Some of the responsibilities that employers (particularly those in industries whose work is performed outdoors) have towards keeping their employees protected from the cold have been detailed on this blog in the past. Yet many still come to us here at the Paul M. Erspamer Law Offices, S.C. questioning how far that responsibility goes. No employer should demand that their staffs face the cold winters Wauwatosa is known for without some degree of added caution; at the same time, you can also understand that companies cannot simply halt their work because of the cold.
Providing you and your coworkers with training on the hazards that winter weather poses and providing protective clothing, hot beverages, and heating areas are all measures that employers can implement that have been documented previously. Yet there may indeed be scenarios where cold weather forces employers to modify their operations.
For example, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (in conjunction with the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists) has shared a recommended operations schedule detailing when employees should (and should not) work in cold weather conditions. This schedule takes into account both temperature and wind chill. It shows that in conditions below -15 degrees Fahrenheit, work periods should go no longer than 75 minutes without allowing you and others to take a break (with the appropriate number of breaks being as many as five during a shift). It also shows when (in given temperatures and at given wind speeds) all non-emergency work should be suspended.
It is also recommended that your employer help you and your coworkers become acclimated to cold weather conditions. This may mean slowly introducing you to the job site if you are hired during the winter. More information on wintertime workplace safety can be found throughout our site.