If you have a job that is outside, you’re constantly exposed to the elements. While sometimes, this can be refreshing and a great way to get some fresh air, if the weather is bad, that’s a whole other beast. If the winds are vicious, visibility is low, and temperatures are freezing, you may wonder whether or not you can leave a shift if the weather is bad.
We’ve talked about cold weather safety tips before, which can be helpful to you. As discussed in that blog, dressing appropriately and taking more frequent breaks can make working outside during the winter months much more bearable. However, there is such a thing as unsafe temperatures and working conditions.
Here’s what you need to know about unsafe working conditions and whether you can leave a shift if the temperature is bad.
How Do You Know If The Weather Is Unsafe?
During the winter months, safety is a top priority. Dressing appropriately, staying hydrated, watching for slick surfaces, and taking more frequent breaks can all help you stay safe when working out in the cold. Having a manager who keeps an eye on the weather and who knows when to send people home is also very important.
There’s a difference between not dressing for the weather or not being careful when you would otherwise be able to work safely with proper precautions and there being unsafe working conditions.
If You’re Not Prepared For Cold Weather Work
If you want to leave a shift because you are not properly prepared for working in the cold, this is something that should have been addressed prior to there being cold and snow. You can talk with the project manager or your temp agency. You may be able to borrow some equipment until you can get your own.
Your job placement should be prepared for the dangers that cold weather brings, and you should prepare yourself too, by ensuring that you dress in layers and take all the necessary precautions. It’s important that both your job placement and you take cold weather safety precautions.
Your employer has a legal responsibility to maintain a safe workplace. This includes giving you proper training and making you aware of any risks. You also need to ensure that you are heading cold weather safety training.
If The Weather Is Unsafe
However, there comes a point where even if you and your job placement are as prepared as prepared can be for working in the cold, the weather simply isn’t safe. OHSA does not have specific temperature guidelines, due to the fact that what is warm to one person could be freezing or boiling hot to another. However, they do have recommendations to help employers maintain a safe working environment.
If you believe that your working conditions are dangerous, either due to the weather or something else, you will want to bring this to your employer’s attention. You can also file a complaint with OHSA. However, if the working conditions (such as bad weather) are imminent and there’s not enough time for OHSA to complete an investigation, you may have the legal right to refuse to work and leave a shift.
Your right to refuse to work is protected so long as:
- You refused to work in good faith, which means that you genuinely believe there is imminent danger.
- There isn’t the time to go through enforcement channels, such as an OHSA investigation.
- Any reasonable person would agree that the conditions present risk of serious injury or death.
- If possible, you have requested your employer to eliminate the danger and they have failed to do so.
While there are no federal regulations in regard to extreme temperatures, you have a right to a workplace that is free of recognized hazards – which includes dangerous weather conditions.
If you work outside, it is important that you familiarize yourself with the symptoms of cold stress. If you or a co-worker begin to exhibit symptoms of cold stress, you will want to alert your supervisor, take the appropriate first aid procedures, and call 9-1-1, if needed.
All Trades Staffing Services cares about ensuring that our temp workers are safe in their job placements. If you have questions about cold weather safety or if you can leave a shift if the weather is bad, we are here to help. Contact us today to learn more about the job positions that we have available or to learn more about staying safe when the weather is bad.