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Conditions for Home Contractors Begin to Stabilize

Posted on 18 May 2020 by CRadmin2

According to an article recently released by Qualified Remodeler, a new weekly survey of home-improvement contractors shows that conditions have improved after the initial COVID-19 lockdown crisis. If you would like to keep track of conditions yourself, the Farnsworth Group and Home Improvement Research Institute (HIRI) provide frequent updates on how coronavirus is affecting the industry. So far, we are in week 6 of these updates.

According to the Weekly COVID-19 Tracker, contractors are still concerned about how the virus is impacting business, but those who responded to the survey are seeing improvements. In addition, the actual degree of concern has leveled out and started to drop. At the same time that concern about customers being able to pay their balances, seems to have fallen, other concerns are now on the rise, specifically concerns over getting new leads and the availability of materials.

Although contractors are still experiencing delays and a rash of cancelled projects, it looks as though we are at or have surpassed the apex of the arc. The week 6 analysis shows that larger firms have been able to deal with the coronavirus impact while smaller companies are falling short, with some grasping at straws and others having to close. So far, it looks like the larger the company, the better it has been handling the situation.

One of the most promising points of the new, weekly study is that project requests and closures are making a comeback. A lot of small projects are being put on hold, but many homeowners who are determined to get large, high-quality projects completed are closing at above-normal rates.

I highly suggest taking a look at the original Weekly COVID-19 Tracker from the Farnsworth Group and HIRI where you can peruse a bevy of charts, graphs and analyses, and you can sign up for instant access to the full, detailed report, which is segmented by company size and location.

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OSHA Releases Alert and Guidance on COVID-19

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OSHA Releases Alert and Guidance on COVID-19

Posted on 25 March 2020 by CRadmin2

By now, we are all aware of the threat of the COVID-19 virus and what it means to quarantine, and OSHA has been working diligently to give employers as much information as possible to curb the spread of infections. Many states are now under “shelter in place” orders and have shut down many types of workplaces. Even though business has most likely fallen sharply since the outbreak, many types of businesses are still allowed to operate, including those that fall under the blanket industry of construction.

If your countertop fabrication business is still operating, it is important to follow the new OSHA guidelines to help reduce the rate of transmission. This is not only good for society as a whole but also for your specific workplace. Even one case of coronavirus infection among your employees is reason enough to shut down operations for the time being.

COVID-19 spreads primarily to others through water droplets originating from the nose or mouth during a sneeze or cough. However, you do not have to be in direct contact with the droplets to get infected. The virus can survive for several days on hard surfaces, and it is enough to touch one of these surfaces and then touch your eyes, mouth or nose for the virus to transfer.

According to OSHA, the spread of coronavirus can be mitigated in the workplace by following a few specific guidelines. All employers still operating should follow all of these practices:

  • Assess the hazards of viral exposure.
  • Evaluate the likelihood of exposure.
  • Implement controls to lessen the risk of exposure, including the use of physical barriers, PPE, social distancing, personal hygiene and frequent cleaning.

In addition to the above, OSHA recommends following general practices to help control exposure to the coronavirus:

  • Wash hands frequently with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol content when soap and water are not available.
  • Do not touch your eyes, mouth or nose without first thoroughly washing your hands.
  • Maintain a distance of 6 feet from other co-workers, vendors and customers.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control believes that by implementing a routine that includes all of the above tips, we can beat this virus and get it under control, but it remains to be seen how soon we will be able to go back to “normal.” COVID-19 has disrupted our lives in several ways, and some of the precautions we must take now may have to continue for the greater part of the year.

Whether or not you believe this pandemic is as bad as they say it is, OSHA is on duty and working overtime to ensure businesses that remain open are in compliance of all safety and health measures introduced by federal, state and local governments. Our contact inside Oregon OSHA has revealed that they are receiving up to 10 complaints every hour about unsafe work practices, and the administration is taking all of these complaints seriously.

