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WEATHER

More snow to come amid transport chaos

Germany faced renewed waves of snow in the coming days as dismal weather wreaked havoc across swathes of the country on Tuesday.

More snow to come amid transport chaos
Photo: DPA

Two people, one aged 61 and the other 35, were killed in Lower Saxony on Tuesday in accidents caused by black ice.

The state of North Rhine-Westphalia was also hard hit – with hundreds of accidents and lengthy motorway delays caused by stranded trucks overnight and well into Tuesday morning.

Some 703 accidents were reported there between Monday evening and Tuesday morning, police said. Two people were left seriously hurt, while 26 suffered milder injuries. The accidents cost about €1.54 million damage.

Many trucks got bogged in slush or snow, causing delays. Motorway A42 and the intersection at Oberhausen – particularly on the A2 motorway in the direction of Hannover, were badly affected. Trucks were pulled free only to have others get bogged shortly after, police reported.

The result was numerous trucks strewn down the motorways, causing lengthy traffic jams.

The A1 motorway was disrupted for about seven hours due to a lorry accident between the Lotte-Osnabrück exit and Lengerich, causing a jam that stretched three kilometres. Around Cologne, the A3 and A4 motorways were also partly blocked, as were the A45 and A61.

Düsseldorf airport was closed on Monday evening so that the runways could be cleared after a sudden snowfall. A number of flights were cancelled. Other flights were diverted, mostly to Frankfurt and Münster-Osnabrück. Delays continued after the airport was re-opened at 9:30 pm.

Ice meanwhile caused traffic delays in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate, with the A61 completely closed Tuesday morning in the direction of Koblenz from the Ludwigshafen exit. A semi-trailer skidded on ice and broke through the barriers on the road between Ludwigshafen and Frankenthal and was still hanging there on Tuesday morning, police said.

On Tuesday night and through to Wednesday, the east and south of the country can expect more heavy snowfalls, the German Weather Service (DWD) reported.

The northern edge of the Alps and the eastern central highlands will also be blanketed. The sky should stay relatively clear in the west and northwest of the country, though. Low temperatures will drop to between -3 and -8 degrees across most of the country and as far as -12 degrees in parts of the south.

On Wednesday, the east and south can expect mostly heavy clouds with snowfall. The west and northwest will see a little more sun. Highs will creep up to freezing point in the far west and on the North Sea coast, while the rest of the country will have to battle through chilly temperatures of between -2 and -7 degrees.

On the edge of the Alps, the temperature won’t get higher than -10 degrees.

Thursday will see unsettled clouds but only a little snow in the morning. Over the course of the day, however, fresh snowfall is expected in the northwest, spreading south and east. In the northwest, snow and rain will bring the danger of black ice. High temperatures will reach 2 degrees in the northwest to -7 degrees in southeast Bavaria.

Click here for The Local’s weather forecast.

DAPD/The Local/dw

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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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