On the afternoon of August 21, 2017, the first total eclipse to touch the U.S. mainland since 1979 will cut a “path of totality” through the Carolinas (including Greenville, Columbia, and Charleston). While communities along its path are preparing for eclipse viewing events and throngs of visitors and spectators, Monday undoubtedly will be business as usual for many employers.
Still, there may be a few things that companies can do to enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime event but also minimize any legal claims that may result from safety issues associated with the eclipse.
- On-the-job festivities should minimize unintended risks. Many companies will sponsor a break or party during the time of the eclipse so that employees can go outside and view the eclipse. Any such break should be voluntary and employees should be encouraged to wear protective eye wear that meets government certifications. As known dangers to the human eye can occur upon viewing a solar eclipse, employers should make clear that any viewing is completely voluntary and at employee’s own risk. Below is a sample notice that a company could post or distribute in advance of an eclipse break or party:
Notice to Employees re: Solar Eclipse Break
We are scheduling a voluntary break from ____ to ____ (__ minutes) in appreciation of employees working on the day of a rare solar eclipse. If you choose to go outside to view the eclipse, protective eye wear that meets government certifications is recommended. Your decision to view the eclipse is voluntary and at your own risk, as there are known dangers to the human eye in viewing a solar eclipse.
Thank you for your service to [employer]!
- If your company does sponsor an event, make sure the viewing area (i.e., parking deck or rooftop) is equipped to handle the weight and crowds you expect. Many roofs and upper levels of parking decks are not engineered for large viewing crowds.
- Consider stopping outside work during the total eclipse period if needed for safety reasons, and remind your employees to use caution during the eclipse.
- Caution any employees driving during the event to find a safe place to park while the eclipse passes through. Drivers could be distracted and anyone driving on company business should be reminded to use care and not to view the eclipse while driving.
- Be prepared for large crowds in South Carolina’s biggest cities (and retailers may need to staff up for an influx of customers). Cell service overloads may impact some communications that afternoon. Commutes may take longer than usual given the anticipated traffic.
With proper planning, the eclipse event can be more enjoyable for everyone.