Like everything else driven by the retail economy, cold storage will continue to be reshaped by the growth of ecommerce, reports the global industrial real estate giant CBRE.
“There are a lot of complexities inherent in developing cold storage facilities, but the most critical component driving more construction is well established at this point: strong user demand,” says Matthew Walaszek, CBRE associate director of industrial & logistics research.
“As online grocery sales grow, grocers and other users will migrate more of their cold storage operations from stores into industrial cold storage facilities to better facilitate delivery.”
CBRE foresees three major shifts defining the rise in development and construction of cold storage in coming years.
First, developers will need to construct more facilities on spec, meaning commencing construction without tenants signed up. Spec building is a rarity in cold storage, and boosting it might require additional developers and specialized contractors to enter the market, CBRE admits.
Small markets likely will see more cold storage construction. For decades most construction has taken place in large markets, but rising land and construction costs are likely to push developers and users to smaller markets nearby, like Wilmington, N.C.; San Antonio, Texas; and Savannah, Ga.
Automation will make more headway into cold storage facilities, allowing big retailers and other users to streamline processes and improve productivity, CBRE predicts.
“Markets adapt to demand, which we anticipate will happen in a big way in cold storage,” says Adam Mullen, CBRE Americas leader of Industrial & Logistics. “In the meantime, existing, state-of-the- art cold storage warehouses and those newly constructed will attract significant attention from grocers, food producers and investors as grocery delivery gains momentum.”
<h2>Employer Email Control Restored</h2>
Employers now enjoy greater control of their own email systems, thanks to the National Labor Relations Board.
The board decision puts a crimp in union organizing campaigns by allowing employers to restrict employee access to corporate email systems for non-business purposes.
The decision overturns the NLRB’s 2014 ruling in Purple Communications, which held that employer bans on employee use of company email for union activities would be presumed to be invalid.
The Purple decision had rankled many employers and was considered one of the landmark Obama-era decisions made by the NLRB to advance a pro- union agenda with the goal of making it easier for unions to organize workforces.
The new decision involves the Las Vegas casino operator Caesars Entertainment Corp. The company’s handbook banned use of the company’s IT systems for various purposes, including sharing confidential information, sending chain letters, soliciting for personal gain or advancing personal views, visiting inappropriate websites and excessive use of personal email.
“Employees have no statutory right to use employer equipment, including IT resources,” the board says.
“Spotty enforcement of a ‘business only’ rule may still result in employees having the right to discuss union organizing activities over company communication systems,” warns attorney Meredith C. Shoop of the law firm of Littler Mendelson,
“That is, employers who allow employees to discuss birthday parties, sporting events, and other non- work matters via company email or other company- owned electronic messaging system will not be able to prohibit discussions of union-related matters.”
<h2>Ban Earbuds in The Warehouse</h2>
Although OSHA has no specific rules banning the use of earbuds for entertainment purposes in warehouse environments, employers should be wary of them, warn attorneys Robert Nichols and Caroline Melo of the Bracewell law firm,
Writing in IndustryWeek magazine (where your editor also is a contributor), they note that while OSHA has no specific rules about using earbuds or headphones in work environments, its general safety requirement still applies to employers in this regard.
However, the Labor Department (where OSHA resides) observed in 2011 expressed concerns about the difficulty of workers remaining aware of their surroundings, stating that these devices make it hard to hear emergency alerts and to maintain an appropriate level of safety consciousness.
Nichols and Melo recommend that all employees in any operational area of a manufacturing facility and in in warehousing be prohibited from using earbuds or similar items, like headphones.
Those individuals who work strictly in an office setting, well away from any operational sectors of the facility may be allowed to use earbuds — but even in that setting, they should be prohibited from using the devices while walking or otherwise leaving their desk.
Employees also must be prohibited from using these over-the-ear headphones in place of required hearing protection. Nichols and Melo warn, as well as banning them from wearing these devices under, or over, hearing protection.
In addition, they say workers must not be on their smartphones while performing work on or near any operating equipment. When using phones, they must be well clear of any transit paths for vehicles, forklifts, bicycles or even walkways for pedestrians in the plant, they stress.
<h2>Winter Closings And Wage Law</h2>
Be mindful of federal wage law when closing your business during bad winter weather, warns attorney Fiona W. Ong of the Shawe Rosenthal law firm.
Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, non-exempt employees are only paid for the hours they actually work. As a result, non-exempt employees who are not required to report to work because of a snowstorm do not get paid.
However, non-exempt employees sent home early must be paid for the hours they worked that day. Employers may allow non-exempt employees to use paid leave, such as vacation or paid time off, to cover scheduled but unworked time.
The FLSA generally does not permit deductions from the pay of exempt employees for weather- related closures of less than a full week. Even in such circumstances, the employee may not perform any work during that week.
Exempt employees can be required to use vacation or paid time off to cover weather-related closures. If the employee does not have sufficient paid leave to cover the missed time, the employer still is required to pay the employee their full salary.
“But a word of warning – many exempt employees are able to check their work email from their cell phones,” Ong notes. “If an exempt employee chooses not to come in but performs any work from outside the office – including checking email – they must be paid.”
In situations where an employee is required to remain on the premises because of a weather emergency, federal wage law is clear. If this time period is less than 24 hours, all hours on the premises must be paid, even if the employee is sleeping or resting during part of that time.
All of this comes under federal law. Some states have “reporting time” pay laws that require non- exempt employees be paid who show up at work but are then sent home. These laws typically require payment for a certain minimum number of hours, even if the employee does not work those hours.