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Off-the-Clock Work

As you know, employees must be compensated for all hours worked. Typically employers require employees to clock in and out, sign in and out, etc. Off-the-clock work is defined by any work performed while not “clocked in.”

Typically issues have come up with employees getting dressed for their shift, preparing the work area, cleaning up at the end of the day, etc. However, with our technology, it is becoming increasingly common that employees may check and respond to work email or work-related calls or texts while not clocked in.

Best practices for mitigating your risks in this area:

  • Maintain clear policies forbidding off-the-clock work and establish procedures for employees to report all time worked.
  • Maintain a policy requiring employees to promptly notify the employer, in writing, if any work is performed before clocking in, after clocking out, or during any meal period.
  • Maintain a policy requiring employees to promptly notify the employer in writing if any wage statement does not accurately state the number of hours worked during the pay period for which the wage statement is issued. In fact, the policy should be clear that it is the employee’s responsibility to check the wage statement and immediately notify the employer in writing of any mistakes.

Heat Illness Reminders

If you have employees that work outside, you need to remember these requirements:

Potable Water Requirements: Employers need to to provide employees with access to potable drinking water that is clean and maintained through individual dispensers, faucets, or drinking fountains. If the worksite doesn’t allow for continuous water replenishment, the employer needs to provide water in sufficient quantity at the beginning of each shift. Each employee needs a minimum of one quart of water per hour for the entire shift.
Amended to add clarify: The water must be fresh, pure, suitably cool, and provided free of charge to the employees. It also must be as close as practical to the areas where the employees are working.

Shade Requirements: Currently employers are obligated to provide a shaded area large enough to accommodate at least 25 percent of the employees when the temperature exceeds 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

Amended: The new regulation requires employers to provide shade when the temperature exceeds 80 degrees Fahrenheit and the shaded area must be large enough to accommodate all employees on recovery or rest periods. The shade must be large enough to accommodate all employees taking on-site meal breaks and must be located as close as practical to where employees are working.

Preventive Cool-Down Rest Periods: Currently employers are required to allow and encourage employees to take a minimum of 5 minutes for a cool-down rest period if they feel they are in danger of overheating.

Amended: In addition to the above, employers will now be responsible for monitoring employees and ask employees taking a rest period if he/she is experiencing symptoms of heat illness. Employers are expected to encourage employees to remain in the shade, if needed. Employers are also prohibited from ordering employees back to work until signs or symptoms of heat illness have abated.

High-Heat Procedures: The regulation requires employers to implement high-heat procedures when the temperature is at least 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Employers must ensure there is effective communication between supervisors and employees and observe employees for alertness and signs or symptoms of heat illness.

Under the amended regulations: Employers must implement one of the following: a supervisory ratio of 1 to 20 or fewer employees, a mandatory buddy system, regular communication through electronic device routine with each employee, or another effective means of communication.

In addition, during high-heat conditions, you must hold a pre-shift meeting and review the high heat procedures, encourage employees to drink plenty of water and remind them of their right to take a cool-down rest break when needed.

Emergency Preparedness Requirements: The amendment requires an emergency response preparedness that includes an effective communication with employees by voice, observation or electronic means; an effective response with first-aid workers; and procedures for contacting emergency assistance to help.

Acclimatization: The amendment requires employers to assign supervisors to observe and monitor employees closely during a “heat wave” (any day in which the predicted high temperature for the day will be at least 80 degrees Fahrenheit and at least ten degrees higher than the average high daily temperature in the preceding five days). Also employers must closely monitor any new hires for the first 14-days of employment in a high-heat area.

Training: Adds to the previous training requirements that employers must train employees about: the employer’s responsibility to provide water, shade, cool-down rests, and access to first aid; the employees’ ability to exercise their rights under this standard without retaliation; first aid and emergency response procedures; and acclimatization.

Heat Illness Prevention Plan: Amendment increases the requirements of the Heat Illness Prevention Plan. Employers must establish, implement and maintain an effective heat illness plan in both English and in any language understood by the majority of their employees. The plan must be made available to employees at the worksite and to representatives of the Division of Occupational Safety and Health upon request. It may be included in the employer’s Illness and Injury Prevention Program, but must specifically include procedures for the provision of water and shade, high-heat, emergency response, and acclimatization.

Safety Checklist for Walk-through

Do you have a safety checklist to use on an annual basis? Some large companies do a safety walk-through on a monthly basis but most small businesses find that an annual walk-through is sufficient. If you do have a safety check-list, have you done your walk-through this month or year?

Here’s a brief list of items for you to think about….

  • Do you have the required posters posted?
    Do you have the blanks filled in?
  • Do you have a written IIPP (Injury and Illness Prevention Plan) on site?
  • Are you using surge protectors rather than just plugging computers into the outlets?
  • Are you using extension cords? Are they running across walkways?
  • Is there a three foot clear area around all electrical panels?
  • Are your fire extinguishers mounted and secure?
  • Are you fire extinguishers receiving an annual servicing?
  • Do coffee pots and space heaters have automatic “shut-off” switches?
  • Are walking aisles, corridors and hallways clear and unobstructed?
  • Are all exit corridors and pathways clearly identified?
  • Is the emergency lighting for exits and stairwells operational?
  • Do you have security measures in place for each building/location?
  • Is there adequate lighting inside and outside the building and in the parking lot?
  • Is trash and debris properly discarded?
  • Are buildings kept free of insects and vermin?
  • Are floors kept free of standing water or oil?
  • Are computer monitors adjusted to be slightly below eye level for employees?
  • Is any machinery properly secured?
  • Is the bank run done at different times each day? Does the driver take different routes?
  • Are office personnel keeping all file drawers pushed in?
  • Are there ladders or steps in convenient locations so employees don’t use unapproved “steps” (i.e., chairs, shelves, etc.)?

If you have the checklist in place, make sure you use it on a regular basis and communicate to your employees that safety is important — for the business and for their own safety and health. If you don’t have a checklist in place, I encourage you to walk through your workplace, notice what should be reviewed and make a checklist for your business. If you need help, let me know.