FM Frequency: Giving Thanks!

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By Jeff Crane, P.E., LEED® AP

Published in the November 2006 issue of Today’s Facility Manager

Thanksgiving—one of the few holidays most of us still celebrate without interference from the political correctness police! In honor of this special (and distinctly) American holiday (and since the TFM editor won’t let me make predictions for the NFL playoffs), I would formally like to thank insurance companies and attorneys for their “generous” contribution to our industry.

These illustrious professionals might be responsible for fluorescent green warning labels, three day waiting periods, and mandatory instructional DVDs that accompany hammer purchases, but what better “catch all” excuse could a facility manager (FM) employ when denying a customer’s request?

The following transcripts are taken from imaginary—yet very realistic—phone conversations between fms and their customers. Constrained by wiretapping laws, only the FM’s voice has been captured for transcription purposes.

Scenario #1. FM: Wait just a second. You want to borrow a screwdriver, duct tape, and a pair of handcuffs from the facilities department? Sorry, can’t help you with that—too much liability. The insurance company says we can’t loan out any tools or equipment.

Apparently one of their clients was recently sued when an employee was injured running with a sharp pair of scissors obtained from their facilities department. Yeah, they said the company hadn’t properly trained their employees about how to run safely with scissors, and it was a huge Workers’ Comp loss.

Don’t you recall the recent HR memo about this? Hold on a second….I see from my asset management database that you have a company issued pair of scissors at or within 20′ of your work station, and you haven’t completed the safety training module on sharp object safety.

Yes, I do realize you have an Ivy League MBA, but nobody is exempt from safety, buddy! Before you can log back into the network or scan your badge to leave the office, you’ll need to complete this training and get the safety czar to witness and notarize that you completed it on your own and without assistance.

By the way, do you mind my asking if this request has anything to do with an unauthorized air conditioning adjustment?

Scenario #2. FM: Which light bulb do you want changed before your customers arrive? You mean the one way up there at the top of the main atrium? Yes, the facilities team is aware of it and has started working on the safety department’s required submittals. Next we’ll be drug testing the entire company before renting a lift.

Yes, that’s right. The insurance company requires us to drug test everyone, because when the lift is on the property, anyone could touch it. We’ll also be hiring a security guard to confirm that only certified operators get near the thing.

Our 40-hour operator lift training should be completed about the same time the drug test results are back and the safety submittals are approved—we’re looking at three to four months. Will that be in time for your anticipated visit?

Scenario #3. FM: Marketing wants to announce our new product line with a fireworks display and a parade of elephants and monkeys inside the building? Um….that sounds really cool, but I’ll have to check with our corporate attorney and the insurance company. I’m fairly confident the answer will be no.

The insurance company is very particular about animals and open flames. They’re even considering requiring us to remove task lighting in the cubicles because they’re so bright.

Apparently one of their clients paid a huge Workers’ Comp claim because a man was burned grabbing a 100 watt incandescent bulb with his bare hand. Right, the employer hadn’t posted proper warning labels warning employees not to grab light bulbs.

Did you know some people are naturally drawn to bright objects and have an innate desire to touch them? It’s true! The attorney even had a tear in his eye when he said so.

Scenario #4. FM: You’re requesting a 1,000 gallon fish tank in an area right above the data center and you plan to have employees swim with live piranhas and electric eels?

Unfortunately, the board of directors requested the exact same thing last month for its team building activity, and our insurance company said no. I’ll ask again and let them know that you’re willing to wear Kevlar wet suits and install umbrellas over all the data center equipment racks, but I don’t expect them to change their minds.

The IT group must know someone at the insurance company, because we can’t even allow small goldfish bowls any longer. Something about water spills and bacteria around computer equipment annoys them.

Scenario #5. FM: You’re following up on the request for the marketing VP to jump his Harley Davidson over the building for a TV ad? I just got off the phone with the insurance company and our general counsel. They said it’s okay if he sets up the ramp in the street and jumps the intersection in front of the building; that’s city property and immune to any sort of accountability for anything.

Just make sure the big guy doesn’t use any company air space or part of the parking lot for a runway, and get his assistant and every other employee to stay away from the bike’s brake lines.

The media department also needs to videotape him signing company indemnification forms, the Sarbanes-Oxley disclosure statements (in triplicate), the hold-harmless/royalty documents just faxed over from Harley Davidson, and his new will.

Yes, I said his will. His wife and girlfriend have both been in my office this morning and they insist. No, the mayor and the city are not aware of the stunt yet, so please don’t issue any press releases or video clips until after the jump.

Perhaps these fabricated scenarios are a bit far fetched, but it is interesting to reflect on the litigious state our profession must currently observe. So the next time someone threatens to sue you or your company, remember to give thanks!

Disclaimer (to be read very quickly with over-inflection by a guy with deep voice): Identities of individuals and organizations in the above transcripts have been intentionally omitted. Any conclusions, assumptions, thoughts, or feelings generated by this column do not necessarily represent those of anyone officially associated with TFM. Any similarity to actual events, facilities requests, organizations, or individuals is purely coincidental and are not meant to offend, insult, or otherwise upset humans, plants, animals, or minerals.

Cosigned, TFM Insurance and Legal Depts.

Crane is a mechanical engineer and regional property manager with Childress Klein Properties, a leading real estate developer and property management services provider in the Southeast.

 

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