Should Your Company Have Heat Wave Related Policies?

By George Khoury, Esq. on September 06, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

When it comes to managing your workforce over the summer, or in warm weather climates, having heat wave related policies can go a long way to keeping employees happy and minimizing your company's exposure to various hot weather liabilities.

Employees that suffer heat exhaustion, or heat stroke, on the job, will likely miss work, cause disruption to other employees, and may even have workers compensation claims. To minimize these risks, employers need to specially tailor their policies to best protect their employees, their own interests, and, most importantly, the bottom line.

Safety Requires Safety

When it comes to employee safety, both state and federal labor laws require employers to provide a safe workplace. OSHA requires that employers monitor Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) to ensure that they are not exposing their employees to dangerous conditions including excessive heat and humidity.

During a heat wave, it may be necessary to halt production on a factory floor, or close the door to customers, or pay for additional staff to allow regular employees to take additional heat relief breaks (especially for outdoor employees). Employers that knowingly or negligently disregard worker safety during a heat wave could find themselves facing more than just workers comp claims from injured employees, but also negligence-type injury actions or,  worse, class action or government claims (depending on the jurisdiction and extent of the injury).

Productivity Concerns

In addition to the concerns over exposure to liability that comes with a heat wave, employees may be much less productive due to the heat. As such, if production quotas or goals must be met, bringing in heat relief in the form of additional employees, air conditioning and hydration stations, fans with misters, or even changing working hours to avoid the peak daytime heat, can all help to keep productivity levels high, or at least at the status quo, during a heat wave.

Even for workforces in air conditioned environments, heat waves can still have significant impacts. The costs to climate control a workspace can skyrocket, and with more employees showing up to work, doors will open and close more, letting out that precious, sweet air conditioned air. For workers that can telecommute, encouraging them to do so can potentially cut down on the cooling costs. Additionally, offering telecommuting during really high temperatures will generally be received favorably as simply commuting during a heat wave can potentially be dangerous. 

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