Comstock's magazine 0219 - February 2019 - Page 27

hazards that cause or are likely to cause death or serious injury.” So, dangerous air quality is not something you can ignore. Polluted air can cause everything from asthma flare-ups, aggravated heart and lung conditions and — in the long-term — lung cancer. Regardless of natural disaster, your air conditioning and ventilation systems should be checked and cleaned regular- ly. And, after a critical event like the re- cent fires, you should immediately check your filters to make sure they don’t need changing sooner, rather than on their nor- mal maintenance schedule. If your company operates outdoors (or you have an outdoor event planned), and the air quality is terrible, you’ll want to cancel. Sometimes, that isn’t practical though or easy to determine. If you have a warehouse with big doors to let trucks in and out, are you an inside or outside op- eration? Make sure you’re testing your air quality. Safety is important, as is the com- fort of your employees. As for indoor air quality, here are some guidelines to help you determine what to do in the case of unhealthy pollution levels. Consider the commute. Everyone is concerned about breathing in unhealthy air, and even though people’s houses may be in the same city as your office, the com- mute requires them to not only go out in the dirty air but continue to contribute to the problem by driving their cars. If your employees start asking, don’t dismiss their concerns. Working from home. Depending on the nature of your business, having as many people as possible work from home may alleviate health concerns. You may need to adjust your telecommuting policy, especially if you have non-exempt employees eligible for overtime pay. How will you make sure their working hours are recorded properly? Legally, it doesn’t matter whether they are in the office or not, they need to be paid for all their time. Consider the schools. If the schools in your area are closing, you may want to consider following their example — for two reasons. One, you have a governmen- tal office determining that the air condi- tions are critical. Two, your employees have just lost their childcare. Like it or not, one of the functions public schools play is childcare and without them, you’ll have employees that have to stay home regard- less of what you decide. If you can’t shut down or telecom- mute. The California Board of Health recommends providing your employees with N95 respirators, which are designed to filter out the polluted air. Surgical masks won’t help. Keep in mind that these masks have to be used properly — which involves making sure they fit. If you keep some on hand, make sure you know how to use them. Remember the ADA. Bad air af- fects all of us, but it can afflict those with health conditions more severely, especially people with heart or lung conditions. While not all heart and lung conditions are covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act, you should consider that allowing someone to stay home when the air quality is at dangerous levels is always a reason- able accommodation. It’s not going to be permanent, so unless you are will- ing to stand up in court and declare that your business absolutely, positively could not function without Jane with the heart condition, you should be con- siderate of all people whose health is especially vulnerable. It’s not just the air. It’s also the stress. When you have a natural disaster — even hundreds of miles away — it can be emo- tionally difficult. Your employees may have family or friends who are directly af- fected. So, always be kind and err on the side of safety. While the danger from the Camp Fire has passed, there will be problems in the future. You can hire an occupational safety and health attorney to help make sure your plan for bad air quality days is legally sound. n Suzanne Lucas spent 10 years in corporate human resources, where she hired, fired, managed the numbers and double- checked with the lawyers. On Twitter @RealEvilHRLady. Send questions to How did your company respond to the bad air quality? TWEET US @COMSTOCKSMAG. February 2019 | 27