What is Hazard Pay and When Do Employees Receive It?
What is hazard pay, and when are employees eligible to receive it? Does your employer have to give you hazard pay when you are working in dangerous conditions? There are no federal regulations providing for hazard pay other than that it must be included in an employee's pay rate when overtime pay is calculated.
What is Hazard Pay?
Hazard pay means additional pay for performing hazardous duty or work involving physical hardship.
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 a 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.
Some companies are raising hourly wages for employees who are working during the coronavirus pandemic. Check with your manager or human resources department if you have questions on your compensation.
How Much Extra Pay Do You Get?
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% premium when an employee works under hazardous conditions. For those hours, the employee would earn 10% more money than their normal hourly wage. Alternatively, hazard pay may be issued at a flat rate, e.g., $250 per month.
If the employee mentioned above is eligible for overtime pay, they would be paid overtime calculated on their base salary plus the 10% hazard premium. In other words, 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.
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 of those hours are spent in an air-conditioned office while four 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:
- Healthcare facilities
- Dangerous or extreme weather
- War zones
- Hostile locations
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.
- Logging workers: The dangers arise from both the machinery involved and the work conditions.
- Fishers: Fishers need to deal with heavy-duty equipment and challenging weather conditions as well as operating a boat.
- 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.
- 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—perform some of the best-paid construction jobs.
- 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, which heightens the potential danger.
- Farmers, ranchers, and agriculture managers: Heavy machinery adds to the danger of these centuries-old jobs. 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 blue-collarworkers whose jobs can pay more than $100,000 a year.
- 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.
- Driver/sales workes and truck drivers: Transportation incidents account for 40% of fatal occupational injuries annually.
- Electrical power-line installers and repairers: Electrocution and falls are the biggest risks in these roles.
- 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 may also receive hazard pay.
The information contained in this article is not legal advice and is not a substitute for such advice. State and federal laws change frequently, and the information in this article may not reflect your own state’s laws or the most recent changes to the law.
U.S. Department of Labor. "Hazard Pay." Accessed March 24, 2020.
Bureau of Labor Statistics. "National Census if Fatal Occupational Injuries in 2018." Accessed March 31, 2020.