Due to the situation and volume, some complaints may be handled over the phone with stern warnings, but for the most part, OSHA is operating as usual while taking heightened precautions. The health and safety teams at OSHA are gearing up for a swath of onsite visits to ensure employers are not endangering their workers. If you have not implemented full health-protection measures, their next visit could be you. All it takes is one complaint by phone or completed Web form to get a surprise inspection.

For more information on how you can protect yourselves and your workforce while remaining open for business, please see the OSHA publication Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19 and visit the OSHA Webpage on COVID-19.

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OSHA Increases Maximum Penalties

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OSHA Increases Maximum Penalties

Posted on 24 January 2020 by CRadmin2

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has adjusted the maximum penalties companies face as per the annual inflation rate. The new maximum penalties are as follows:

  • Serious and Other than Serious penalties – $13,494 per violation
  • Failure to Abate – $13,494 per violation
  • Willful or repeated – $134, 937 per violation

States that operate under their own safety and health plans must meet these maximum penalties, but they could be higher.

In addition, OSHA wants to remind employers that they must post their 2019 Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses (Form 300A) from February 1 to April 30, 2020. For further information about Injury and Illness Recordkeeping (Forms 300, 300A and 301), please visit the federal OSHA website.

OSHA Training Institute Education Centers are also available to help companies comply with federal regulations. Available courses are listed by the U.S. Department of Labor.

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A Look at Oregon’s New Kitchen Trends

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A Look at Oregon’s New Kitchen Trends

Posted on 16 January 2020 by CRadmin2

Being headquartered in Portland, Ore., we here at CountertopResource.com keep a close eye on the latest news in the state that affects countertop trends and countertop fabricators. We know that while Oregon fabricators are only a fraction of our total readership, but we also understand that what goes in one state often goes for many others, especially the ones surrounding the source of the news.

Earlier in January, The Oregonian published an article that takes a look at home design trends for 2020. The information provided was based on consultations and interviews with representatives of Neil Kelly Design-Build in Portland and the House Plan Company in Eugene.

Among the latest findings are that homeowners are looking at livability, environmentally friendly materials and splashes of color rather than the blacks and whites that have recently been so prevalent.

“2020 is a new beginning, and many people feel inspired to update their homes,” said Barbara Miller, design director at Neil Kelly. “Trends and predictions provide a starting point, but we recommend a realistic and thoughtful approach when considering design for your individual home.”

In the livability category, it seems like we will be looking at large, open spaces that can easily be rearranged or redesigned in the future, depending on the changing needs of the homeowner. While many are looking at smaller-sized homes for new construction, the average footprint of a new house is still slightly more than 2,000 sq. ft.

When it comes to color, Neil Kelly’s clients want bold accents and warm textures. Some clients are also being influenced by traditional Pacific Northwest and Asian designs with repurposed wood or artisan tile.

In the kitchen, colorful appliances are taking over, but matte black and graphite remain popular. Kitchen islands are expected to be long and up to 5 ft. in width, which allows for friends and families to gather while meals are being prepared. These large islands are also great for children doing homework and completing projects with enough space left over for everyone to charge their phones and other electronic devices.

Rather than walk-in pantries, customers are demanding concealed prep spaces that include additional countertop space. In addition, breakfast nooks and bars are predicted become increasingly popular and will come in a range of shapes and sizes. Along with a range of sizes, newly styled countertops made from eco-friendly materials that mimic quartz or that have antimicrobial properties will be high in demand.

Next month, we will take a closer look at kitchen and countertop trends from around the country, and we look forward to delivering our findings from a range of respected sources.

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Data Breaches Among Top Concerns for SMBs

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Data Breaches Among Top Concerns for SMBs

Posted on 19 September 2019 by CRadmin2

According to Tirena Dingeldein, blog author for popular software-vendor directory Capterra, data security has emerged as a main concern for small to medium sized businesses. For small businesses, even a single breach can be crippling. However, there are steps you can take to stave off these threats, keeping your data and your business safe and secure.

According to research conducted by Capterra in 2018, 71 percent of SMBs now use data security technologies, and data security is in the top three priorities for technology spending in the next two years.

