It’s never been a better time to be an employee. Today, employees are granted all sorts of rights and protections from federal and state governments – minimum wage, safety requirements, and overtime hours are just some examples of areas in which employees are protected from being taken advantage of by their employers.
While most employers don’t actually want to take advantage of their employees, not all of them are aware of their legal obligations. That’s where HR comes in – it’s up to the HR department to make sure their company is in compliance with all of the employee rights and protection laws. This runs the gamut from offering health insurance (when required) to making sure co-workers don’t harass or discriminate against each other.
In the summer, HR can add one more item to their list of responsibilities: Making sure employees are protected from excessive heat.
OSHA, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, recently outlined the responsibilities of employers regarding protecting their employees from the heat. OSHA includes the following strategies to ensure employees are not exposed to dangerous heat.
1. Engineering controls – This is the technical term that OSHA uses for air conditioning, ventilation, fans, reflective shields to redirect heat, insulation of hot surfaces and elimination of steam leaks.
2. Work practices – If employees need to work in the heat, they should be exposed to the work gradually so that they can build up tolerance. They should also have regular breaks, proper clothing and readily-available drinking water. OSHA also recommends to reduce physical demands as much as possible during the hot weather, and/or to schedule heavier work for the cooler times of day. Employers should monitor workers who are exposed to heat, and have practices in place if an employee is suffering from heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps, or other heat-related illnesses.
3. Training – All employees, workers and supervisors should be trained about the hazards of heat exposure, and how to prevent it. (OSHA has a list of training resources for HR.)
Your company’s HR department should also note that some states have their own heat protection laws, in addition to the federal laws.
It is essential to make sure your business follows OSHA’s heat protection standards – for both your employees’ sakes, and your company’s sake. And remember, even though summer is only a few months long, when you live in a generally hot environment (like Miami), you need to make sure you are always these laws.