A SOURCE for Tools, Advice, and Training to control risks... so you can Focus on your Nonprofit's mission.

July 13, 2011

Baby, It’s Hot Outside

By Melanie Lockwood Herman

Eight long months ago, in an article titled “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” I wrote about how increasingly cold temperatures prompted me to reflect on the idea that thoughtful planning and goal setting go “hand in glove” with effective risk management. Now that the temperatures in the Mid-Atlantic are hovering uncomfortably close to triple digits, I’m finding it hard to imagine ever wearing a pair of leather gloves. Warmer temperatures offer a timely reminder about warm weather safety and a variety of potential sticky risk management issues, including personal hygiene in the workplace. Let’s start with safety.

In a recent issue of the company’s informative online newsletter, Safety InsightsSM, our colleagues at Safe-Wise Consulting, LLC offered the following warm weather reminders and tips:

  • Remember that staff, volunteers and summer program participants need to know practical steps for preventing health problems and avoiding potential tragedies caused by high temperatures.
  • Nonprofits that offer warm weather programs should recognize their responsibility for providing practical heat stress training for staff and supervisors.
  • The following precautions are “musts” if your nonprofit’s caregivers and service recipients will be spending time outdoors on warm summer days:
    • First, keep hydrated (drink a glass of water every 15 to 30 minutes to prevent overheating),
    • Next, take breaks to cool down (at least a 10- or 15-minute break every two hours), and
    • Finally, remember to adapt your pace to the weather.

Need help? The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has developed a handy Quick Card featuring an explanation of the symptoms of heat stress and heat stroke and clear tips on “what to do” to prevent heat stress. The Quick Card also outlines essential steps if you encounter an individual whose systems indicate heat stress.

When Your Staff Stinks… Literally!

From time to time nonprofit leaders complain about poor performing staff, but during the hot summer months a reference to an employee who “stinks” may be a literal one. Many years ago I worked in an office that employed numerous short-term interns. One particular intern brought an unpleasant odor with her to work every day. Several employees pleaded with “the boss” to speak to the young lady about the need for appropriate personal hygiene in a stuffy office environment. He refused to do so, admitting that he was simply too embarrassed to bring up the topic of body odor with a member of the opposite sex.

While it’s unlikely that any nonprofit leader looks forward to addressing the topic of body odor, from time to time addressing the subject of personal hygiene with a direct report may be one of those “other duties” referenced in your job description. The Society for Human Resource Management counsels that the goal of a conversation about body odor should be “to fix the problem without insulting or embarrassing anyone and ensuring that the person is treated with dignity and respect.”

What Not To Do

  • Don’t schedule an all-hands meeting to discuss the topic of personal hygiene and “hope” that the offender shows up for work that day AND gets the hint.
  • Don’t put off addressing the issue indefinitely and simply pray for an early and cooler-than-usual Fall.
  • Don’t insert comments about personal appearance or hygiene into an employee’s annual performance review.

What To Do

  • Remember to express caring and concern for an employee during any discussion on a sensitive topic such as body odor. If you fear you won’t be able to address the topic without laughing, you may not be the right person for this difficult, but necessary task.
  • Keep in mind that in some cases a trusted peer or friend in the workplace might be more effective in terms of conveying information about the negative impact of the employee’s odor or hygiene issue.
  • When you speak to an employee one-on-one make certain you focus on how the odor issue is impacting the work environment. For example, if a customarily well-liked employee is having a hard time recruiting volunteers for a project that requires a large, volunteer team, mention the possibility that personal hygiene rather than the appeal of the project may be a factor.
  • Remember that cultural and ethnic differences may account for variations in personal hygiene in a multi-cultural workforce.

HR consultant Sheila Wyatt cautions against jumping to conclusions as to the cause of body odor, and adds that employers who find themselves in the difficult position of confronting an employee with an odor problem should always “Give the employee an opportunity to discuss the matter and provide possible solutions.”

If your nonprofit needs help developing an appropriate dress code or personal hygiene policy, the Center may be able to help. The Center’s online tool—My Risk Management Policies—contains customizable templates in 22 areas of nonprofit operations, including human resources. The one-time cost for the tool is $179, and the price includes unlimited access to a growing library of easy to customize templates. The HR section of My Risk Management Policies includes template Dress Code and Personal Hygiene policies.

Melanie Lockwood Herman is Executive Director of the Nonprofit Risk Management Center. She welcomes your ideas about any risk management topic, feedback on this article and questions about the Center’s resources at Melanie@nonprofitrisk.org or (202) 785-3891. The Center provides risk management tools and resources at www.nonprofitrisk.org and offers consulting assistance to organizations unwilling to leave their missions to chance. A limited number of hard copy versions of Melanie’s most recent book, EXPOSED: A Legal Field Guide for Nonprofit Executives, are available.

Missed You Too…

Due to a technical glitch (yeah, we experience them too!) last week’s eNews never made it into cyberspace. If you missed your weekly “fix” of musings on risk and reward in nonprofit life, the issue, titled “Less Worry, More Happy” is available online.

It’s Cool in Seattle

During two separate conversations yesterday with colleagues based in Seattle I was reminded that while I’m working up a sweat traveling from my car to the front office door, my counterparts in the Pacific Northwest are enjoying pleasant daytime temperatures in the mid-60s. The staff and board of the Center will be cooling off as well when we travel to Seattle this September 18-20 for our annual conference, the Risk Management and Finance Summit for Nonprofits. We’ve got a terrific education program planned featuring hot topics and skilled presenters. Save $100 and register BEFORE the early-bird deadline expires on August 5th. Questions? Give us a call at (202) 785-3891 or write to me at: Melanie@nonprofitrisk.org.

Helping Nonprofits is Our Mission

Whether you’re trying to better understand the spectrum of risks your nonprofit faces, cope with tricky human resource challenges, or design a practical framework that enhances your intuitive management of risk, the Nonprofit Risk Management Center is here to help. We can support you in a number of ways, from helping you draft or revise risk management policies to designing custom training programs (on-site, virtual/webinar, or online). We also offer in-depth risk assessments, Enterprise Risk Management engagements, and advice and consultation on topics ranging from developing or updating youth protection policies, to strengthening governance practices. Why make the journey alone when you can partner with a team of nonprofit specialists who live and breathe nonprofit sector risks? Contact Melanie@nonprofitrisk.org or call (202) 785-3891 to discuss your needs and learn how we can help.



Pass it On!

If you enjoy reading the Center’s enews and know others who would as well, please use the Forward email link that appears at the bottom of this issue. The link offers an easy way to share this issue with a colleague. When you use the link your colleague will receive an invitation to subscribe.

Forward Email