The hazard pay in the U.S. government’s stimulus package is now a hot issue around the country. Essential workers who had to go to their jobs despite the health crisis are hoping that they will at least be compensated for the danger they are subjected to daily.
Essential workers identified by several states during the pandemic include those working in health care, food service, child care, energy production, service organizations, and several others. Before the pandemic, hazard pay had not been an issue for many of these sectors. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, workers entitled to hazard pay are those who experience extreme hardship. Some essential workers are already entitled to hazard pay — those in the transportation industry, construction workers, and possibly some in the energy sector.
For the workers not entitled to the hazard pay, they can at least access some compensation fees if they meet with a work-related accident. They can also get a lawyer expert in disability insurance should they become disabled and consequently lose their job. But there are limits to what kind of accidents are covered by these compensations. On the other hand, hazard pay is given even without an untoward event happening to the worker. It is the mere exposure to the risk that is being compensated.
But looking at some essential workers, what hazards are they actually exposed with or without the pandemic? Let’s look at those who are working at warehouses for now. Here are a few of the dangers they are exposed to every day.
Poor air quality and circulation
Confined spaces are among the deadliest places for a worker. Many warehouses, unfortunately, have few exits as they have been designed with the stocks in mind instead of the people working there. Due to this as well, ventilation, temperature management, and other comforts needed by a human being might not be optimal.
Although the effect is not immediate, health problems due to poor air quality can eventually develop over time. An even more unfortunate situation would be is if they learn of their condition when they are no longer with the company and could not demand compensation.
The hazard is higher for warehouses that store chemicals or even are exposed to products with residual chemicals.
Although this is not considered a concern for warehouse employees, after all, it was exactly for this manual job they were hired, the long-term effect of lifting and moving heavy materials should be assessed. Lifting heavy loads can lead to degenerative disorders and eventually the worker would not be able to perform the required job. This problem is even more unjust as the physical condition that they would suffer could be the grounds for their termination.
There are, however, proper ways of carrying heavy objects so that the strain can be lessened. Companies could make it mandatory for their employees to undergo training on these procedures.
In case of a natural calamity like an earthquake, the warehouse is definitely not the place to be with tons of stocks piled everywhere. But even without a quake, storage items could still fall on an unsuspecting employee for various reasons. Maybe it had become unstable after a nearby item was moved. Maybe it was not stacked properly in the first place.
All items in a warehouse should be considered as accidents waiting to happen. For this reason, extra care must be given to all the work being done. Unfortunately, because of the usually massive operations, things are done quickly. It would be good if someone would be monitoring not only the numbers of the items loaded and unloaded but also the safety precautions being practiced.
Falls from ladders or high places
It is true that accidents like this can be avoided if the individual is always alert and conscious of his or her surroundings. But it is not different from those who are working in jobs already considered hazardous.
In the transportation industry, drivers receive hazard pay because they can meet an accident while driving. You can also say that they could prevent an accident if they are just aware and diligent. What is the difference between the driver and the warehouse worker who needs to go up and down ladders all the time? Falls are concrete dangers that could lead not only to a broken bone but to death.
There are several standards that companies have to keep in maintaining warehouses. Just like in any industry, there are safety precautions that have to be installed. However, the precautions do not remove most of the risks posed on the workers. Maybe it is high time to reconsider what a hazard pay is and who should be receiving it.