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When the Weather Impacts Your Employees’ Safety

In Minnesota, employees’ safety can be impacted by the weather. Severe cold in the winter and extreme heat in the summer are two common examples. Although OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) does not have specific standards for weather related conditions, employers have a responsibility to provide workers with conditions that are free from recognized hazards, including winter and summer weather related hazards, which are causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm.

Best practice is to have a policy regarding safety for conditions impacted by the weather, train your workers and monitor your workers. Even if your workers believe that they already know everything about proper safety in weather related conditions, you still need to provide the training. The training should take place prior to the winter weather season and another training prior to the summer weather season if you have employees who are working outside. For the winter training, employees need to be trained on cold stress (e.g., trench foot, frostbite and hypothermia), how to recognize the conditions that lead to cold stress, the symptoms of cold stress, how to prevent it, what to do if someone is affected by cold stress, and how to select proper clothing (while this might seem obvious to hearty Minnesotans, it is not uncommon for “hearty Minnesotans” to not understand the dangers of certain conditions).

Similarly, for summer conditions, your business should have a heat illness prevention plan and your employees need to be trained on the plan, including the dangers of heat illness and how to avoid it. Heat related illnesses are prevalent in the summertime. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the heat index values can increase by 15 degrees when working in full sunlight. OSHA has developed an app that assists employees and employers to prevent heat related illnesses. OSHA’s App can be accessed at https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/heatillness/heat_index/heat_app.html.  

According to OSHA, “[t]he App allows workers and supervisors to calculate the heat index for their worksite, and, based on the heat index, displays a risk level to outdoor workers. Then, with a simple ‘click,’ you can get reminders about the protective measures that should be taken at that risk level to protect workers from heat-related illness-reminders about drinking enough fluids, scheduling rest breaks, planning for and knowing what to do in an emergency, adjusting work operations, gradually building up the workload for new workers, training on heat illness signs and symptoms, and monitoring each other for signs and symptoms of heat-related illness.”

Spangler and de Stefano, PLLP assists employers with employment issues, such as the proper classification of workers, employee handbooks, policies, non-compete agreements, etc.

The material contained herein is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to create or constitute an attorney-client relationship between Spangler and de Stefano, PLLP and the reader. The information contained herein is not offered as legaladvice and should not be construed as legal advice.