Is Employee Safety On Your Mind When Bad Weather Strikes?

Posted February 8, 2019 by Mary McGinley

The recent polar vortex put millions of people in danger through snow, ice, and record cold with life-threatening windchill factors. Going outside was not only difficult, in locations throughout the Midwest like Chicago, Minneapolis and other states in the Great Plains, but frostbite was occurring in less than five minutes of exposure while others died in the frigid temperatures. Schools, airports, businesses, and services were suspended while much of the country was under a warning or until the cold finally broke.

When weather is dangerous, many employers have the policy to allow workers to stay home if they don’t feel safe for the commute. It is far better to stay home than risk your life to make it to work on time. According to a story reported by NBC News, for some workers calling in due to weather isn’t an option. For minimum wage workers, those who work in customer service positions, restaurants, call centers, or other service industry jobs, those employees can be threatened with penalties or may even face being fired if they don’t show up to work.

According to Dawn Boyer, Ph.D. and CEO of Boyer Consulting, many companies are allowing their employees the option to work remotely to accommodate a work/home balance. “Your safety,” Boyer said, “should be your employer’s number one priority.” For those workers, such as those in manufacturing who need to be on site to do their job, she suggests consulting their employee handbook to find out the company’s policy on such matters or to check with their manager or HR department to find out for sure.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires all employers to ensure that workers are not in danger, says Angela Rochester, associate general counsel, and human resource counselor. Salaried workers are entitled to be paid for such time, whereas wage workers cannot be guaranteed to be paid, even if the business is shut down because of weather conditions.