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Table of Contents

Take care of your people and protect your business

Oh, the weather outside is frightful! How and why should your business care about preparing for winter storms? Below you’ll find the answers to these questions, how to create a weather policy for your company, and several tips you can use to prepare for winter storms.

Why is it Important for Businesses to Prepare for Winter Storms?

Whether your workforce works indoors or outdoors, it’s important to prepare for winter storms. Through advance preparation before a storm hits, you can help your company reduce injuries, prevent unsafe working conditions and avoid business interruptions.

  • Reduce injuries. If you don’t educate or train your workforce on how to react to a winter storm, the result could be more slips and falls. Your employees should understand the importance of walking instead of running as well as cleaning their shoes properly on carpets or mats to avoid creating slippery surfaces. Employees should be encouraged to use walkways and paths that have been shoveled or plowed. You may even consider prohibiting employees from running in company parking lots. Salt or sand should be spread over icy patches. Encourage workers to wear safe footwear such as closed-toed shoes or boots.
  • Prevent unsafe working conditions. Unsafe working conditions could result in hypothermia or frostbite. You can help your workforce prevent this by encouraging them to schedule the colder parts of their job during a warm part of the day. Motivate them to keep an eye on each other by working in pairs and monitor those who are at a higher risk for cold stress. Consider providing training to your employees on how to identify the symptoms of cold stress, how to prevent it, and what personal protective equipment (PPE) they should wear.
  • Avoid business interruptions. If your company prepares before instead of after winter storms, you can reduce the likelihood of business operations being interrupted and keep your revenue flowing. Put a plan in place to ensure you are protecting the property to mitigate future problems, such as trimming tree limbs, arranging for snow removal, having shovels, salt, and sand available, and attending to any necessary building and roof repairs.

How To Create a Weather Policy for your Business in Case of Severe Winter Storms

As severe winter storms can occur unexpectedly, it’s important for your business to proactively create a weather policy in the event of winter storms. Many potential issues can be mitigated through careful preparation. The following steps will help you construct a policy to protect your company and your employees. You can check out SHRM’s Inclement Weather Policy template as an extra resource.

Step 1: Provide Rules and Guidelines

A severe winter storm can be defined differently depending on the location of your business, so your weather policy should be based on your company location. It should also coincide with OSHA standards to provide training to your workforce along with a safe working environment.

Step 2: Address Employee Pay

Employees should be aware of the effect of severe winter storms on their pay. If your business closes and telecommuting is not available, will you pay your employees? Will you require employees to use vacation or paid time off? The answers to these questions affect nonexempt and exempt employees differently so have a plan in place so everyone knows what to expect. Be sure to take into consideration state and local laws when making these kinds of decisions.

Step 3: Make it Accessible

Help keep your employees informed by including your weather policy in your company handbook. Try uploading it to your company intranet or HRIS so it is easily accessible and can provide answers to questions anytime and anywhere. By creating an automated messages procedure, you’ll also be able to easily communicate with your workforce in case of emergency.

Tips for HR to Prepare for Winter Storms

When there’s no stopping the storm, you can limit the effects of it. Continue reading to learn tips to prepare your people, protect your information, and prepare for the roads.

Tip 1: Prepare Your People

One of the best ways HR can prepare for winter storms is to communicate the importance of being prepared to employees. This can come in the form of discussions, newsletters, or even announcements. Employees can personally prepare as well by ensuring they have sufficient emergency supplies, food, and water. The Federal Emergency Management Agency recommends a three-day supply of non-perishable food and one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days.

Tip 2: Protect Your Information

You may have paper records or other information that is only available on-site. If your business operations can no longer continue on-site due to winter storms, you may need to work remotely until the weather improves. Ensuring that your paper files and other records are backed up and stored electronically will allow operations to continue even if you cannot be physically at work.

Tip 3: Prepare for the Roads

Employees should be reminded of the importance of having their vehicles inspected before the winter season to make any necessary repairs. Their heaters and defrosters should be checked along with their windshield wipers to ensure that they are in good working condition. By performing a thorough vehicle check before any potential winter weather advisories, they can reduce the risk of getting stranded during winter storms.

Tips for Opening Your Business After a Winter Storm

Once the storm has passed and it’s safe to resume operations, it’s time to prepare to reopen your business. The following tips will help you effectively reopen your business through the use of communication and planning. You’ll also learn how to understand your employee and business needs and how to use an employee assistance program (EAP).

Tip 1: Communicate

A large part of your job in HR when recovering from a winter storm is communicating with your employees and keeping everyone informed. Winter storms can potentially result in power failures which disrupt communication. Does your company have a disaster recovery plan you can rely on? If your company ever goes through a severe winter storm, the success of your recovery and reopening will largely depend on how well you communicate your plan before, during and after the disruptive event.

Tip 2: Understand Employee and Business Needs

You may consider creating a crisis team that works together to determine employee and business needs while reopening your business. This team should discuss the overall effectiveness of the company’s reaction to the storm, current issues, how to handle any postponed events and how your company is handling physical damage or power issues.

Tip 3: Explain Your Employee Assistance Program

Severe winter storms can take a toll on employees. It’s never a bad idea to remind them of your employee assistance program if you have one. They can use resources such as speaking with a counselor concerning trouble or grief they’ve experienced.

Take care of your people and protect your business

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Questions You’ve Asked Us About Winter Storms

Federal law allows your company to require both nonexempt and exempt employees to use paid time off or vacation time if you close due to weather. You are also required by OSHA to ensure that your workplace is safe and hazards are mitigated.
The Department of Labor states that if an employee is exempt, they must be paid their full weekly salary during the week they work. For nonexempt employees, your business could allow them to use accrued time off for any days they miss due to your business closing. Depending on state and local laws, a business may have to pay employees a certain number of hours if they showed up for their shift but are required by the business to leave early due to inclement weather.

James has worked in the HR field going on 5+ years and currently serves in the role of HR Manager. His areas of expertise are in managing recruiting, onboarding, HR metrics, performance and engagement, employee relations and development. He has earned a masters degree in HR along with the nationally recognized certification of SHRM-CP.

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