What is Hazard Pay and When Do Employees Receive It?

Drill Machinery At Construction Site
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Hazard pay is a form of extra compensation given to employees for performing dangerous duties. Employers may choose to give hazard pay to workers whose jobs involve extreme physical discomfort or distress – especially if protective devices won’t entirely mitigate the danger or hardship involved.

When Are You Eligible for Hazard Pay?

Hazard pay compensates an employee for duty that could result in serious injury or death. Generally, this payment is in addition to regular hourly wages or salary.

There is no law requiring employers to pay hazard pay: both the amount of the pay and the conditions under which it is paid are determined by the employer.

Typically, hazard pay is an increased hourly pay rate. It is often applied as a premium: for example, an employer might agree to pay a 10 percent premium when an employee works under hazardous conditions. For those hours, the employee would earn 10 percent more money than their normal hourly wage.

For example, if the employee mentioned above is eligible for overtime pay, they would be paid overtime calculated on base salary plus the 10 percent hazard premium. The employee would be paid overtime based upon their total regular earnings which includes hazard pay. There are some exclusions to the overtime rate calculation, but hazard pay is not one of them. Alternately, hazard pay may be issued at a flat rate, e.g. $250 per month. 

An employee will generally only receive hazardous duty pay for the hours worked in hazardous conditions. For example, if an employee works an eight-hour shift, and four hours are spent in an air-conditioned office, while four hours are spent doing construction in 100-degree heat, only the hours worked in the high-heat conditions will be at the hazardous pay rate.

What Are Hazardous Conditions?

What makes conditions hazardous? There is no legal definition, but some common examples include:

  • War zones
  • Hostile locations
  • Healthcare facilities
  • Mining
  • Construction
  • Dangerous or extreme weather

Asking Your Employer About Hazard Pay

Again, hazard pay is not legally required of any employer. It is most often a benefit that employers negotiate with unions through collective bargaining. However, some employers offer hazard pay for non-union workers as well. If you are preparing to begin hazardous work, your employer should brief you on the type of work you will be doing, the risks involved, and the rate of pay before you begin the work.

If the employee suffers accidental injury or death because he or she was not briefed on the hazardous conditions, the employer could be held responsible. Therefore, it’s in the employer’s best interest to give the worker as much information as possible before he or she begins hazardous work.

If you are offered a job, you might want to ask about hazard pay before accepting the position. It’s a good idea to know what kind of compensation you will receive for dangerous work before beginning the job.

What Kinds of Jobs Can Be Considered Hazardous?

You might be surprised by some of the most dangerous civilian jobs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics compiled a list of the top 10 occupations with the highest fatality rates. These jobs may include some kind of hazard compensation.

  1. Logging workers: The dangers arise from both the machinery involved and the work conditions.
  2. Fishers: Fishers need to deal with heavy-duty equipment and challenging weather conditions, as well as operating a boat.
  3. Aircraft pilots and flight engineers: Being a pilot might top the list of kids' dream jobs, but like all jobs involving transportation, fatalities are disproportionately high.
  4. Roofers: Ladders and the height of the work combine to make this a potentially treacherous role. Roofers — along with ironworkers and electricians, other jobs with high fatality rates — are some of the best paid construction jobs.
  1. Refuse collectors: Collecting garbage means driving or riding on a garbage truck. That's risky enough, but then there's the heavy machinery aspect as well to heighten the potential danger.
  2. Farmers, ranchers, and agriculture managers: Heavy machinery adds to the danger of the centuries-old job. The long hours also mean that potentially tired people are operating that heavy machinery, which heightens the risks. Depending on where their land is located, farmers and ranchers are one of the blue-collar jobs that can pay more than $100,000 a year.
  1. Structural iron and steel workers: Installing beams can be dangerous work. Much of this work takes place at high heights, which adds to the danger.
  2. Truck drivers and sales workers: Roadway incidents account for 23 percent of fatal occupational injuries annually.
  3. Electrical power-line installers and repairers: Electrocution and falls are the biggest risks in these roles.
  4. First-line supervisors of construction trades and extraction workers: With its heavy machinery, and potentially tough conditions, construction work is dangerous both for the people doing the task, and for on-site supervisors.

    This list excludes non-civilian employees, including people serving in the military, police officers, and firefighters. These can also be very hazardous jobs, and these employees might also receive hazard pay.