 34. These stats are groundbreaking, as this is the first time that has happened since 1880.
This means that nearly one-third of all Millennials live with their parents. Paired with a housing market that offers low availability at much higher prices, it’s been a tough time for these young adult graduates to fly the coop with all of that debt weighing them down.

Blue Key and Great House

But now, the Federal Housing Administration doesn’t want Millennials to wait to jump the nest any longer.
In late May, new guidelines were released for education loans that will actually make it easier for college grads who are encumbered with debt to get approved this year.
The guidelines were effectively immediately, easing student loan debt payment calculations instantaneously. Additionally, FHA lenders will use lower estimates for monthly payments when it comes to student loans. For FHA 203K loans, for example, the 3.5% down payment may be even lower.
Now that the FHA is loosening up their guidelines, will Millennials flee the nest? Either way, 2016 is looking to be a promising year for Millennials who are looking to become first time homeowners.