Luxembourg Employers Face Additional Obligations During Heat Waves in the Midst of COVID-19

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Epstein Becker & Green

On August 8, 2020, in response to local meteorology reports of expected temperatures of above 95°F, Luxembourg’s Ministry of Health announced a “red alert warning,” and implemented a Heat Wave Plan. The Heat Wave Plan (i) advises that older individuals, infants, and those with chronic illnesses may be affected by such high temperatures and (ii) offers personal check-in and hydration services by the Luxembourg Red Cross and home care agencies. All such visits must adhere to COVID-19 safety procedures.

Additionally, the Luxembourg Labor and Mines Inspectorate (the “Inspectorate”) has issued employer obligations and recommendations to help ensure the safety of workers during the heat wave. For outdoor work, the Inspectorate directs employers to:

  • Provide or plan for shaded areas that are well ventilated, if possible;
  • Provide sufficient cool drinking water. In order to prevent dehydration, employers must provide approximately three to four liters of water per day, depending on the type of work. The Inspectorate recommends drinking small amounts of water regularly;
  • Reduce the number of work stations that require sustained and prolonged physical activity near or in contact with sheet metal, concrete surfaces, and/or paved surfaces in direct sunlight;
  • Provide additional mechanical assistance for heavy work;
  • Ensure that any personal protective equipment required for certain jobs (e.g., for work that requires handling of pesticides) is suitable for high temperatures; and
  • Ensure that temperature-appropriate clothing is worn:
    • For worksites that do not require personal protective clothing, workers should wear (i) headgear that protects the neck, (ii) loose, breathable, light-colored clothing, and (iii) if necessary, sunglasses and sunscreen;
    • Prioritize the use of air-conditioned vehicles and self-propelled vehicles; and
    • Where possible, adapt work-related personal protective equipment to the heat (e.g., safety shoes rather than heavier work boots).

For all work premises, the Inspectorate directs employers to:

  • Monitor the ambient temperature, particularly in enclosed spaces;
  • Thermally insulate buildings and other worksites (e.g., utilize blinds and shutters on windows and sun protection film on glass walls);
  • Set up heat-producing work equipment in a dedicated, ventilated area, insulate any walls or hot pipes, and/or facilitate the absorption of heat or hot steam emissions;
  • Provide employees with resources to combat the heat (e.g., electric fans);
  • Provide air-conditioned areas in the workplace; and
  • Provide cool drinking water.

Finally, the Inspectorate noted that Luxembourg labor law stipulates that some employers may, under certain conditions, engage in a weather-related layoff scheme. All businesses in the construction sector, civil engineering sector, and related sectors that carry out their normal activity on building sites may apply to the National Employment Agency (Agence pour le développement de l’emploi) for a weather-related layoff scheme in the event that their worksite becomes unfit for work or that the continuation of work is impossible or dangerous due to hot weather conditions.

Epstein Becker & Green continues to monitor workforce management issues in the US and abroad.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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