Some business owners believe that they do not possess enough data to justify purchasing security software, and some believe that their data simply isn’t important enough to be targeted by criminals. The fact remains that even large companies can lose substantial amounts of business and revenue because of a data breach. Some of these large companies barely survive. Just think of how much damage a data breach can do to a small business.

The fact of the matter is that nearly 60 percent of SMBs fail within six months of a data breach after losing tons of money each month along the path to ruin. In addition, tech criminals see small businesses as easy targets, and an investigations report by Verizon backs this claim by finding that small businesses make up 75 percent of data breaches.

IBM calculates the cost of a data breach by record. For each record compromised, it costs a business approximately $148. This cost represents what an SMB will have to spend in the recovery process. Kaspersky Labs has also conducted a cost analysis, and this software company estimates that a single data breach incident will cost $120,000.

The following three steps are crucial in mitigating the risk of a security breach:

  1. Purchase and implement data security software – This usually takes three forms: network security software to scan and monitor intrusions and vulnerabilities, data loss prevention software to help a business manage sensitive data and computer security software to provide file access control.
  2. Purchase data breach liability insurance – In the event of a data breach, insurance can be invaluable in covering all the associated costs. Insurance can help pay for a variety of losses, including lawsuits and brand cleanup, and it can be reasonably priced for SMBs.
  3. Create a response and recovery plan – If the unthinkable occurs, and hackers get through your data security software, it can help immensely to have a plan of action already prepared.

For more information on protecting your SMB from a data security breach, please see the original article on the Capterra blog.

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Health & Safety Watch: 2 Dead in Workplace Slab Accident

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Health & Safety Watch: 2 Dead in Workplace Slab Accident

Posted on 12 September 2019 by CRadmin2

Two employees were left dead from a tragic slab accident at Stone Warehouse in Sterling Heights, Mich. Firefighters were called to the scene Monday around 2:30 p.m. after reports that a worker was pinned under several slabs of granite.

“When we got on the scene, we could obviously see that the worker was pinned in there, and it was obvious that it immediately killed him and it wasn’t anything of a rescue mode,” Said Chris Martin, Fire Chief of Sterling Heights.

Soon afterward, employees of Stone Warehouse noticed that another man was missing, and first responders discovered that there were two fatalities.

Crews reportedly had to move hundreds of broken pieces of granite to recover the bodies, and this was no small feat. Several other granite shops on the same road rushed in to help.

“19 Mile Road in this area of Sterling Heights has a lot of granite shops,” Martin said. “We reached out to a lot of the different shops, and three businesses just dropped everything they were doing, came across the street with their pieces of equipment and started lugging pieces of granite out so we could move it safely.”

Martin noted to WWJ Newsradio that the extra help was indispensable in the process of recovering the bodies of the two victims.

“These guys do it every day. We had a couple pieces that were cracked and shifted, so we used the technical rescue team to put some airbags in place, put some shoring in place so nothing else shifted,” Martin said. “And we were able to get to the first victim about an hour ago and then we had to move a lot more granite and stuff that was hooked to their crane and we’re almost to the second victim.”

The first victim was finally reached around 7:00 p.m., and it took another two hours to recover the second man.

We here at CountertopResource.com express our deepest sympathies to the family and coworkers of the deceased, and we cannot stress enough that countertop fabrication is a potentially deadly business.

Even the falling of one slab of granite or similar surface, can injure or kill. Please follow all protocols all the time to help prevent such tragedies, as no countertop is worth a human life. If you do not know what those protocols should be, or if you are unsure whether your measures are safe, we urge you to contact your local OSHA consultation office.

Remember, the Consultation Department is separate from the Compliance Department, and they are forbidden from sharing any infractions they notice during a consultation. You have nothing to lose in contacting them. It could save lives, protect your workers and keep workers’ compensation claims to a minimum.

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Sell Your White Granite Countertops

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Sell Your White Granite Countertops

Posted on 29 August 2019 by CRadmin2

Granite is a very popular selection for modern countertops, but the trend has always been in darker colors. White granite is becoming increasingly well known, and the tips in this video from Edenhall Kitchens in Southampton, Penn., can be passed on to your prospective customers in order to make that tough sale.

