At the bottom of NDSU’s Emergency Action Guide posters that are liberally posted around the campus is a very important message, “Safety & security is everyone’s responsibility.” I think this may be the most important piece of information on that poster. Too often, folks believe that these responsibilities – care for our own safety and security – fall to others to attend to.
There is a blizzard warning in effect. No travel is advised in this part of the state. If you are out and about in this weather you are in harm’s way. The roads are treacherous and remaining upright outside given the ice and wind are additionally challenging. I made the monumental journey from my front door to the curb to grab my trash cans immediately after they were emptied as it was clear that they would have otherwise quickly blown into another county. In that short time – a sum total of maybe two minutes and maybe ten yards in each direction – I almost slipped a half dozen times and the wind definitely had its way with me. I was so bitter cold from that brief interaction with the outdoors that it took me a good 15 minutes inside my cozy home to shake off the chill.
I feel for the folks who cannot escape into their cozy homes after two minutes. I don’t know how the sanitation workers are going to make it through the day – it is madness. Those folks whose jobs are tied to the community’s infrastructure so often have to bear a disproportionate burden in these type events.
There are many businesses though that do not need to be open in the middle of a blizzard. I get frustrated this time of year when I hear stories of businesses who stay open too long or refuse to close thereby forcing employees who need to keep their job to travel in treacherous conditions. If an employee is injured because they were essentially forced to travel in such conditions – when basically no travel is advised (because the employer either mandates they come in or mandates they stay), I would urge them to speak to an attorney about the potential liability the business may have.
I believe a reasonably prudent person (the business in this example) should know that an employee who cannot afford to lose their source of income would travel in such conditions if their job was on the line. It is important that businesses recognize both their responsibility and culpability in these situations. The creation of a weather travel policy that focuses on employee safety really is a necessity for this part of the country. Given the level of technology we currently possess, options for working at home during these type of events have increased exponentially. This option doesn’t work for all businesses, but it works for many. For those businesses who believe it costs too much to establish work-at-home alternatives for this type of situation, I would encourage them to examine the cost of defending a lawsuit; upon doing that the cost-benefit ratio of allowing a work-at-home option will suddenly become very clear and infinitely more appealing.
I have written about this before – see Life as we know it will continue tomorrow. It is important for businesses to make smart decisions about their employees’ well-being in these situations. It is also imperative that individuals’ realize their responsibility here…as I said at the outset – safety and security is everyone’s responsibility…be responsible for your own safety even if your employer refuses to be – no job is worth risking your life for.
Day five hundred and forty-two of the new forty – obla di obla da