Even in the midst of a mild winter season, it is important for businesses to address the inevitable increase in health issues as temperatures begin to drop. The major issues of the winter season are: how to reduce risks associated with cold-weather exposure, battling this year’s flu season, and how to properly compensate employees during weather-related closures.
Cold weather creates its own challenges when it comes to employee safety, and it is imperative to take proper precautions for those who work outside for prolonged periods. Extended exposure to cold or freezing temperatures can lead to serious health problems such as frostbite, hypothermia, and trench foot. It is because of these serious health problems that employers should advocate and enforce the use of protective clothing, engineering controls, and common safe work practices.
While it is not uncommon for employees to begin displaying signs of the flu during the holidays, flu season typically peaks in January. It is important to prepare for flu outbreaks now by taking preventative steps to ensure employee wellness.
Most measures are common sense and easily implemented such as focusing awareness on employee cleanliness by urging them to wash their hands and use proper sneeze and cough etiquette. Employers can also increase their stock of antibacterial soaps and cleaning supplies to limit the spread of germs. More aggressive approaches to limiting the spread of the disease would be to consider sending sick employees home and altering attendance policies to prevent sick employees from rushing back to work while they remain contagious. Some employers have even offered incentives to their employees who receive the flu shot.
Especially in colder climates, companies should ensure their policies include how employee schedules may be changed due to winter weather, what they should do if they are unable to safely navigate the roads to work, as well as how to report time rules for compensation that may apply under state laws.
If your organization already has these policies and procedures in place, now is the time to review them to ensure their accuracy and that they are still compliant with federal and state wage and hour laws.