Have a general question about employment law? Want to share a story? I welcome all comments and questions. I can't give legal advice here about specific situations but will be glad to discuss general issues and try to point you in the right direction. If you need legal advice, contact an employment lawyer in your state. Remember, anything you post here will be seen publicly, and I will comment publicly on it. It will not be confidential. Govern yourself accordingly. If you want to communicate with me confidentially as Donna Ballman, Florida lawyer rather than as Donna Ballman, blogger, my firm's website is here.

Friday, August 24, 2012

My Office Air Conditioning Broke In A Heat Wave. What Are My Rights?


The agency that regulates workplace safety is OSHA. If your workplace temperature has reached dangerous levels, OSHA might be able to help. In general, though, there’s no law saying how hot is too hot.

OSHA’s general recommendation is that temperatures at work be kept between 68-76° F with humidity control in the range of 20%-60%. However, don’t call OSHA if your boss sets the A/C at 66 or 78. They don’t regulate workplace temperatures unless it becomes so hot it’s dangerous to workers.

If you think your workplace is hot, think about these industries, which OSHA points to as of particular concern for heat-related illnesses

iron and steel foundries, nonferrous foundries, brick-firing and ceramic plants, glass products facilities, rubber products factories, electrical utilities (particularly boiler rooms), bakeries, confectioneries, commercial kitchens, laundries, food canneries, chemical plants, mining sites, smelters, steam tunnels, farm work, construction, oil and gas well operations, asbestos removal, landscaping, emergency response operations, and hazardous waste site activities.

It’s doubtful your office is reaching temperatures as hot as those super-hot workplaces, but if you live somewhere where temperatures are over 100° F, your office could possibly become dangerously hot.

OSHA has a heat index it uses to help guide employers on how to take measures to prevent heat-related illnesses. Over 103° F and it’s time to take serious precautions. Over 115° F, and employees will drop like flies.

If your office is suffering a heat-related emergency, OSHA suggests making everyone aware of how to contact emergency rescue services, having clear directions to the worksite readily available so they can be given to rescuers, and having heat-related first aid instructions available for workers to assist while waiting for the ambulance. If your company hasn’t made arrangements, take it upon yourself to become prepared if you are encountering excessive heat at work.

OSHA also offers guidelines for monitoring workers in hot workplaces to make sure they aren’t becoming overheated. Techniques include regular measuring of weight (for water loss), temperature and heart rate.

Now that you realize your workplace probably isn’t dangerously hot, you might want to look at bringing in fans, drinking lots of water, putting a cool, wet cloth on your forehead from time to time, and thanking your lucky stars you don’t work in a foundry or bakery.

If your workplace is dangerously hot, you can contact OSHA and ask for an inspection. If you report dangerous working conditions to OSHA, you are a whistleblower, legally protected from retaliation. Don’t wait until a coworker or you suffers heat stroke. It’s better to report dangerous conditions and be wrong than to allow yourself or others to become dangerously ill.

4 comments:

  1. ahhhh, these are getting better with each post, Donna. :)

    i could just imagine some guy coming home to a nice hot supper and complaining to his wife that he is going to sue his boss because he had to work all day in a hot office with no a/c without any thought that his wife had just spent her day in a hot kitchen preparing the meal he was about to eat. :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. I work in an office that has no windows what so ever.. The only ventilation for the whole building is the front door and back door. This building is about 300ft by 300ft give or take. And our island average temperature for the whole year is about 89-90 degrees. In this building is probably hotter than it is outside. In our cubicle, we only have a door as ventilation. We have 4 fans (provided when aircond quit working) in the our space and it is still blowing hot and what seems like dry air. (feel like can't catch my breath at times). Our aircond quit working on Tuesday and now it's a Sunday and they still don't know when aircond will be available again.. They are just waiting on some parts to come in which could take 3 to 4 days or even a week or two. We are 24 hours in operations because we are dispatchers. What can I do to at least encourage these guys to supply us with portable type aircond or move us elsewhere more pleasant or atleast just a little cooler place. Heat can be very Stressing....

    ReplyDelete
  3. Took me time to read all the comments, but I really enjoyed the article. It proved to be Very helpful to me and I am sure to all the commenters here! It’s always nice when you can not only be informed, but also entertained! Ice Age Group

    ReplyDelete