Fisher Phillips: Hurricane Preparedness In The Workplace
Edward F. Harold
NEW ORLEANS – Fisher Phillips regional managing partner Edward F. Harold contributed the following about how to avoid workplace hazards that may result from a hurricane:
Plan Ahead – Prepare for the Worst!
Every business should have a plan in writing in case of an emergency. In developing your policy, stress the importance of your workers’ safety, and be mindful of and attempt to mitigate against possible hazards (such as accidents while operating a motor vehicle or otherwise commuting to and from work, problems caused by power outages and downed power lines and any other safety concerns in the workplace). The plan should address the following:
• Weather events or other emergencies that could force a workplace closure (loss of power, hurricanes, governor-declared shut downs, flooding, etc.).
• Means for employee notification of closure, such as call or text trees, radio-station announcements, intranet, etc.
• Advise employees that they should not attempt to travel to work in unsafe conditions and to contact their supervisors as soon as possible.
• Address whether, and to what extent, employees may work from home.
• Identify “key” employees who might be required to work during emergency situations.
Update Contact Lists
It’s easy to lose track of people, especially during an evacuation. Ensure you have the latest contact information for every employee and back up numbers, in case of power outages and relocation. Remember Katrina: Cell phones are not always the best option. In the event of a disaster, ask for evacuation plans of employees.
Keep the (time) Clock Running
Remember the multitude of legal rules regarding leave time and employee pay. Exempt employees must be paid their full salary for any week in which they perform work if you close your business, even if it’s only for a portion of the week. You generally do not need to pay nonexempt employees for any time that they do not actually perform work. If your business closes due to the hurricane, your employees may be eligible for unemployment compensation. There is no show-up pay law in Louisiana if workers attempt to report to work but the workplace is closed.
Returning to Business as Usual
Determining when employees have to return to work depends on the employer. Employee safety should be top priority. If there is a mandatory evacuation, you cannot expect employees to return until the municipality has been given an all clear. Workplace conditions need to be thoroughly evaluated post-storm. Think: no standing water, reliable source of power, clean drinking water and usable facilities.
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