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Storm ‘Burglind’ sees wind gusts and rain sweep over much of Germany

On Wednesday morning, the storm will mainly hit the west of the country. Then it is predicted to continue toward the south.

Storm ‘Burglind’ sees wind gusts and rain sweep over much of Germany
A car driving past a fallen tree in Mülheim, North Rhine-Westphalia. Photo: DPA.

Hurricane-like gusts of more than 120 kilometres per hour have already been reported in parts of western Germany.

There have been cancellations and delays on train routes as well as disruptions on the roads – particularly in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW). Storm 'Burglind' has reportedly already uprooted numerous trees and caused damage in some areas of the state.

According to the police, streets in Essen and Mülheim have been flooded and objects had been flying around due to the strong winds. A fallen tree blocked the railway line between Aachen and Düsseldorf.

WDR and Radio Duisburg report that there were also disruptions on the A44 highway – where a seat had fallen onto the road – and on the A59 highway near Duisburg. The police in NRW had asked drivers to drive particularly carefully.

“The soil has been soaked by the rain over the past few days, and trees are turning over more easily,” said DWD meteorologist Robert Hausen on Tuesday night. DWD had warned residents to beware of flying objects and falling trees and to keep away from scaffolding and power lines.

DWD had issued an official weather warning for Wednesday from 4:30am to 7:00am for the southwest of North Rhine-Westphalia, the western part of Rhineland-Palatinate and large parts of the Saarland.

The cold front with strong winds, heavy rain and possible short thunderstorms over much of western Germany is forecast to move southward later in the morning toward Hesse, Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria.

But according to Hausen, despite winds likely reaching top speeds of between 100 and 130 kilometres per hour, the likelihood of thunderstorms in southern regions of the country will decrease.

On Thursday, rain and cloudy skies are predicted for much of Germany as well as snow in higher mountainous areas. In the southwest,  there’s a chance of prolonged, heavy rains. Highs of between 4C and 13C are forecast as well.

For members

READER QUESTIONS

Reader question: Is it ever too hot to work from home in Germany?

Germany has regulations on working during a heatwave - but does that also apply to people who work remotely? We take a look.

Reader question: Is it ever too hot to work from home in Germany?

The number of people working from home shot up during the Covid pandemic, and though employees no longer have the right to work remotely by law, many have chosen to stick with more flexible arrangements and set up a home office at least part of the week.

This is great news for people who enjoy a lie-in more than a long commute, but there are some downsides. One major issue is that it’s not always clear how Germany’s strict employee protection rules actually apply in a home setting. The rules for working during a heatwave are a good example of this.

How does Germany regulate working in extreme heat? 

By law in Germany, employers are responsible for creating a safe environment for their workers. This means that they should try and keep the temperature below 26C at all times and are legally obliged to take action if the temperature goes above 30C. 

That could include putting blinds on the windows to prevent the glare of the sun, installing air conditioning systems or purchasing fans. In some cases – such as outdoor manual labour – it could also involve starting and finishing earlier in the day. 

And in really high temperatures, employers may simply decide to call the whole thing off and give their employees a ‘hitzefrei’ day – basically a heat-induced day off – to go and cool down in a lake. However, business owners are generally given free rein to decide how hot is too hot in this instance (except in the case of vulnerable workers). 

READ ALSO: Hitzefrei: Is it ever legally too hot to go to work or school in Germany?

Do the heat rules apply to ‘home office?’

Unfortunately not. In most cases in Germany, the company isn’t directly involved in setting up the workspace for an employee that works from home, aside from possibly providing a laptop or phone for remote use. 

“The occupational health and safety regulations regarding room temperature do not apply in this case,” labour law expert Meike Brecklinghaus told German business publication T3N. “This is because the employer does not have direct access to the employee’s workplace and in this respect cannot take remedial action.”

That means that on hot days, it’s the employee’s own responsibility to make sure the environment is suitable for working in. 

woman works from home in Germany

A woman works in her living room at home. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Daniel Naupold

One duty employers do have, however, is to instruct their workers about the best way to set up a healthy work environment at home, for example by giving guidance on how to regulate the temperature. 

“In the end, it is the employee’s responsibility to maintain his or her workplace in a condition in which he or she can perform his or her work without the threat of health impairments,” Brecklinghaus explained.

What can home office workers do in hot weather?

There are plenty of ways to keep flats cooler in the summer months, including purchasing your own fan, keeping curtains or blinds drawn and ventilating the rooms in the evening or early morning when the weather is cooler.

However, if heat is really becoming a problem, it’s a good idea to communicate this to your employer. This is especially important if you have a health condition that makes it more dangerous to work in hot weather. 

In some cases, you might be able to negotiate for the employer to pay for the purchase of a fan or mobile air conditioner as goodwill gesture. If possible, you could also arrange to travel to the office where the temperature should be better regulated.

Another option for early birds or night owls is to arrange more flexible working hours so you can avoid sweltering at your desk in the midday sun, although this of course depends on operational factors. 

READ ASO: Jobs in Germany: Should foreign workers join a union?

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