In many industries, the use of appropriate safety gear can significantly reduce the chances of injuries happening. But, it can take a bit of time for workers to put safety gear on and take it off at the end of the day. That said, a question arose recently regarding whether workers should be paid for this time or not. The implications of the question go far beyond the impact on the paychecks of a particular set of workers.
Workers who are not provided with proper safety equipment should understand their rights to make a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). If a worker gets hurt, he or she also needs to report the injury and follow the proper procedures for making a workers’ compensation claim. A New York workers’ compensation law firm can help those who suffer injuries on the job, whether the injury happened with or without safety gear.
Safety News Alert reported on a case in which Tyson workers claimed they should be entitled to receive pay for the time spent putting on safety clothing. While some workers were paid for putting on their gear, others weren’t, depending upon which department the employee worked in. Workers who didn’t get paid were not on the clock and no record was kept for how long it took them to put on and take off the safety equipment.
An industrial relations expert ultimately analyzed the process of putting the gear on and taking it off, and found that it took workers 18 minutes a day on average to take the gear on and off if they worked in the cutting and re-trimming departments, and it took an average of 21.5 minutes for workers in the kill department to take their equipment off and put it on.
The employees brought a class action wage and hour case alleging they should all be paid for this time. After a series of decisions in the lower courts, the case ended up before the U.S. Supreme Court. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld a ruling that allowed the workers to be paid for their time spent putting safety gear on and taking it off.
It is important that the courts recognize workers should be paid for this time because when employees are not paid, it can sometimes encourage them to cut corners. If it takes around 20 minutes a day to dress and undress in safety equipment, almost two hours are added to an employee’s typical work week.
If this time is unpaid, it significantly cuts into the private time of the workers. Not only that, but if it is not considered paid work to put on and take off safety equipment, this could undermine the importance of the equipment’s use. Putting on the safety gear should be an essential part of the job and it should thus be something workers get paid for.
Even with safety equipment, injuries can happen. All employees hurt on-the-job, regardless of the availability of safety gear, should be provided with benefits if they suffer an injury. Rosenberg, Minc, Falkoff & Wolff can help workers take action to get the benefits they need. Call us today.