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Does your workplace have a severe weather policy?

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Perhaps you live in the Midwest, where snowstorms and icy roads can make commuting a nightmare. Or maybe you live in the South, where heavy rain and flooding can make travel chaotic. Let’s not forget the Southwest, where temperatures can skyrocket into triple digits, wreaking havoc on air conditioning systems. All this severe weather potential raises the question: Should workplaces have severe weather policies?

“They should,” said Fernando Jimenez, director of facilities at the National Safety Council. “Employees should feel the employer’s first priority is their safety. This increases employee engagement.”

The policy, he continued, should be part of a comprehensive emergency preparedness program that gives employees guidelines on what to expect during severe weather events.

Policy contents

A severe weather policy should be flexible, Jimenez stressed.

“The policy should describe general guidelines to be observed,” he said, “but allow the decision-making team to consider variables not included in the policy.” Jimenez added that employees should feel empowered to use their best judgement in delaying or avoiding commuting when weather is extreme.

Of course, organizations still need to run, even when Mother Nature isn’t cooperating. Although Jimenez acknowledged that employee safety should always come first, “the policy should be tailored to allow the organization to meet its business needs and purpose.”

The NSC severe weather policy has a plan in place regarding telecommuting, stating in part: “We encourage supervisors to coordinate with those employees ahead of expected weather events where productivity and communication will not be compromised. If this is the case, employees will need to be available via phone and email during working hours, and conduct business as normally and efficiently as possible.”

Getting started

If your organization doesn’t have a severe weather policy, but you think it should, where should you start?

“The first step is for stakeholders to gather, led by either the safety or human resources team, and create a draft,” Jimenez said, adding that a core team of individuals, including executive management, operations members and your company’s safety team, should be included in all decision-making matters. “The team should be in constant communication and on alert when severe weather is expected,” Jimenez said.

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