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Too Hot to Handle: What are an employer’s responsibilities in extreme weather?

July 1, 2021

With record-shattering temperatures across the province, employers need to consider how to meet their obligation to provide a safe and healthy workplace for their employees, and whether any employees will require heat-related accommodations.

The Legal Reasons

WorkSafe BC has many resources for employers and workers (including guidelines on preventing heat stress at work). Employers should be conducting heat stress assessments for their workplace, and ensure their employees are aware of, and monitoring, for symptoms of heat stress, exhaustion, or stroke. In these conditions, that applies to workplaces where heat may not generally be a concern.

In addition to obligations under the province’s safety legislation, employers and employees should remember the protections under the BC Human Rights Code.

Employees who have heat-related health concerns, particularly those with vulnerabilities, should let their employer know, and can expect to be reasonably accommodated. Employees may also have care-taking duties relating to children or seniors that require them to be absent from the workplace, and those requests should also be accommodated.

The Business Case

Aside from being a legal obligation, employers should give thought to the general health, morale, and comfort of their employees. Employees may require additional breaks or shorter shifts, and simple changes like relaxing your dress code or reducing hours may also improve comfort.

Where a workplace becomes too hot to be comfortable or safe to work in, employers should consider closing the workplace down (and may be legally obligated to do so).

If workers feel they are being exposed to unsafe work conditions, including being forced to work in excessive or unsafe heat, then they should contact the 24/7 prevention line to report those conditions.

Essentially, being mindful of the needs of employees and what they require to be comfortable and perform their best is a win-win for the business and the staff.

Contact us to discuss ways to implement simple and effective tools to keep employees safe and performing their best!