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Reduce the Strain in Manual Material Handling

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Reduce the Strain in Manual Material Handling

Posted on 28 August 2019 by CRadmin2

The leading cause of disabling injuries in the construction industry is overexertion. More than one-third of all workers’ compensation claims in construction, including specialty trades, are accounted by this factor. While sudden trauma injuries, such as falls, have a fast onset, overexertion can be caused by repeatedly handling materials improperly, which puts undue stress on the body’s soft tissues.

Manual material handling includes several tasks: lifting, lowering, pushing, pulling, holding and carrying. This is why overexertion is such a common injury in construction. However, there are four primary reasons why workers become injured from overexertion:

  1. Workers twist or bend their backs while picking up materials.
  2. Workers hold materials too long.
  3. Workers frequently lift, hold and lower materials without taking a break.
  4. Workers hold materials too far away from the body.

To reduce overexertion injuries, several steps can be taken, including the following:

  • Decide where you want to place materials in advance.
  • Store materials off the ground to reduce the stress of bending and lifting.
  • Never lift or carry more than 50 pounds without help.
  • Bend at the knees and push legs upward when lifting.
  • Hold materials close to the body.
  • Lift heavy objects at one end before shifting the pivot point to the center.
  • Use specialized equipment to lift heavy materials.
  • Use supports to hold materials overhead.
  • Use platforms to raise and lower materials.
  • Never carry materials on ladders.
  • Never support materials with your head.
  • Take breaks so that muscles and joints have time to recover.
  • Use scaffolds to keep materials at knee height.
  • Never twist the body when lifting heavy materials.

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NAHB Projects 25-Point Drop in Interest Rates

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NAHB Projects 25-Point Drop in Interest Rates

Posted on 16 August 2019 by CRadmin2

At the end of July, the U.S. Federal Reserve cut its short-term funds rate by 25 basis points to a rate of 2.25 percent, according to a report from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). Although the housing market is facing affordability issues from prospective homebuyers, the new rate will undoubtedly help by decreasing the cost of home loans.

The Federal Reserve’s policy has evolved over the last three quarters, and this is the reason why interest rates have fallen since last year. The housing market experienced a 10-year low in affordability just last fall, but the new policy has extremely positive prospects for both housing demand and home construction, which should reflect in the countertop industry. In addition, the new maximum interest rate provides an offset to the rising costs of construction.

Rising costs have been reducing affordable inventory, especially for entry-level buyers, and production costs have been the number one factor in the decline of affordability. The NAHB has already predicted a flat market for new homes and starts in 2019, and ballooning costs are a primary factor.

Looking at the larger picture of the overall economy, the Federal Reserve has said that the labor market is strong and activity is increasing at a moderate rate, which echoes the perspective of home builders, which is that the overall economy is slowing, labor shortages are being experienced and there are concerns about housing affordability. The Fed also stated that fixed investment for businesses has been soft, and this has also reflected in the housing industries in recent quarters.

Inflation has slowed, according to the Federal Reserve, and is currently below the target rate of 2 percent. If this trend continues, it will be in a position to reduce rates even further to spur on the slowing economy. However, there is no guarantee that this will transpire. The NAHB says that some investors are acting too aggressively in anticipation of a 75-basis-point reduction in the coming quarters.

Although the 75 point reduction may not happen, the NAHB still forecasts another 25 point reduction by the end of 2019 because of slowing inflation and growth, but the soft patch of the late-cycle housing market at the end of 2018 shows that there are still “ongoing macro risks.” To note, residential fixed investment is still down for the last year and a half.

For further information on the housing market, take a look at the Eye on Housing blog post by NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz.

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Up Your Game with PaperStone Inlays

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Up Your Game with PaperStone Inlays

Posted on 25 July 2019 by CRadmin2

This recent video from Gene McDonald is a montage showcasing some of the inlay designs that are possible using PaperStone brand recycled paper countertops. McDonald, also known as “The Designicator”, does a good job highlighting how other countertop materials can be used with PaperStone to create a fusion effect. For further information or to request a training seminar, email McDonald at [email protected]

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